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Drainage Work Coordination Topic Of Discussion For Board

By Staff | Mar 10, 2011

After agreeing to look into having outside contractors handle county tile drainage repairs, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors continued their talks on the idea during the March 8 board meeting. Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz joined in the discussion, along with local excavating contractor Clem Joynt.

Board Chair Keith Wirtz opened the discussion by recapping what the board and Engineer had discussed, the idea that the Secondary Road Workers only handle repairs of county owned tiles located in the county’s right-of-way, and turning repairs on private property over to private contractors.

“The reason we’re thinking this way is to give our Secondary Road workers more time to do their regular maintenance work, time to run the graders,” Wirtz reiterated. “What we’re thinking is we’d like to have a person, like a superintendent, to go out and look at drainage problems, see what needs to be done to fix things, fill out the work orders and make sure the work gets done.”

Wirtz noted he had visited with four contractors who do drainage work, and that their response to the idea of being “on-call” to handle the county’s repair work would be that they would put the county’s work on a list like their other customers and get to it when they could.

“I guess I would suggest a guy like Darrell Reed,” Joynt said. “He’s worked with the county tile for a lot of years and knows the systems.”

“We’ve thought of that too,” answered Supervisor Jerry Hofstad, “but he’s a part-time employee.”

“He’s also one of our good grader men,” Wirtz piped up, “so that kind of defeats the purpose.”

Wirtz continued, “I just think that it would actually be more cost-effective to have Clem take this on. He could line up the contractors to do the repairs.”

“You raised a good point earlier, ” Fantz noted. “The contractors would come when they had time.”

“That’s true,” Joynt added. “Most of the time, the farmer wants his tile fixed before he even hangs up the phone.”

“For my two-cents worth, I like the idea that Clem has a backhoe of his own and could do the small jobs himself,” Wirtz said.

“I’d recommend you make a list of the contractors who would be willing to make these type of repairs and call from that list,” Fantz said.

As the discussion continued, board members agreed the idea of having one person oversee the work was the way to go, and talked about having calls directed to the individual, or have the individual work with the Engineer’s Office in getting calls.

“It sounds to me like we will have some problems along the way, but I think we can work them out,” Hofstad noted.

“I think we can save some money down the road,” Wirtz said. “We can work this out.”

Drainage Clerk Carmen Moser, who also sat in on the meeting, questioned how Joynt or the individual would be compensated for their efforts. “Would you charge a flat rate to go out an look, and bill for your time and labor if you do the repair?”

“I’d say pay the man an hourly rate and mileage to answer and investigate,” Hofstad suggested.

“Whatever you decide, you have to have some type of provision in place to pay Clem,” Fantz said. “There is a provision to do so in the Code, so you have precedent. What you would have to do is create a provision that if the problem is found in a county tile, it is paid by the drainage district. If the problem ends up in a privately-owned tile, then the landowner has to pay the costs of repairs.”

“I think rather than an hourly wage and mileage, a flat-rate to look at problems would be the way to go,” Wirtz suggested.

“I’d agree,” Fantz said. “You should have Clem come up with a flat rate to investigate calls.”

With the board in agreement of the idea, the discussion wound down with Supervisor Ron Graettinger suggesting Wirtz work with Joynt to develop the rate, due to his experience with excavation through his own business.

In other business, Fantz told the board that it appeared likely the Spring Weight Limit restrictions on the county’s paved secondary roads would go into effect around March 14. “The long-range forecast looks like it is going to hold fairly steady by the end of the week,” Fantz said.

The board also heard a concern from Jim Reding over a parcel of land adjacent to the Des Moines River near Rodman that is being washed away by the river. Reding asked what it would take to have rip-rap placed on the riverbank to stop the loss of his land.

“Secondary roads can’t use road-tax money to do something like that unless the river was actually threatening the roadway itself or the bridge,” Fantz said.

County Auditor Gary Leonard noted that the portion of the river in question was not a drainage district, so there was no way the county could levy to recover the cost of any repairs.

“You would need to apply to the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to see if it were allowable,” Fantz stated.

The board expressed understanding of Reding’s problem but could offer no solution other than to have the Engineer’s Office assist in making the contacts with the Corps of Engineers.