How will County 49 paving be paid for?

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The funding source to pave a two-mile stretch of Freeborn County 49 remains unknown.

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners Tuesday voted to table a motion to set the funding source until the Aug. 7 meeting.

Prior to the vote, the board rejected a motion to increase the tax levy an additional 1 percent beyond typical increases for five years — $230,000 each year — to fund the project by a 2-3 vote. Commissioners Glen Mathiason and Mike Lee voted yes. Dan Belshan, Chris Shoff and Jim Nelson voted no.

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Another motion to take funding from other road projects to fund paving Freeborn County Road 49 did not receive enough support for a vote.

The stretch of road in Mansfield Township intersects Freeborn County roads 2 and 4 and was paved for at least 25 years until the county turned it back to gravel a couple years ago due to a lack of funding.

Commissioners remain divided over raising the tax levy.

“I think it’s hard to raise the levy on that,” Nelson said. “It’s two miles.”

Belshan said he could not remember the authorization of turning the stretch of road into gravel. Shoff said roads with higher traffic counts still have not received funding.

“It’s costing the county $900,000,” he said. “When I first ran, Bridge Avenue was being discussed — Bridge Avenue, redoing Bridge Avenue. Twelve years later, we haven’t done anything. This has been discussed in four months, for two miles of road, for (three) houses and $900,000.

“This will affect the whole county budget.”

Shoff, board chairman, called on other commissioners to remember voting for the project when contemplating tax increases later this year.

The board voted 3-2 May 1 to pave the road after a petition was submitted by area residents.

Mathiason, Belshan and Lee voted yes. Shoff and Nelson voted no.

The Tuesday meeting briefly became heated when Belshan asked Shoff how many county roads were in his district after Shoff said he did not approve of the project

“How many do (they) carry?” Shoff said.

Mathiason said though he he has reservations about the project funding source, he still supports it.

“I voted to re-do it,” he said. “It’s in my district, and I’m not totally sold on that, but I told them people down there — I did open my mouth before I should of. When it originally was torn up, I just assumed that we were going to redo it, and I told them that we would do it when we did (12 miles of surface work on Freeborn County Road 4), and I should have checked first.

“I didn’t, so I am going to stick with my word to them, and it’s still gotta get paid for.”

After the meeting, Belshan said he introduced the motion to table the vote because of the project bidding cost.

“I thought our bids came in high, and we’ve done it before in the past,” he said.

Ulland Brothers bid approximately $900,000 for the project.

Belshan noted he thought the project should have been bid with the County Road 4 project to save costs.

“Maybe it will happen next year, we will get better bids,” he said.

Belshan said he would not support raising the tax levy for the project, noting the county receives $1.6 million in sales tax revenue and $250,000 in funding from the wheelage tax. He advocated for a 1 percent cut across all budgets.

Even after the funding sources were approved, Freeborn County still faces a $5 million annual transportation funding shortfall.

Belshan said Freeborn County needs to lower spending levels more than neighboring counties because it is not growing.

In other action, commissioners:

Increased school health fees for Alden-Conger, Glenville-Emmons and Hollandale Christian School from $4 per student to $6. Early childhood screening fees at the schools increased from $7.50 to $9.

Raised the Public Health client fee from $115 to $140.

Accepted a contract grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Health’s Follow Along Program, an initiative meant to help parents find services and lessons for their children. It is also meant to help parents learn about their children’s health and development.

Changed the title of the Office of Court Services to Freeborn County Probation and Pre-Trial Services.

Placed Kara Bendickson of the Assessor’s Office on full-time status.

Created the Personnel Department for human resources purposes. No additional employees were hired for the department.

Appointed Joe Pacovsky and Michael Hanson to the Shell Rock River Watershed District Board of Managers.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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