County adopts resolution supporting Move MN campaign

by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

Move MN is a new campaign that gathers various organizations and coalitions together to form a diverse group recognizing the state’s transportation funding problem and help secure more funding.

The Morrison County Board approved a resolution supporting Move MN’s campaign for a statewide comprehensive transportation funding package at its meeting, Tuesday morning.

The Move MN website describes it as a coalition working with a united voice for a safer and more effective transportation system for all Minnesotans.

“The county was contacted by the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) after the governor made it known he’s interested in putting together a new funding package,” said Public Works Director Steve Backowski.

While stating that the state’s transportation system is in need of additional funding, Backowski said the proposed funding plan includes a “tweaking of the formula” used to distribute state aid funds to counties.

There are two formulas that have been used to determine funding, adopted in 2008. One portion of the funding has grown faster than the other, causing an inequity in funding to different areas of the state.

Based on changing use of vehicles and fuel, Move MN is advocating for a new transportation funding formula.

“It’s a bit of a dilemma,” Backowski said. “There are more hybrid vehicles on the road. The gas tax paid is lower when vehicles use very little gas.”

“Prices are dropping on electric vehicles,” said Commissioner Randy Winscher.

A task force of county commissioners was assembled by AMC to propose solutions.

“This would initially result in short-term loss of funding,” said Commissioner Kevin Maurer. “In the long-term, there would be more funding in rural areas.”

“Minnesota Rural Counties Caucus supports this,” said Commissioner Jeff Jelinski. “No one wants to increase taxes, but the bottom line is, the money has to come from somewhere.”

“The funding mechanism for transportation is becoming outdated,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber. “Updating and changing the funding formula and giving consideration to how transportation revenue is evolving is appropriate to ensure we can continue to provide safe and well-maintained infrastructure.”

Morrison County Board Briefs

Other business that came before the Morrison County Board included:

• Approving 2014 tobacco licenses for 44 establishments in Morrison County;

• Approving a 2014 seasonal establishment license for Morrison County Agricultural Society and a 2014 annual license for new establishment owner for Little Falls Health Services (formerly known as Lutheran Care Center-Bridgeway Estates);

• Approving a 2014 seasonal license (added services) for an additional swimming pool at Fish Trap Lake Campground;

• Approving a 2014 annual license for upgraded food services to Friendly Inn in Motley for change to “medium food service;”

• Approving a one-day liquor license to the Morrison County Food Shelf for a March 15 event at the Falls Ballroom;

• Approving exempt permits for a Feb. 21 raffle by Mary of Lourdes School at the Falls Ballroom and a March 2 bingo/raffle event by St. Joseph Church of Gilman at the St. Joseph Parish Hall in Morrill;

• Approving both a resolution of support and a sponsorship agreement between Morrison County and the city of Royalton for the city’s Safe Routes to School grant application;

• Authorizing a resolution to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for waste pesticide collection;

• Authorizing Public Works Director Steve Backowski to request proposals for gravel production, highway striping and calcium chloride application;

• Authorizing Backowski to advertise for seasonal bids for equipment rental, bituminous material, calcium chloride and winter maintenance sand and for a bid for the landfill cell expansion;

• Authorizing Backowski to negotiate gravel pit agreements with property owners;

• Authorizing Backowski to establish, place and remove road restrictions;

• Approving renewal of license for Liberty Tire Recycling. “It’s the only tire recycling company operating in the state,” Backowski said. “We pay by the ton for them to pick tires up’”

• Approving the hiring of a replacement to fill the vacant Public Works maintenance foreman position; and

• Appointing Dave Solinger and Leah Schilling to three-year-terms on the Extension Committee effective Jan. 1; and Tyler Athman and Elizabeth Theis to two-year terms as student representatives on the Public Health Advisory Committee effective Jan. 1.

The next County Board meeting will be a planning session Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the board room of the County Government Center.