by John Holler
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Anyone who drives on I-94 through Wright County knows how congested traffic can be during peak rush hour periods. At the March 12 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, the board was asked to help in the fight to get state and federal dollars prioritized toward expanding the freeway by one lane in both direction between Rogers and Monticello.
St. Michael City Engineer Steve Bot came before the board requesting a contribution to assist in the efforts of the I-94 West Corridor Coalition. Citing the contribution the county has made to the efforts on the Hwy. 55 corridor, he highlighted that I-94 is vital to Wright County for several reasons, not the least of which being the economic impact.
“I-94 is a corridor of commerce,” Bot said. “We’re at a critical point moving forward because the state is currently working on the MnSHIP program, which is a 20-year highway plan that will set the priorities for road construction. Under the current plan, MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) has only maintenance projects for I-94 in its 20-year plan and we need to get into the discussion while those decisions are still being made.”
Bot pointed out the need by using the state’s own traffic figures to make his point. I-94 between Hwy. 241 in St. Michael and Hwy. 23 in St. Cloud accounts for just 1.6 percent of the length on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Interregional Corridor System, yet accounts from 40 percent of the traffic congestion. He added that there has been bipartisan support for expansion of I-94 from Rogers to Monticello from U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, as well of Representative Michele Bachmann urging MnDOT to prioritize the corridor.
Wright County has contributed approximately $10,000 to the Highway 55 corridor coalition and the results have been successful, but essentially completed until any expansion of the road is approved, which could be several years away. Commissioner Mike Potter, who petitioned the item to the board agenda, said the I-94 corridor is even more important to Wright County.
“Not only is the I-94 west corridor the largest carrier of commuter traffic, it is the main connector between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud,” Potter said. “If we want to have future economic development, the time to get started on that is now.”
The board unanimously approved donating $8,000 to the I-94 West Corridor Coalition effort and hope that the timing of the increased interest in the road will result in money being earmarked for adding a lane in both directions in the near future.
In other items on the March 12 agenda, the board:
REFERRED to the planning commission a request from the county’s planning and zoning department to craft a zoning ordinance amendment dealing with commercial outdoor activities. Planning and Zoning Administrator Steve Riley said that the ordinance amendment is needed because the county’s zoning ordinance currently doesn’t have a definition of businesses such as orchards, wineries, pumpkin patches and corn mazes. He pointed out that several neighboring counties have incorporated such business uses into their own zoning ordinances and that Wright County needs to follow suit because more of these types of businesses are sprouting up within the county and that the county needs to have rules in place before such operations get too large and create a conflicting use in the rural areas of the county.
AUTHORIZED the county’s project team to review options of live-streaming county board meetings on the internet and to make a recommendation to the county board in terms of cost and effectiveness of the two vendors being considered.
ANNOUNCED a labor agreement with Teamsters Local No. 320/Courthouse Unit on a three-year labor agreement. The union contract calls for no pay increase in 2012-13 and a 1 percent increase in 2014.
APPROVED a contract with Wenck Associates Inc. to prepare plans and specifications for repairs needed on County Ditch 10. The total cost of the repairs has been estimated at nearly $100,000. The county agreed to pay $9,500 for the bid specifications, as well as $1,500 for Wenck to draft the formal bid documents and award the contract and $5,000 to oversee the construction process and regulate compliance with state ditch law and plan specifications.
REFERRED to the ways and means committee a recommendation for renewals of a pair of county properties that get rented out for farm use. Both sites are near the City of Buffalo and each has been part of rental agreements for more than a decade.
AWARDED the contract for the CSAH 35 bridge project to Mathiowetz Construction of Sleepy Eye. At the March 5 meeting, bids for the project were opened and laid over for review. Mathiowetz had the lowest bid of $1.58 million — approximately $80,000 over engineer’s estimates for the project.
APPOINTED Commissioners Charlie Borrell, Mark Daleiden and Christine Husom to represent the county board on the Joint Ditch 14 and 15 committees. Both of the ditches are shared with other counties (Ditch 14 with Meeker County and Ditch 15 with McLeod County)
APPROVED a request from Sheriff Joe Hagerty to expedite the process of establishing an eligible candidates list for an opening the sheriff’s department will have in the dispatcher area. Hagerty said one of the sheriff’s department dispatchers gave the department two weeks notice. Citing the critical nature of the dispatcher position, the board approved Hagerty’s request.
Contact John Holler at [email protected]