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Battle over Ditch 24 continues

By Staff | Aug 11, 2019

Caesar Larson, acting as a representative of Charles Carlson, spoke to the Faribault County Board of Commissioners last Tuesday on behalf of Carlson’s issues with the way his County Ditch 24 concerns have been handled. Carlson has been bringing his concerns about the ditch to the County Board for five years.

A back and forth that has been going on for the past five years seems to slowly be turning a tide for both the county of Faribault and a property owner, Charles Carlson.

In their meeting on Aug. 6, the Faribault County Board of Commissioners heard from Caesar Larson in the capacity of a fiduciary for Carlson, whose issues with County Ditch 24 have become fairly well-known over the past few years. A 35-page packet was handed out to each member of the board. The first page of the packet was a letter from Carlson.

Larson addressed the board stating he was a fiduciary in order to make sure the conversation was a civil one, as previous discourses between Carlson and Faribault County commissioners had been less than cordial.

In the letter, Carlson stated he identified 14 concerns and requests for follow up from the county relating to County Ditch 24, located north and west of Winnebago. Carlson stated the ditch has been mismanaged and illegally amended over time.

“These amendments are not only inconsistent in equity to the watershed landowners and tenants, but conflict with the law, legal grades and other county ditch specifications dating back to 1959,” states Carlson’s letter. “In spite of my best efforts to have these items addressed over five years of inquiry and presenting factual discrepancies, the county officials have maneuvered and stonewalled against any transparency and accountability for their actions.”

Charles Carlson listens as his representative, Ceasar Larson, addresses the county commissioners.

Larson then went through the packet with Faribault County commissioners by presenting a number of issues Carlson has had with County Ditch 24.

Later in their meeting, commissioners spoke with Mark Origer and Bailey Griffin from ISG, who presented options on improving CD 24. Both Origer and Griffin confirmed there were soil concerns in CD?24, stating the whole south side of the ditch is in need of repair.

The county’s drainage manager, Merissa Lore, was also in attendance and spoke of her erosion concerns with the area, as well. The trio spoke at length with the Board of Commissioners to discuss viable options of improving the ditch with long-term solutions that would not sap the county of its funds. Some of the ideas included overhauling the ditch completely, adding a retention pond area, and creating different slope ratios to prevent stagnant water.

“We have a few areas of this ditch that if we don’t get ahead of soon, there is some concern of erosion,” stated Lore. “And this one mess is going to become a bigger mess.”

Later on in their meeting, commissioners went into closed session to discuss ongoing litigation on County Ditch 24.

In other portions of the Commissioners’ meeting, Mark Daly stopped in to give an update of this summer’s county road improvements. Daly reported that 55 percent of the roads and bridges in Faribault County previously had been graded with D’s or F’s, and now 55 percent of the roads in the county have A or B grades.

“We replaced three bridges last year, and one of those bridges had some major erosion issues due to its completion late in the season,” said Daly. “We are working with the contractors of that project to get that taken care of.”

Daly also mentioned he and his teams are continuing to work on crack filling and microsurfacing throughout the county. The county’s public works director also requested a resolution to finalize a project that is near completion on Third Street in Wells. The commissioners approved the resolution to pay the final statement to the city. The five commissioners also approved a resolution for the county’s 2020-2024 bridge replacement plan which would include two bridges on County Road 13 near Marna, as well as one bridge south of Highway 16 that goes across the east fork of the Blue Earth River.

Jennifer Nelson of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund also took a moment to speak with commissioners on the progress the SMIF group was making in Faribault County.

Nelson mentioned SMIF?is working with a number of EDA groups throughout Faribault County and have been assisting the city of Wells with their childcare provider shortage.

SMIF’s focus is in three areas: economic development, early childhood, and community vitality. Nelson mentioned within the last year that Faribault County has received approximately $210,000 in SMIF?dollars to help in various areas.

Ronda Allis, Minnesota Department Of Transportation’s planning director for District 7, spoke on the number of improvements the state plans to assist on within the county. Included in MnDOT’s plans up to 2028 are improvements on a number of roads.

City administrators from the cities of Blue Earth, Wells and Winnebago were in attendance to find out what MnDOT is planning to do and when it would affect their cities.

MnDOT’s?plans, until the end of the summer, are to continue work on I-90 from Highway 15 to just west of the Blue Earth River. Potential improvements for 2020 include improvements on Highway 254 and Highway 253, while Highway 169 from Iowa to Blue Earth is planned for 2023. There were a number of other improvements on MnDOT’s docket for the future in the county.

“MnDOT’s goal is to make sure that all non-National Highway Systems stay under 10 percent of poor ride quality index,” said Allis. “Our district is at 17.2 percent, which is why we are seeing a number of dollars coming into our district to address some of the more serious conditions of our road infrastructures.”

Other plans from MnDOT include improvements on I-90 from Blue Earth to the Wells exit, and improvements on Highway 22 from Wells to Minnesota Lake.

The Board of Commissioners also:

Increased rent for Human Services by three percent to $106,110.60 annually effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Approved a request for the repurchase of a tax-forfeited parcel in Winnebago.

Considered and approved two resolutions including ordering partial abandonment of County Ditch 17 branch A and branch B, and to redetermine benefits and appoint viewers for County Ditch 60.

Accepted a resolution to decline to abate the county’s portion of taxes for a project in the city of Wells.

Hired Alexis Scholten as the new Central Services Director, effective Aug. 19, and approved the promotion of Brady Hanevik to crew leader position in the Public Works Department.