Public hearing scheduled for cities of less than 5,000 to discuss roadwork funds

By Jim Wright, Correspondent

Cities that have a bridge that needs replacing can go to the county for the money collected from the annual State Highway Users Tax Distribution. However, first a public hearing must be held for the benefit of the residents of all cities in the county with populations of fewer than 5,000 people.

Morrison County Public Works Director Steve Backowski wants to spend the balance of municipal funds accumulated during the past two years from that annual tax distribution, matched by $300,000 of state bonding money, to pay for the replacement of the County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 43 Bridge over the Platte River.

“Although the municipal fund is under the direction of the Morrison County Board of Commissioners, it is for the needs of all of the CSAHs within the city limits of towns of 5,000 or less population,” Backowski said.

There have to be priorities. The CSAH 43 bridge, built in 1966, has been deemed “structurally deficient” under Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) criteria. Its timber deck is rated a “4” on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being “new condition”). Its timber piles also rated a “4” with all showing decay. The river channel also rated a 4, because the channel has become constricted and is scouring the timbers.

“Loose, cracked, split, decaying” are terms also used by the FHWA criteria to describe the timber deck and piles.

“The way the County Board can spend municipal highway construction monies on the regular highway system (including the bridge), is by calling a public hearing of the cities with less than 5,000 population to hear if there are projects, on the county state aid highway system, not in the five-year plan that they want completed,” Backowski said.

A public hearing will be held Tuesday, May 5, during the County Board’s regular business meeting that starts at 9 a.m. in the County Government Board Room in Little Falls. The public hearing will be near the first order of business that morning, the commissioners decided Tuesday.

“If there is a project that a municipality wants done, we will talk with them about a timetable for that work,” Backowski said.

Morrison County’s State Aid Highway system includes county roads with numbers from 1 to 150. Every city in the county has one of those going through its city limits with the exception of Motley.

Morrison County Board Briefs:

In other business Tuesday, the Morrison County Commissioners:

•Approved Social Services Director Brad Vold signing the HIPAA Business Associate and Security Agreement between the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Morrison County Social Services that permits the county to access and use protected health information, with County Attorney Brian Middendorf saying it’s a challenge and “This sets out our responsibilities for handling private data.” County Administrator Deb Gruber said, “We are continuing to train staff, and are keeping up with newer technology;”

•Approved allowing Sheriff Shawn Larsen to enter into and sign all state and federal grants pertaining to law enforcement because, he said, “There can be time constraints or deadlines for getting grants;”

•Approved renewal of the Canteen Supper Club’s 2 a.m. closing time; the Minnesota Fishing Museum having a raffl, April 17; a one-day, temporary liquor license for the Pierz Commercial Club to use during the Pierz Freedom Fest, July 18, and Bethany Lutheran Church of Ramey holding a bingo, July 12;

•Heard about the nonprofit philanthropic Initiative Foundation’s impact in Morrison County from 1986 to present, including its awarding 412 grants totaling $1.7 million, 191 scholarships totaling $223,889, 79 loans totaling $4.3 million, and leveraging $48 million in private business financing;

•Heard from the Morrison County Historical Society’s Mary, Jan and Art Warner that the Weyerhaeuser Museum is 40 years old this year, and has some “critical maintenance” that need to be done. They are working with Contegrity Inc. of Little Falls to prioritize projects and figure out costs. They may be able help find funding resources for work to be done on the historic county courthouse;

•Received an update from the Morrison County Boys and Girls Clubs’ Directors Nate Jansen and Ricky Solomon that the heat is on in the Club’s new location on the west side of Little Falls, the electrical is 90 percent done and volunteers soon will be painting and installing the flooring, they are averaging 70 kids a day at the old east side club, and the New 2 You second hand store, already in the new west side location, is doing very well;

•Were told that Morrison County Social Services Child Protection served an estimated 94 children in 2014, and contacted 99 percent of the children at least once a month, with 52 percent of the child maltreatment allegations being drug abuse situations, 31 percent physical abuse, and 16 percent due to sexual abuse or threatened abuse;

•Were told that Public Health did 212 environmental health inspections in Morrison County and 131 in Todd County during 2014, with 199 of those being food and beverage establishments and also sampled and tested water for 200 wells; and

• Were told the Planning and Zoning Department is using new, computer software that enables them to email permits, getting them to applicants quicker; and the software, created by RtVision of Little Falls, will send status reports to applicants by email, if they provide an email address when they apply.

The next meeting of the County Board will be a planning session, Tuesday, at 8:30 a.m., in the Government Center, County Board Room.