Ramsey County Commissioners appeal to officials from emergency services for aid

Louise Oleson, Editor
Bill Mertens as vice president chaired much of Tuesday’s Ramsey County Commission until President Joe Belford arrived. Belford had been in Bismarck for the State Water Commission meeting.

A number of workers from the Department of Emergency Services heard first-hand the struggles Ramsey County has on a daily basis with deteriorating and disappearing roads.

They attended the regularly scheduled Ramsey County Commission meeting held Tuesday, June 21 and listened as County Road Supervisor Kevin Fieldsend worked with the commissioners trying to decide what roads to fix and where the money is coming from to pay for those fixes.

According to Fieldsend, money coming from funding sources is getting harder and harder to find as the local match for the projects can be as much as 20 percent and in some cases they are still waiting for the funds to cover some of the 2009 fixes although contractors need to be paid. The county has to front the payments and hope, in the end, they will be reimbursed.

The wait can be a long one, however.

Three major projects were addressed - Fox Lake, Rohrville and Fenster’s Slough - three separate bids and three separate projects. Bids came out significantly higher than expected so the county has to decide what to do because the rising cost of materials, availability of contractors and difficulty competing for disaster dollars has forced them into a corner. The county has levied for their percentage of those projects but, because the costs have risen so significantly they will have to come up with an additional $200,000 to $300,000 just to cover their portion of the projects. That’s not in the budget.

They did discuss not doing all three projects, but in the end they did vote to do all three. Legally they could not use the money levied for these projects on other projects and since they are vital road to market routes, the commission decided it best to go forward and hope the money would be found in the 2012 budget.

Fieldsend said, “These are tough choices, but they’re only going to get tougher.”

A number of other sites were also discussed, County Roads No. 6 and No. 10 plus the Woods Rutten Road and the Grahams Island Road.

The consensus of the commissioners was that the only solution to the mounting road problems is getting water off the lake as soon as possible.

“We’ve got to move more water. We have to. People are just going to be stranded out there. They already are,” Commissioner Ed Brown said.

After discussing the issue for a lengthy portion of the meeting Commissioiner Bill Mertens addressed the visitors pointing out the difficulty the county faces each day and appealed to them for their help.

“You see here the difficulty we face everyday. We’re glad you’re here to witness this struggle. If there is any way that you can help us, we would welcome it,” Mertens said.

Other business

The commission approved two home buy-out vouchers, approved liquor licenses and to advertise for bids for the demolition of the old Crary school building.

Special permits to sell alcohol were approved. Overtime hours, a request from Safe Alternatives for Abused Families, two appointments to the Lake Region Library Board and site authorizations were also approved.

The commission conducted two public hearings on two closings of section line roads allowing anyone who opposed the proposals to come forward, but after hearing none, closed those hearings. They tabled a vote on the section line road closures to the next commission meeting requesting maps and details of the location of the new roads and right of way the landowners are proposing.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Ramsey County Commission will be on Tuesday, July 5 at 8 a.m.