By Shelby Lindrud – West Central Tribune
April 03, 2023 at 5:41 AM
WILLMAR — Balancing road age, condition and funding continues to be a never-ending tight rope walk for Kandiyohi County Public Works.
“Like the state, we are in preservation mode,” said Commissioner Roger Imdieke. The Kandiyohi County Board met Tuesday for a road and bridge meeting, to be updated on this year’s road projects and other matters.
To preserve roads at an acceptable condition, Mel Odens, Public Works director, said the county needs to spend between $10 million and $15 million a year, reconstruct 7 to 9 miles of road and overlay another 18 to 20 miles annually.
“You should be in the 25-mile range every year,” Odens said.
For 2023 Kandiyohi County is planning to spend and do a little more work than the average. This year’s road and bridge program has an estimated cost of $17.2 million and will see 7.9 miles of reconstruction and 26 miles of bituminous paving. There is also 32 miles of crack sealing and 244 miles of striping planned for the year.
“We do take care of our roads,” said Commissioner Duane Anderson.
The proposed reconstruction projects for 2023 include a half mile of County Road 1 just north of County Road 40; just over three miles of County Road 44 from Minnesota Highway 7 to the southern county line; just over four miles of County Road 119 from U.S. Highway 71 to County Road 3; and one mile of County Road 9/40 in New London.
The paving projects include 2.4 miles of County Road 4 north of Lake Lillian; 1.4 miles of County Road 2 by Hawick; 3.8 miles of County Road 1 from Minnesota Highway 9 south to just north of County Road 40; 7.6 miles of County Road 5 from County Road 40 south to just north of County Road 25; and 11 miles of County Road 7 from U.S. Highway 12 north to County Road 40.
There are also two trail projects: 4 miles of overlay on the north side of Green Lake and 1 mile of trail construction on the north side of Willmar Lake.
Odens said he regularly plans to do more work than there is funding, just in case of favorable bids or a new pot of money. So far, 2023 looks to be going in the opposite direction.
At the meeting March 28 three bid openings were completed. The low bidder for the 26 miles of paving projects came in nearly $500,000 over the engineer’s estimate and for the reconstruction of 4.2 miles of County Road 119 the low bid was $200,000 over the engineer’s estimate. The bid for the bridge replacement on County Road 1 came in under budget by a few thousand dollars.
“We’re good this year, I am not at all worried,” Odens said, despite two of three bids being over budget. There is a $3 million reserves account.
One area where Public Works has already spent more than last year is winter maintenance — as of the Tuesday report, 84 inches of snow had fallen across the county during the 2022-2023 season. The county average is 47 inches.
Plows had been on the road for 59 days this winter, as of Tuesday, up from 46 last year.
“Little bit higher,” said Todd Miller, maintenance manager. “Snow totals are almost double.”
As of the report given early last week, prior to Friday’s snowfall, crews had used 5,347 tons of sand, 1,775 tons of salt and 72,000 gallons of brine to keep the roads plowed. The county has 19 plow routes covering 650 miles of roads.
“The costs go up the more days you go out,” Miller said. “Each time we run out it’s about $1,000 to $1,200 per unit.”
Odens said the county usually budgets about $680,000 a year for winter costs. To pay for the overrun, money for seal coating was redistributed. The recent report showed the the county has spent $980,000 so far on winter maintenance in 2022-23, up from the $682,000 last winter.
The board was also brought up to date on the county bike and pedestrian plan, county drainage and improvements at the Glacial Lakes Sanitary Sewer and Water District .
The county, along with the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, is working on an update of the bike and pedestrian plan. Public input is being collected through an online survey. The county is hoping for 500 responses and is well on its way with 400 returned surveys.
“We encourage people to take the survey,” Odens said, adding there will be a public open house held soon in New London.
Loren Engelby, county ditch inspector, reported he has 29 projects planned for ditches across the county. In 2022, 69 projects were completed. There are also 13 ditches undergoing redetermination of benefits, with another 27 remaining. Since 2010, redetermination has been completed on 60 ditches.
Corey Smith, Glacial Lakes Sanitary Sewer and Water District superintendent, said the system covers more than 50 square miles and services the areas of Spicer, New London, Kandiyohi along with Green, Nest, George, Henderson and Diamond Lakes and Lake Florida.
“We’ve grown quite a bit over the last 23 years,” Smith said.
The main project upcoming is at the water treatment plant. It requires more than $13 million in upgrades to meet new phosphorus standards in the system’s permit.
Smith said the project is eligible for a $5 million state grant, though that will rely on whether the state Legislature passes a bonding bill. Without the grant, user rates will need to increase to pay for the entire project.
The bonding bill could also include funding for other public works programs and projects, including the County Road 55 highway-rail grade separation project.
The project would re-establish the road network at the intersection of Minnesota Highway 23 and Kandiyohi County Roads 5/15 and 55 with highway ramps, a bridge over the railroad tracks and some realignment of the county roads.
Imdieke urged people to talk to their legislators about the importance of passing the bill.
“It would be helpful to them to see how it impacts us on the ground in their districts when we don’t have a bonding bill,” Imdieke said.