County board reverses decision on paving road

Published 8:41 pm Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Commissioners say there’s ‘no money’ for road


The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners Tuesday voted to withdraw its commitment to paving a two-mile stretch of Freeborn County Road 49.

The measure passed by a 4-1 vote. District 3 Commissioner Jim Nelson, District 4 Commissioner Chris Shoff, District 2 Commissioner Dan Belshan and District 5 Commissioner Mike Lee voted yes. District 1 Commissioner Glen Mathiason was the lone no vote.

The vote came five months after commissioners voted to authorize Freeborn County Public Works Director Sue Miller to place a change order for the project and to contact the Minnesota Department of Transportation to request 2019 advance funds.

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. The cost to pave the road was estimated to cost approximately $800,000.

Lee, who voted to pave the road in May, said he voted to withdraw the plan because “there is no money for it.”

“We’re trying to keep the budget, levy, as tight as possible,” he said.

Commissioners are grappling with an estimated $5 million annual transportation funding deficit.

Lee left open the possibility of commissioners voting to fund the stretch again in the future.

“We’ve gotta do what’s fiscally responsible for the citizens of Freeborn County,” he said.

Mathiason said he voted not to withdraw paving the road because he still supports it.

“I made the commitment back to the people (that are) in the district,” he said. “I opened my mouth maybe before I should have, but I said it, and I told them we’d get it done, so I’m sticking to my word.”

Mathiason has consistently expressed his support for shifting funds from other projects to pave the two-mile stretch, not increasing the tax levy.

Belshan, who voted for paving the stretch in May, said the project could have been lumped in with 12 miles of planned surface work on Freeborn County Highway 4 from Freeborn County 60 to Freeborn County Road 46 as suggested by Freeborn County Public Works Director Sue Miller in early May. He suggested doing so could have shaved $100,000 off the project cost.

“We’re better off tying it to another road,” he said.

In other action, the board:

Accepted a $500 donation to the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office drone program.

Accepted out-of-state travel for Sheriff’s Office employee Mike Stasko to attend a meeting in Indianapolis.

Approved a request from Hometown Sanitation for a collection and transportation of recycling permit.

Placed Freeborn County Assessor’s Office employee Stephanie Gordon on regular, full-time status.

Placed Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office employee Noel Ahnemann on full-time status.

Set a board workshop for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Freeborn Room.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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