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Rep. Olson talks issues with board

Commissioners also OK $219,939 for RR crossing near Frost

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Jun 6, 2021

This railroad crossing on County Highway 4 west of Frost will be getting crossing arms in the near future. Total cost of the project is $219,939, with the state paying $197,945 and the county’s share at $21,994.

The Faribault County Commissioners had an unexpected guest at their meeting on June 1.

Minnesota state Representative Bjorn Olson, R-Elmore, dropped by saying he was there to listen to any concerns the commissioners might have.

It turns out the board members had more questions for Olson than they had concerns.

“No budget or policy bills were passed in regular session,” Olson told the commissioners. “We will go into a special session in a couple of weeks and are supposed to be done by midnight on June 30 or we have a statewide shutdown, although there are some court rulings which could change that.”

Olson was also asked about the pandemic’s effect on education.

“We know we have lost a year and a half of education,” Olson commented. “Many schools are offering some summer school classes but the state is not mandating it. School Boards have a lot of local control.”

There was one item on the meeting’s agenda which the commissioners brought to Olson’s attention.

Faribault County is set to renew a contract for Sentenced to Serve (STS) services for a two-year period, which would begin July 1.

The commissioners explained the cost of the contract used to be split 50-50 between the state and the county but the state has now shifted 75 percent of the contract cost to the county.

“We are concerned more of the cost has come back to us,” commissioner Bill Groskreutz stated.

Olson was aware of the situation.

“My predecessor, Bob Gunther, actually had a bill prepared to restore the 50-50 ratio,” Olson said. “We are looking at reviving that bill.”

Olson said he hopes to stop in again.

“All four counties I serve have their County Board meetings at the same time so I am unable to make every meeting,” he explained.

The board resumed talking about the STS contract, which also has a 6.6 percent increase included over the two-year period.

Valarie Malchow, a felony agent working out of Blue Earth, spoke in favor of the program.

“It is a very valuable program,” she said. “It provides a way for people to pay off their fines and is also a way they can repair the harm they have done to the community.”

She was not the only one who spoke in favor of the program.

“I want to let you know I support the program,” Wells city administrator CJ Holl told the board. “The people who have worked with the city of Wells have exhibited model behavior.”

STS crew leader Tom Hennis mentioned the people he supervises have been happy with the way they have been treated.

“They feel respected,” Hennis stated.

The commissioners made it clear they understand the merits of the program but were concerned about the financial obligation.

“I just do not like the way this was presented,” Groskreutz shared.

The commissioners decided to wait until the next meeting to take action on the contract.

Public works director Mark Daly attended the meeting and had an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad and the Commissioner of Transportation ready to sign.

“This will be for the installation and maintenance of railroad crossing signals, complete with crossing arms, west of Frost on County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 4 at the junction with 70th Street,” Daly explained.

The total cost of the project is $219,939, according to Daly.

“The anticipated federal aid for this project is $197,945,” Daly noted. “That gets the county’s obligation down to $21,994.”

Daly stated he did not know when the project would begin.

The next topic concerned gravel quality and prices.

“The gravel from the 2020 crushing was higher in quality than the last crushing, which was done in 2016,” Daly informed the board. “The price is also more favorable at $4.30 per ton for what we crushed last year compared to $5.29 for what we crushed in 2016. So we realized a savings of almost $1 per ton.”

In other business the board:

• Appointed Karla Carr, of Pilot Grove, to fulfill the remainder of a three-year term on the Extension committee ending Dec. 31, 2022.

• Approved a training request from chief deputy auditor/accountant Jessica Blair to attend the Minnesota Counties Computer Cooperative (MnCCC) Annual Conference. The conference will be held virtually this year.