The possibility of sharing county engineers was the topic of discussion during a joint meeting of the Palo Alto and Emmet County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon, April 1 in Graettinger. According to Al Madden, Emmet County Supervisor, Emmet County has an immediate need for an Interim County Engineer.
Each county is required to have an engineer, but can share with an adjacent county. Madden stated Emmet County's possibilities are Dickinson, Kossuth and Palo Alto counties. Claiming that conversations with all the counties began about the same time, Palo Alto County was Emmet's only remaining option.
"Kossuth County reported they had been approached by Winnebago County, so they were not interested. Dickson County gave it some thought and gave a fairly detailed reason as to why they weren't interested," said Madden.
During the discussion, time was spent comparing and contrasting the two counties. Emmet County's secondary road department has two technicians and Palo Alto County has three. Joel Fantz, Palo Alto County Engineer said he believed Emmet County had 17-18 employees in their Secondary Road Department while Palo Alto's is 1/3 or larger. Emmet is primarily an asphalt county while Palo Alto's reconstruction of roads involves concrete.
Madden outlined that Emmet County has twelve townships and a population of 10,000. "We don't have a large tax base and we can't raise taxes to fulfill the wants of everybody. It is part of our philosophy to keep our expenses in check."
Fantz told those gathered, "Anything that is going to be successful, you need to try to begin with the end in mind. If you are looking at long term sharing, you need to not only think about the cost savings, but at some of the synergies that comes with sharing."
Each county's supervisor was given a chance to voice their opinion about sharing the county engineer.
Emmet County Supervisor Bev Juhl stated that she believes the county is looking at three steps. Step one is to fill the immediate need of an engineer. Steps two and three involve an interim solution and a long-term plan.
Palo Alto County Supervisor Keith Wirtz said, "We are doing exactly what needs to be done. I think it could be a good thing, long term. We have a big construction year in Palo Alto County. "
Linus Solberg, Palo Alto Supervisor, shared he believes the county should start looking at long range plans to share.
Craig Merrill of Palo Alto County said that time management would be key.
Wrapping up the round-robin discussion, Joel Fantz told the boards that although he would love to help out Emmet County, his first loyalty was to Palo Alto County. He mentioned not only Palo Alto's projects for this year, but also spoke about the Federal project that is planned this year in Emmet County. "Federal Aid comes with extreme details," said Fantz.
In the end, Fantz told the boards he would not recommend to the Palo Alto board that he help Emmet County in the interim. With that recommendation, the meeting concluded.