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Wohlers, Kopitzek, Staples sworn in as Stevens County Commissioners

Commissioners Donny Wohlers (standing, left), Bob Kopitzke (standing, center) and Ron Staples (standing, right) were sworn into office on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the Stevens County Courthouse. This is Staples' second term, and the first terms for Wohlers and Kopitzke.

The Stevens County Board of Commissioners unanimously elected Commissioner Phil Gausman to serve as chair and Commissioner Jeanne Ennen to serve as vice chair in 2013 at a largely procedural meeting on Tuesday.

Commissioners Ron Staples, Donny Wohlers, and Bob Kopitzke also took the oath of office. Staples was elected to a second term in November, while Wohlers and Kopitzke are beginning their first terms.

At Tuesday's meeting, County Engineer Brian Giese gave a monthly update on the Highway Department and offered the commissioners an overview of what his department does and the services the department provides.

The local road and bridge system of Stevens County consists of 244 miles of county state aid highways, 127 miles of local county highways, and 23 bridges (which also includes culverts with an opening greater than 10 feet).

County roads numbered under 50 are part of the state aid system, while those numbered over 50 are part of the local county system, said Giese.

"We are one of the few counties, if maybe the only, to not have any current deficient bridges on our system," said Giese.

The Highway Department has a budget for 2013 of about $4.47 million, a slightly higher number than usual because of a bigger planned summer construction project. Funding for the Highway Department comes from state aid and local property taxes, said Giese, and state aid is allocated by several formulas.

The planned construction project for 2013 is a 13 mile mill and overlay project on CSAH 13 from Chokio to the north county line. The project is estimated at about $1.9 million, and may also include a safety grant to pave the road shoulders.

The Highway Department currently has a staff of 17: one engineer, one accountant, two engineering technicians, one maintenance supervisor, one mechanic, one sign technician, and 10 operators. Giese said he is in the process of hiring a second mechanic and would like to look into re-structuring the engineering department to add an engineering supervisor.

In addition to blading and snow removal on county roads, the Highway Department also contracts with eight townships for blading and snow removal services.

Other business

• County Coordinator Brian Giese updated the board on the status of three upcoming staff hires. Three people have applied for county GIS Technician and three people have applied for an open mechanic position with the highway department. The county also has an open IT Technician position.

• The board appointed Giese as clerk to the board, selected 9:00 a.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month as their regular meeting time, and set gopher and flicker tail bounties at $1.

• The board approved a contract to provide summer blading and winter snow removal for Synnes Township.

• The board scheduled a work session for Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 9:00 a.m. to get an overview of the staff and responsibilities in each county department.