County begins 'quick take' process to further road project

Louise Oleson Journal Managing Editor

Although from the very start, months ago, it appeared all remaining residents along Ramsey County No. 10 were eager to have their road raised and repaired the project has been brought to a stand-still.

The project that is already engineered and designed - at the cost of nearly half a million dollars - has been stalled because signatures needed for about 15-feet of additional right of way have not been obtained. Repeated efforts to contact the individual land owners of those 15 feet have met with silence, no calls have been returned, no letters answered - a stone wall of silence.

The Ramsey County Commissioners spent a great deal of their regular Tuesday meeting on Aug. 6 discussing their options in the matter.

Add to the problem the fact that time is running out on the project. The county was informed that if they did not have the right of way secured before the bid letting process begins, the project may have to be scrapped. That means the funding that would have covered most of the cost of the project will also go away.

Unfortunately, the bills that have already been incurred will not go away. The $500K already spent for engineering and planning for the project would have to come from Ramsey County taxpayers.

“Even if the project gets scrapped at this point,” Kevin Fieldsend who is the roads supervisor for the county said, “we’ve already spent the $500,000 and the funding that would have reimbursed the county for that expense will not be allocated if the project falls through so it comes out of the taxpayers’ pockets.”

As the commission agonized over its options there was no easy solution. They could wait until the very last minute and hope the signatures come in. “But what if they don’t,” asked Commissioner Myrna Heisler.

“I don’t want us to wait on this and we get to Sept. 1 and have no other options. I’m not comfortable forcing this expense on the people of the county.”

Other issues arose, as well, during the discussion about the right of way and deeds from the 1950s not being recorded although the land was secured at the time to build what is now known as Ramsey County No. 10.

Ramsey County States Attorney Lonnie Olson helped advise the commission on what course to take.

He explained the process that the commission might need to go through legally to condemn the property and use what is called the “quick take” process. Although none of the commissioners liked the sound of that, in the end the motion was made by Commissioner Ed Brown and seconded by Commissioner Mark Olson. In the roll call vote that ensued both Commissioner Bill Mertens and Heisler voted against the motion but Commission Chair Scott Diseth broke the tie with a vote of “Aye.”

It passed with a vote of three to two.

This set in motion the process whereby the county will go through the steps where it can legally take the land from the landowners to move the road project along. The landowners will be compensated for their land at fair market value and legal costs are borne by the county.

“It’s not the best choice, but at this point, it might be your only choice,” the states attorney said.