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Stevens Co. Board schedules ditch hearings for August

MORRIS - The Stevens County Board of Commissioners, acting as the county Drainage Authority, has scheduled two public hearings to discuss changes to two ditch systems in the county.

A public hearing to discuss the partial abandonment of County Ditch 17 is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 21 at 10:00 a.m., and a hearing to discuss a petition for outlet to County Ditch 1 is planned for 1:00 p.m. the same day.

The first hearing is to consider abandoning a single branch of County Ditch 17. County Engineer Brian Giese told the board that this section of the ditch is typically out of repair every year. Rather than going through a process to improve the branch, the landowners have decided it is easier to abandon the section and replace it privately with tile that would be larger and deeper than what is available now.

The board will need to look at whether there are other landowners who might be interested in the branch remaining as a public utility and whether the landowners should be assessed benefits for the private project, said Giese.

The discussion about the petition for outlet to County Ditch 1 could be a little more complicated.

With this petition, the board will have to discern whether there is adequate outlet in the ditch for the proposed project. The board will also need to establish an outlet charge for the land being outleted into the ditch and an ongoing assessment of benefits for the property, said Giese.

"Similar to all lands now that have benefits listed to Ditch 1, these lands, if approved, would also need to be benefited," said Giese. "We would use that new amount to prorate future assessments to Ditch 1."

There have been a few petitions for outlet in County Ditch 1 in the last decade that were denied, based on landowner feedback that there is not enough capacity in the ditch, said Giese.

Another complicating factor is that the outlet of County Ditch 1 goes under CSAH 13 - a pipe that is already at capacity, said Giese.

"I haven't had a hydraulic study done, but I know the water backs up enough that it overtops CSAH 13," said Giese. "One of my concerns from a road standpoint is whether our pipe can handle it."

Landowners who pay benefits in either ditch system will be notified about the public hearings.

Other business

• The board approved $87,986 for human services warrants. Human Services Director Joanie Murphy told the board that her department is "pretty much where we need to be" when it comes to the yearly budget. Spending for chemical dependency services is ahead of budget because more people are participating in court-ordered treatment programs this year.

• The board approved hiring Michael Lonergan as a heavy equipment operator/maintenance worker for the Highway Department at a starting salary of $16.96 per hour. The county received more than 20 applications for the position, said Giese.

• The board authorized Giese to purchase a replacement mower for a cost of $15,069. The county earmarked $20,000 for the mower purchase in this year's budget.