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Stevens County awards contract for ditch improvement project

MORRIS – The Stevens County Board of Commissioners, acting as the county ditch authority, awarded a contract for a ditch improvement project the southwest section of the county Koehl Excavating of Hancock.

The county received nine bids for the project to improve County Ditch 30. The bid was split into two alternatives, one using primarily plastic pipes (alternative one, estimated at about $1.54 million) and one using concrete pipes for any pipes above 12 inches (alternative two, estimated at about $1.77 million).

Koehl Excavating submitted the low bid for both alternatives – about $1.49 million for alternative one and $1.51 million for alternative two, said County Engineer Brian Giese.

“I’m sure there are adjustments throughout the project that will change that final number,” added Giese.

Commissioner Ron Staples argued for alternative two, which used concrete pipe, because the cost was not significantly higher.

“Concrete is proven – it’s been in the ground for 100 year already and is still there and workable,” said Staples.

Using concrete would also keep most of the project costs local, Staples said.

On Tuesday, the board also authorized Gary Wiers of David Drown Associates to sell $1.98 million in general obligation bonds to pay for the project.

County Ditch 30 is a subsurface drain tile system that includes about 2,000 acres in Scott, Darnen, Horton and Synnes Townships.

There will be a pre-construction meeting with landowners on Wednesday, April 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the board room at the Stevens County Courthouse.

Septic system ordinance reviewed

On Tuesday, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners held a first hearing on a new Subsurface Sewage Treatment System Ordinance (SSTS) for the county.

In 2011, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency adopted a new set of SSTS rules. Under those rules, counties can adopt alternative local standards based on a 2006 standard for systems under 2,500 gallons per day – most residential systems, explained Environmental Services Director Bill Kleindl.

Kleindl worked with staff from neighboring counties – Grant, Traverse, Big Stone, La qui Parle, and Swift – to develop consistent standards.

“The way I see this working is, we’re going to continue to do business as we’re doing it now, outside a few areas I want to discuss with you,” said Kleindl.

In some cases, they recommended provisions that are more restrictive than the 2006 rules. Two that garnered discussion at the board meeting were a licensing requirement and a property sales requirement.

The proposed ordinance would require an MPCA license for individuals building a non-pressurized system (a mound system, for example) for personal use. Currently, individuals can install their own system of any type, provided it is designed by a licensed designer.

Kleindl said he hasn’t seen major issues with the way the system works now, and the board indicated they’d prefer to remove the requirement.

Another discussion point was a proposed requirement that septic systems be compliant when property is transferred or sold.

The existing ordinance requires that a seller disclose the type of system they have installed. It is up to the buyer to decide what to do with the system, Kleindl said.

The new ordinance would require that the system meet compliance requirements unless it is specifically exempt. Kleindl said adding an inspection or compliance requirement – which is in ordinances for Swift, Big Stone and Traverse Counties – has been a request from local realtors.

Commissioner Phil Gausman said he had “no problem” staying with the existing disclosure requirement.

“I hate to be more restrictive than we have to be,” said Commissioner Jeanne Ennen.

Commissioner Donny Wohlers indicated he would like to see septic systems upgraded at a sale anyway, since it’s the only time it might be done. Commissioner Bob Kopitzke agreed, saying that the provision was good for buyers and sellers.

The board elected to review all of the proposed changes as part of a work session scheduled for Wednesday, April 9 beginning at 8 a.m. The SSTS ordinance is scheduled for discussion at 11 a.m.

The ordinance will have to go through a second reading, then be published in the Morris Sun Tribune, before it will go into effect.

County awarded grant for CSAH 1

Stevens County is the recipient of a $176,400 Highway Safety Improvement Program grant that will be used to pave shoulders and implement safety edges on CSAH 1 between Highway 9 and CSAH 10 in 2016.

County Engineer Brian Giese said that section of highway was one of the highest safety risks in the area for run-off-the-road crashes.

CSAH 1 is scheduled for an estimated $1.75 million rebuilding project in 2015. The road is scheduled for repaving in 2016. The grant will allow the county to increase the paved lane widths from 12.5 feet to about 14.5 feet with a rumble strip.

Other business

  • The board accepted bids for three highway projects: $972,500 from Central Specialties for CSAH 14; $238,400 from Riley Bros. Construction for CSAH 22 and $314,800 from Morris Sealcoat and Trucking for sealcoating on a number of county and state aid roads.
  • The board authorized County Attorney Aaron Jordan to advertise for a temporary replacement for Assistant County Attorney Carl Thunem. Thumen is a member of the Army Reserve and is scheduled to be deployed to Africa for 13 months beginning in June.
  • The board authorized County Engineer Brian Giese to purchase a 15 foot flex wing mower from West Central Implement for $18,500 and a new pup trailer from Towmaster for up to $50,000.
  • The board approved a Feedlot Work Plan that outlines the plans/strategies and goals for administering the county feedlot program. Environmental Services Director Bill Kleindl, who oversees the program, said he plans to continue to inspect seven percent of feedlots each year. Stevens County currently has 132 registered feedlots, down from 156 feedlots four years ago.