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Supervisors Approve Bridge Restriction

By Staff | Dec 9, 2010

The lowering a load rating on a bridge was approved by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors in its weekly meeting Dec. 7. Board members also discussed some ideas regarding a new contract for smaller drainage projects with a long-stick excavator during the session.

Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz briefed the board on a recent evaluation of the county’s network of bridges, noting that the federal government mandates yearly inspections.

“I can say that as a county, we have a good handle on all of our bridges in terms of inspection and condition,” Fantz said. “But, with that said, there are a few that worry me. They are on roads that have fewer than 25 vehicles a day and we get no federal money to replace them. Right now, we have three bridges like that to consider.”

According to the engineer, the bridges are all smaller structures, running mostly over drainage ditch branches or creeks. One such bridge, located on 430 Avenue between sections nine and 10 of Emmetsburg Township, was identified as needing a reduction in its’ posted load rating, due to its age and condition.

“Currently, this bridge is rated at 16 tons, but we need to de-rate it down to 15 tons,” Fantz told the board. The board introduced and approved a resolution to set the new load rating at 15 tons, which will go into effect on the structure in the next two weeks.

In other secondary road matters, Fantz discussed possible revisions to the county’s Long-stick excavation contract, which needs to be re-bid for another multi-year period. Under the contract, the supervisors, as trustees of drainage districts, have been able to conduct smaller repairs to various districts at lower costs to the landowners in the districts. Currently, Valley Contracting of Estherville has held the contract for the past two years. That contract is now up for re-bidding.

“I would suggest that you might want to add an option in the new contract to allow the contractor to also bid spoil leveling, rather than having Secondary Roads do that work,” Fantz offered. “It would provide bidders with an additional option and would probably be a little more efficient all the way around.”

The board agreed with the suggestion.

In other business, the board met with Mental Health Director Maureen Sandberg and County Sheriff Dennis Goeders to discuss the ongoing financial crisis at the Seasons Center for Mental Health in Spencer. Outstanding debt has prompted Seasons to ask its’ member counties for one-time contributions to pay off the debt, or the organization might be forced to close its doors. Palo Alto County has been requested to contribute $44,000 to the organization.

In a meeting of the member counties last week, a majority was considering the payments, but according to Board Members Jerry Hofstad and Keith Wirtz, officials from O’Brien County weren’t sounding supportive of the idea.

“They just don’t have the money,” Wirtz said.

“They’ve had to borrow from the state risk pool the last couple years,” agreed Sandberg.

When asked what affect would be felt on the sheriff’s office if Seasons were to cease operations, the sheriff indicated the only affect would come in terms of emergency committals on mental health cases. “We’d spend more time taking someone to a facility, but that’s about it,” Goeders said. “For now, it’s a matter of nursing it along as long as you can.”

“I agree,” Hofstad said. “We’re just going to have to bide our time.”

In other business, the board approved a Class C Liquor license and permit for the West Bend Country Club and approved the quarterly reports of the Palo Alto County Recorder and Veterans Affairs offices.