Supervisors Consider Budget Request
Palo Alto County Supervisors continue to receive funding requests as they begin work on the upcoming fiscal year budget. Another request for funding was brought to the supervisors in their weekly meeting on Jan. 26.
Hugh Lively, Executive Director of RIDES, the Regional Transit Authority in Spencer, appeared before board members with the organization’s annual funding request, which was unchanged from the previous year’s asking.
“RIDES is asking Palo Alto County for funding of $4,000, the same as last year,” Lively told the supervisors. “We saw an increase of 15,000 more rides in Palo Alto County in the last year, and that was due to the resumption of services to Horizons Unlimited.”
Lively reported that RIDES had received $1,6 million in Federal Stimulus money in the past year. Of that amount, $150,000 was used for a paved bus parking area at the RIDES headquarters in Spencer. The remaining funds were used for the acquisition of 33 new buses to replace older units in the fleet.
According to Lively, at peak usage time, 60 units are in service in the RIDES service area,
“What would happen if we cut your asking by 10 percent?” asked Board Chair Jerry Hofstad.
“We’d continue our services here in the county,” Lively responded. “We understand these are tough times and we know everyone is trying to cut whenever and wherever they can. That’s why there’s no increase in our asking for the upcoming year. We’ve made some adjustments ourselves and are always looking for more ways to save, just like you folks are.”
In other items of business, the board learned that despite a two-foot snowfall in Palo Alto County on Christmas, the county did not qualify for Federal Disaster relief. Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz reported that after meeting with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the previous week, FEMA determined that the county only experienced an eight-inch snowfall on Christmas.
“FEMA said we only got eight inches of snow, because there is no official local weather observer in Emmetsburg, they had to use the snowfall figures from Algona,” Fantz explained. “”I could go on about that conversation, but the short and simple is that we don’t qualify for $200,000 of disaster money to pay for the snow removal.“
Fantz noted that the surrounding counties, Kossuth, Emmet, Clay and Pocahontas did get federal money, but Palo Alto was denied because there was no official weather observer in the county. “It would be really nice if someone would step forward and be willing to do that, but it does take some dedication. I know that Mark Hunefeld of Emergency Management is trying to find someone to do this, also.” Fantz noted.
The board was briefed on the Silver Lake Watershed Project by Don Hagen, who reported the project is in its last year and will conclude on June 30. Among the accomplishments of the program is the creation of the Salton Project CREP site, which will treat 505 acres of farmlands draining to the lake.
“The Salton site will reduce sediment loading by some 400 tons,” Hagen noted. “That translates into 300 dump truck loads of sediment that won’t be going into the lake.“
The Salton site is projected to remove 4,746 pounds of nitrogen from the water and 529 pounds of phosphorus per year through the filtering capability of the CREP site.
“Based on what we’ve accomplished at Silver Lake, we have applied for a development project for the Lost Island Lake watershed, just like this one,” Hagen said. “We’re very hopeful that we will receive funding for it as well.”