WRIGHT COUNTY BOARD MINUTES
JUNE 7, 2011
The Wright County Board met in regular session at 9:00 A.M. with Sawatzke, Mattson, Russek, Thelen, and Eichelberg present.
Eichelberg moved to approve the 5-31-11 County Board Minutes, seconded by Thelen, carried 5-0.
Petitions were accepted to the Agenda as follows: Item For Consid. #3, “Letter From MPCA” (Russek). Thelen moved to approve the Agenda as amended, seconded by Eichelberg, carried 5-0.
The Consent Agenda was discussed. Richard Norman, County Coordinator, requested that Item B1 be changed to read, “Approve Request To Rezone Approximately 46 Acres From AG & S-2 To A/R & S-2, Kristian D. St. Martin (Maple Lake Twp.).” On a motion by Eichelberg, second by Mattson, all voted to approve the Consent Agenda:
1. Performance Appraisals: P. Thompson, Aud./Treas.; R. Hickman, D. Oliver, A. Wendorf, Bldg. Mnt.; A. Riebel, Parks; R. Halverson, A. Minea, Sher./Corr.
2. O/T Report, Periods Ending 5-27-11.
B. PLANNING & ZONING
1. Approve Request To Rezone Approximately 46 Acres From AG & S-2 To A/R & S-2, Kristian D. St. Martin (Maple Lake Twp.).
1. Authorize Signature On A Joint Powers Agreement Allowing The Sheriff’s Office To Perform Criminal History Checks For Court Administration For The Purpose Of Processing Name Change Applications.
Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, said about a month ago, the County applied for a septic loan program. He presented an Agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and a draft resolution which would allow Wright County to borrow from the MPCA and to lend to those eligible lenders to fund projects for the control and abatement of water pollution in the Crow River Watershed. The resolution authorizes an amount up to $600,000 but recognizes that the MPCA Agreement permits the County to draw up to $300,000 on the Note at this time. The remaining $300,000 of the Note may be drawn only when Wright County and the MPCA have executed a new or amended Agreement permitting additional amounts to be drawn on the Note. Thelen moved to adopt Resolution #11-31, seconded by Sawatzke, carried 5-0 on a roll call vote.
As requested by Hiivala, Eichelberg moved to approve signatures on the MPCA General Obligation Note related to the Clean Water Partnership, reducing surface water runoff in the Crow River Watershed. The Note allows the County to receive up to $300,000. The motion was seconded by Thelen and carried 5-0.
On a motion by Mattson, second by Sawatzke, all voted to approve the claims as listed in the abstract, subject to audit.
Marc Mattice, Parks Administrator, requested the Board schedule a Parks Committee Of The Whole Meeting. The Agenda items would include: A) Discuss and review the 2011 Park Department Equipment Expenditures and Budget; and 2) Provide updates on the Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park project, grants, local funding, and Phase 3 acquisition schedule and costs associated. Mattice said that during the annual budget process, a priority list is developed on equipment and replacement needs. Mattice would like to discuss with the Committee some items that will need replacement. There have been some unforeseen failures. Eichelberg asked whether there could be future updates needed on the Bertram Chain of Lakes Project dependent upon what happens at the Legislature. Mattice said that this may be the case. The actions of the Legislature will not affect the grants encumbered but could affect those that were applied for in March. Thelen moved to schedule a Parks Committee Of The Whole Meeting on 6-14-11 at 8:00 A.M. The motion was seconded by Sawatzke. Mattson did not favor scheduling a committee meeting just prior to a Board Meeting. Thelen and Sawatzke withdrew their motions to set the Committee Meeting for 6-14-11 at 8:00 A.M. Sawatzke then made a motion to schedule the Parks Committee Of The Whole Meeting for 6-28-11 at 10:30 A.M. The motion was seconded by Thelen and carried 5-0. The Meeting will be held in the Commissioners Conference Room.
Eric Lembke, Bonestroo Inc., said he was representing the City of Cokato on a request for the Board to adopt a resolution requesting funding from Mn/DOT through the Minnesota 2011 Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Grant Program at Cokato Elementary School. This is a Federal grant that is administered through the State. As the City has a population under 5,000, a sponsor is required for the Program. In this case, that would be Wright County. If Wright County agrees to sponsor the Program, it would involve administering payments. Payments would be sent from the State to the County. The County would pay the contractor. All other aspects of the contract would be handled by the City or Bonestroo Inc. Lembke said the Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Program targets Grades K-8 to provide safe pedestrian and bike access to schools. The Program includes a two-part component comprised of safety improvements and encouraging exercise as a daily part of a child’s routine. Cokato Elementary School has 530 students in Grade K-4. The Cokato community lacks sidewalks. Lembke distributed a map outlining the proposed sidewalk and intersection crossing improvements including ramps, sidewalks, crosswalk markings, and signing. The facilities will be upgraded to be ADA compliant. The main improvements will focus one block around the School. Mattson moved to adopt Resolution 11-32 requesting funding from Mn/DOT through the Minnesota Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Grant Program at Cokato Elementary School. The motion was seconded by Thelen and carried 5-0 on a roll call vote. Fingalson said since this is a Federally funded program, the County needs to be the sponsor. The application will be submitted by the end of next week. If there is success in obtaining funding, an agreement between the County and City outlining the funding will be presented at a future date.
Fingalson requested that the Board set a Transportation Committee Of The Whole (TCOTW) Meeting with the following Agenda items: 1) Township Signing Program; 2) Minnesota Road Fee Test Projects; and 3) Update on Levy Project in Otsego. Sawatzke asked that an update on the Historical Society Parking Lot resurfacing be added to the TCOTW Agenda as Item 4. Sawatzke moved to schedule a TCOTW Meeting for 6-20-11 at 10:00 A.M. The motion was seconded by Thelen and carried 5-0. The Meeting will be held at the Public Works Building. Fingalson was directed to send notice to the Historical Society.
Fingalson distributed the 2010 Highway Department Annual Report for review and approval at the next County Board Meeting.
At 9:30 A.M., Commissioner Russek closed the bid process for the CSAH 75 Bridge Removal and Reconstruction Project (SAP 086-675-013) and the Pedestrian Underpass Alternate Bid (SAP 222-020-001). The Engineer’s Estimate for the base bid is $1.85 million and the alternate is $330,000. In response to a question by Sawatzke, Fingalson confirmed that the alternate includes the holding ponds. There are no addendums on the project. Fingalson said that the City of Monticello will need to review the alternate bids at their 6-13-11 City Council Meeting. The bids were opened:
Bidder; Bid Bond; Base Bid; Alternate
R. L. Larson Excavating, Inc., St. Cloud, MN; Yes; $1,741,557.66; $250,200.50
Fehn Companies, Inc., Albertville, MN; Yes; $2,103,430.01; $257,931.93
Park Construction Company, Hampton, MN; Yes; $2,567,425.81; $332,369.13
Knife River Corporation, Sauk Rapids, MN; Yes; $1,898,924.87; $225,688.08
Central Specialties, Alexandria, MN; Yes; $1,819,164.78; $224,080.77
Eichelberg moved to lay the bids over for one week, seconded by Thelen. Mattson questioned whether the underpass is part of the bids. He said if the underpass cannot be built for $70,000-$80,000, then he can’t agree to any contribution by the County. Russek stated that the County Board did not take any action on Monticello’s request for funding for the underpass at the last Board Meeting. Fingalson said that as it stands, the County is not contributing to the underpass improvements. The City has been meeting with Xcel Energy to see whether they are willing to contribute additionally toward the improvements. Fingalson said that since the last Board Meeting, he was in contact with the Chief Council for Mn/DOT on the Cap X2020 project. They had a long discussion on whether the funding coming from that could be used toward the underpass improvements. Because of the different parties involved with the decision, it may take longer than the 30 days required for the County and City to award their contracts. The suggestion by the Chief Council for Mn/DOT was to go directly to Xcel Energy to request funding since they are the largest partner in the Cap X2020 Project. Fingalson spoke with Jeff O’Neill, Monticello City Administrator, this morning. O’Neill indicated that it is probably not possible to obtain additional funding for the underpass from Xcel Energy. They do not see the underpass as a benefit to their employees. Fingalson said it will be up to the City Council on whether they want to proceed with the underpass improvements. He said that there is no County money in the alternate. The motion carried 5-0.
A Transportation Committee Of The Whole (TCOTW) Meeting was held on 5-31-11. At today’s County Board Meeting, Fingalson referred to the Grand Castle Estates road issues discussed at that meeting. Fingalson said the cost estimate of $90,000 to improve the road only includes the bituminous issues and not the drainage issues, which the Township may or may not want completed. With regard to the ability to assess improvements, Fingalson said in lieu of a Memorandum of Understanding, the County could take over the road. The County would then have the authority to go through the assessment process. The road could be revoked to the Township thereafter. Greg Kryzer, Assistant County Attorney, said that since the TCOTW Meeting, he spoke with Tom Theis. Theis represents himself as a person with some negotiating authority with the investment lending group (on record as owning 2-3 of the lots). They have indicated they have a purchase agreement with the bank for the remaining lots. Theis informed Kryzer that he would be willing to check with the shareholders of the corporation to see if they would provide a letter of credit for the road improvements. Kryzer said to provide that and another security would be acceptable to the County. The County could then start issuing building permits. He was unsure whether the group is interested in only getting the road improvements done this year. Kryzer has not heard back from Theis but will contact him again this week. Kryzer recommended proceeding with the assessment process. The County can elect to stop the process at a later date. Eichelberg moved to approve the minutes and recommendations as the minutes accurately reflect the discussion that was held at the TCOTW Meeting. The motion was seconded by Mattson. Fingalson asked whether the Board would give any consideration to the Township handling the assessment process. Fingalson said the Township’s holdup previously was not having the money to front for bringing the road up to specifications. Russek hopes the lot owners will come up with the funding if they want to sell lots. Eichelberg said that decision can be made once the County hears back from them. The motion carried 5-0 to approve the TCOTW minutes and recommendations:
Chair Russek called the meeting to order and introductions were made. Newly appointed Highway Maintenance Crew Supervisor Bruce Bersie was introduced to County Commissioners at the beginning of the meeting.
Grand Castle Estates Road Issues
Kryzer distributed extensive information summarizing the history of the Grand Castle Estates road issues that led to this meeting today. The property in question is located in the most northwestern section of Buffalo Township. The County Board approved the 10-lot subdivision in 2005, and the Township agreed that the road would be built to proper specifications within this subdivision. Upon inspection of this road over two years after it was first built, Buffalo Township’s engineer found that this road met neither the Township’s specifications (which are stricter than the County’s) nor the County’s specifications. The performance bond that had been submitted to Wright County’s Planning & Zoning Department as insurance for proper work was valid for two years, but it was discovered that this bond had expired and was no longer valid for collection upon default. Meanwhile, the original developer sold his interest to an investment group, and this group went bankrupt and into foreclosure. Kryzer explained that the failure to complete this road to acceptable standards and the ensuing bankruptcy were a result of the economic downturn, and there was a similar situation in Rockford Township; but there a letter of credit had been submitted (in lieu of a bond) and the Township was able to collect money to complete the road. Without a bond to use as leverage to get the road completed/repairs, Tom Salkowski, Planning & Zoning Administrator (at that time), along with the Wright County Attorney’s office, made the decision in November 2010 not to issue any further building permits for that development until the road was satisfactorily completed.
There are currently seven buildable lots available for sale with an assessed market value (determined by the Wright County Assessor’s Office) of $15,000, devalued from $60,000 because of the status of the road. Upon completion of the road, the value on those lots will be raised by the Assessor’s Office to $60,000 assessed value. Knife River has estimated that the cost of improving this road to acceptable specs will cost about $90,000, which when split among seven lots amounts to just under $13,000 each, but which would result in a gain of $45,000 in assessed value. Kryzer suggested that the best way to recover the cost of completing this road would be to assess the vacant lots because of the increase in value that would be realized as a result of this improvement. Sawatzke commented that even the three lots with homes already built on them would also receive the benefit of a completed roadway and wondered if they should also be assessed. However, the County and Township should have seen that the road was built as planned. Kryzer said that the properties already built on are really nice and have values between $350,000 and $400,000, and they wouldn’t receive as much benefit from a new road since their values are already high. Russek commented that they probably paid a lot more for their lots [than the vacant lots are worth now] when they purchased them. It doesn’t sound like the road improvement would be that great of an expense in exchange for the increased value that it would add to the vacant lots. Kryzer said that there are some people who are interested in building but who can’t get a building permit. It seems that an assessment for road improvement would be a good investment in order to have the value of the property rise. The Township engineer put together a report after Mid-Minnesota completed their work, but he was not involved with the inspections. Fingalson said that the Township specs are more stringent than the County’s, but the road was found to be five inches short of gravel and 0.5 2.0 inches short of bituminous. There has been some heavy traffic (school buses and garbage trucks) on this road. Sawatzke asked if a deadline for a bond is arbitrary, and Kryzer commented that the length of time is statutory and can’t be changed. There is a two-year length, and it would be a good practice to start reviewing options or begin the default process twenty months after the bond is issued and four months before it expires. Planning & Zoning had thought that the bond was perpetual until the road was completed. More contractors are submitting a letter of credit, which doesn’t have an expiration date. Sawatzke suggested that no building permits be issued until the road is completed, which would help prevent making an even bigger mess of the current road. Kryzer said that the problem with waiting to improve the road means that the people who already live there have to deal with the lack of service. Buffalo Township did maintain this road over the 2010/2011 winter and are allowed to do so one more year without taking it over. However, if they continue service on this road after the end of 2012, it will become the Township’s road by default, regardless of whether the Township wishes to take it over or not.
Russek suggested that the road be built and that the lots be assessed. The seven vacant lots are owned by First Commercial Bank and/or an investment lending group. The County could front the money and then assess the property. It would be up to the seller to determine whether or not the assessment would be paid in full back to the seller at the time of the sale, or if the buyer would be allowed to make payments to the County for the assessments. Sawatzke said that he thinks that Wright County should do the road and then get paid back, but he questioned whether the present homeowners should be assessed. Eichelberg commented that they paid more for their lots and they expected that the road would be done. Perhaps the County, the Township, and the developer are all partially responsible for this road not getting done. He doesn’t think it would go over well if they were expected to pay assessments. Kryzer said that he could check with the Assessor’s Department to see if there would be any appreciable value added to these homes as a result of road improvement, and Russek said that it wouldn’t be an improvement over what they thought they were purchasing. Hawkins said that it would have to be proven that they were getting benefit from the assessments, and that benefit would have to be identified. Fingalson commented that Buffalo Township should be commended in hiring an engineer, and he asked if there was any consideration of having him become involved in the inspection. Schmidt said that they did not hire him to inspect the road during the construction, and even if he had been hired, the road probably still wouldn’t have been completed.
Fingalson asked Kryzer to enumerate the options of action that could be taken to improve this road. Kryzer said that one option would be to have Buffalo Township build the road and assess the lots, but they don’t have the finances to take care of this. When Kryzer met with the Township, an option of the County fronting the money and the Township doing the “legwork” was not discussed. Another option would be that the County could take over the road, do the work, and then assess the costs to the seven lots. The Township would then take over the road. Fingalson said that dealing with assessments would be more work for him and his staff. Hawkins, as a former City Engineer, has been involved in the assessment process. There are feasibility reports, etc., needed for the Chapter 429 process. Fingalson would consider it only with the understanding that the Township would take over the road as soon as it is completed. He, however, would prefer that the money be acquired from the owners of the lots before the improvements are made so that the County would not have to go through the assessment process. Since the owners of the lots would be essentially responsible for all the assessments costs, it makes more sense for them to pay this amount up front so that the work can be started sooner and so building permits can be issued without as much delay as the assessment process would create. Russek said that if there had been an inspector on the job, this problem wouldn’t have developed. It would be nice to get the money up front, but he thinks that maybe the financing could be figured out. Kryzer said that if assessments were going to be done, a hearing would have to be scheduled, and then there would be a 30-day waiting period to see if there are any appeals from the property owners. Schmidt said that he would like to get this project done so that the three people who have indicated interest in building could get started and add to the Township’s and County’s tax base. Sawatzke said that if assessing is done, this road will have to be a county road. Perhaps a joint powers agreement could be entered into stating that Buffalo Township would take over the road after a certain amount of time. Kryzer said that if this were designated as a county road, they would then have the authority to do the assessment. He said that there is provision in the statute that gives a county the authority to divert a county road to a township, which might be a more direct way to do it than to draw up a joint powers agreement. Fingalson said that the statutes say that the county can revoke a road to a township, even without their approval, but if the township doesn’t want it, the county is required to maintain it for two years before the township becomes responsible for its maintenance. If the township is willing to take it over immediately, it can waive that requirement, and the requirement to hold a formal revocation hearing. Schmidt said that it has been the intent of Buffalo Township to take that road over as soon as it meets specs, and in fact, they have already upgraded and paved 55th Street Northeast which leads to this development from Braddock Avenue. Fingalson asked if there is any hope that the owners of the vacant lots would front the money for the road so that the assessment process could be avoided. If costs are assessed, there will also be additional charges for interest, advertisements, and the hearing process. Sawatzke said that it would be good to get it resolved as soon as possible for the landowners, and Fingalson said that he would like to avoid the assessment process if possible. Hawkins asked who would oversee the project if the landowners took charge of the road improvements, and Riley said that the banks would be hiring an inspector. Sawatzke asked if one of the inspectors from the Highway Department could do the inspection. Maybe the County could front the money, get the road built, and then assess the bank. The assessment process could delay the building of the road for up to a year. Schmidt said that they had not discussed the possibility that Wright County front the money and the township do the assessing, but maybe that would work. However, it would be faster to avoid assessments and also less expensive in the long run for the property owners. Initially, the investment company wanted the County to pay for the road, so it might be likely that they would still not want to front the money. Fingalson said that the owners could be told that if they don’t want to pay for the improvements up front, then the County will go through the assessment process, which will take longer, cost more, and they won’t be able to obtain building permits until the road is completed. Eichelberg commented that it would still be important to make sure that buses and garbage trucks are able to drive through to that area for the current homeowners.
Fingalson said that he will be scheduling another TCOTW meeting to be held within the next two weeks because of other issues, so this could be revisited at that time if Kryzer finds out that the lot owners are not interested in fronting the money for the road completion. Sawatzke said that we could then move forward with the assessment process to see if that would help motivate them to front the money. If not, the County will find the money and then set up the assessment process. Kryzer said that the assessments will be determined prior to the actual building of the road. However, if the money is available up front, then the building can begin right away and people will be able to obtain a building permit sooner than if the assessment process is necessary. If the assessment process is necessary, the County will take over this road as a county road, just for assessment purposes. Fingalson expressed his concern that the process will require valuable time from the Highway Department, which is already very busy. Kryzer said that he also explored insurance options through MCIT but found that bonds are excluded from coverage. He said that he would obtain a copy of the default resolution from Buffalo Township.
RECOMMENDATION: It was the consensus of the TCOTW that Kryzer contact the current owners of the vacant lots at Grand Castle Estates to see if they would be willing to front the money that will be necessary in order to bring the road up to Buffalo Township specifications in this development, which would give them the benefit of immediately being able to obtain building permits through the Wright County Planning & Zoning office for these buildable lots. If they are not interested in fronting the necessary money to repair/construct this road, Wright County will then front the money for this project and begin the assessment process that will be necessary in order to cover the cost of this work. The assessment process will require that advertisements be posted for a hearing, that a hearing is held, and that a 30-day response period is completed before advertisements can be posted for bids for this project. In this instance, no building permits will be issued until the road is completed.
(End of 5-31-11 TCOTW Minutes)
Russek said notice was received from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) indicating that JME Recycling Center/Transfer Station in Monticello has applied for a permit to operate a solid waste transfer station for construction and demolition (C&D) debris processing and recycling. If approved, the solid waste permit will allow the proposed operation for a term of five years. The facility is currently operating on a 10-acre parcel on Fallon Avenue in Monticello under a permit-by-rule. The operating hours are 4:30 A.M. to 10:30 P.M., Monday through Saturday. If issued, the facility permit will authorize increased capacity, up to 100 tons/day and 26,000 tons/year, for waste processing and transfer of C&D debris. The facility owner proposes to sort through and pull out recyclable material from the C&D debris (cardboard, unadulterated wood, concrete, metal). Other items such as appliances and electronics will be recycled. The C&D debris that is not currently recyclable will be hauled to an appropriate disposal facility. The notice reflects the last day to issue comments directly to the MPCA on this permit is July 1, 2011. Bill Stephens, Environmental Health Officer, said he will prepare a response to the MPCA during the comment period questioning a couple of items. He said if others have anything that they wish to add, he will include that in his letter of response. Sawatzke asked Stephens whether the applicant is going before the Monticello City Council for the permit. Stephens assumed so, since the business is located in the industrial park in the southeastern part of the City of Monticello. Sawatzke said the JME Recycling Center/Transfer Station is next to a housing development. Stephens said JME has been operating on a permit-by-rule from the MCPA since 2009 and is the same type of operation that is being requested only on a smaller scale. Because they are taking in more material, the MPCA initiated this permit request to JME to obtain a full-scale permit for their facility. Eichelberg asked whether JME’s operation is similar to that of Randy’s Sanitation in Delano. Stephens said the JME operation is not as extensive. It is the same type but on a smaller scale. Primarily what they are looking at is a construction and demolition transfer station, recycling of construction and demolition material, and recycling of other materials. Stephens said the public sometimes places things in construction and demolition dumpsters that are not designed for that type of material. JME must sort those items and dispose of them in a correct manner. Part of the permit would cover that type of materials. Sawatzke said the JME Facility is well kept. He felt that their working toward further recycling and sorting of materials is a good thing. Russek said no action is needed. He wanted to bring this notice from the MPCA forward so the Board is aware of the permit request.
A Parks Committee Of The Whole Meeting was held on 5-24-11 and was a Joint Meeting with the Parks Commission. At today’s County Board Meeting, Eichelberg moved to approve the minutes. The motion was seconded by Sawatzke. Mattson said discussion at the Parks Committee Of The Whole Meeting included placing bike paths on road shoulders. He referenced the CSAH 12 project and said a bike path couldn’t be placed on the 8’ shoulder of that road, it had to be separated. Now it is being recommended to do this. Sawatzke said he did not want to debate the merits of the CSAH 12 trail, but he felt that path was different in that Federal funding was used. Federal funding can not be used for a trail on a paved shoulder. Mattson noted that Federal dollars are still taxpayer dollars. Sawatzke agreed but said he wanted to explain the Federal funding requirements. The motion carried 5-0 to approve the minutes:
Mattice introduced today’s topic stating they are presenting a working draft of the Trail and Bikeway Plan, which began development in January, 2011. Public Health obtained a grant as part of the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) for a County-wide trail plan. Through this program, County staff was allowed to select a consultant to assemble a plan. He introduced three representatives from Hoisington Koegler Group Inc. (HKGi): Greg Ingraham, Lil Leatham, and Antonio Rosell.
II. PLANNING BACKGROUND, INPUT GATHERING, & PLAN FUNDING
A copy of the “Wright County Trail And Bikeway Plan; 5-16-11 Working Draft”, was distributed to the attendees at today’s meeting (see attached). Ingraham gave an overview of the input gathering sessions and planning process. He stated that the purpose of today’s meeting is to obtain feedback on the Plan and process as it is presented today. Ingraham explained that the overall goal or vision for a County trail and bikeway system is to serve as a guide for the future, foster opportunities for healthy living, and expand economic development.
Ingraham described the planning process as collecting input from residents and stakeholders. Meetings were held to receive community input. The community input was received in writing and at public meetings. An online questionnaire elicited 140-150 respondents. There were approximately 60 persons that participated in meetings for a total of 200 respondents. Open meetings were held in Buffalo and Albertville. County staff also provided hands-on information and assistance in shaping the Plan as it is being presented today.
The key themes gathered from the input was a desire for off-road paved trails in parks along rivers and lakes, connecting trails to nearby regional parks and trails, and improving safety for road bicyclists by providing wide shoulders. Other items of interest are having a trail and bikeway system that can be used for recreation: walking, hiking, and bicycle riding. Another desire is connecting residents to parks with off-road trails and connecting existing County trails to other trails.
III. DRAFT TRAIL, BIKEWAY & ACTIVE LIVING PLAN
Leatham stated that in examining the existing bikeways and trails within Wright County, there are a lot of pathways that are not safe or pleasant for families. A lot of the bikeways and trails are not part of a connected system. This prohibits people from connecting to the parks. There are existing trails, but not all of them are paved so they are not appropriate for paved cycling. There are a few trails outside of the parks but they are either not designated or lack biking shoulders along the roads. The feedback received from residents and stakeholders was that they would really like trails along natural resources such as the Crow River and lakes within cities. Creating trails along natural resources provides scenic opportunities.
Leatham stated that there is a need for a plan. The plan would outline how the trails would be used and where the best trail connections could be made.
Rosell stated that he would like to provide a broad overview of what a trails system could do for the residents and visitors of Wright County. Rosell stated that in terms of economic development, an established trails and bikeway system can promote tourism, attract residents and businesses, and increase property value. He stated that in a study regarding the return on investment in a trails system, $4 is returned to local businesses (lodging, food, retail) for every dollar spent on trails. In different settings, an established trail system can increase property values. When other properties are dropping in value, these properties increase in value.
Rosell discussed how providing a system of connected trails increases mobility, provides commuting choices, and provides a recreational component for those that want to have fun and choose to ride their bikes. He stated that in a study, it was determined that four out of 10 trips could be done by bicycle because they are less than two mile trips. These mobility options can improve community health, increase physical activity, and boost the local economy. It also provides a sense of connection to the landscape. Overall, Wright County would be able to create a bikeway and trails system that would make it easier for its residents to get around. This recreational offering increases the quality of life for residents and visitors.
IV. ROUTES, POLICY & STANDARDS ADOPTION OF PLAN PROCESS.
Rosell stated that HKGi has developed a set of best practices that incorporates the non-motorized plan successfully. A component of the best practices is to provide a safe trail and bikeway system. Recommendations include separating riders from traffic especially in high speed and truck traveled areas. Another recommendation is to provide smooth well-maintained surfaces. The basic requirement is to provide a safe system which is comfortable, attractive, and pleasant. The bikeways have to be convenient, connect to natural amenities and provide a continuous and direct network that connects to other trails and bikeways. The trail or bikeway system has to be comprehensive and easily accessible with signage.
Leatham stated that some of the recommended bikeway trail types are: Off road trails, wide road shoulders, designated bike lanes, and greenways. The off road trails are recommended to be paved. A bike lane is essentially a wider paved shoulder, but has a special designation with signage and bike symbols to signal to cyclists and motorists that the cyclists belong there. The greenway is a long term vision located along the north side of the Crow River. The recommendation is to expand and connect the network of trails for families with children, advanced bicyclists, and trail visitors. Expanding the system to trail visitors would capitalize on economic development.
Leatham stated that the background behind the context of the Plan is that the County is growing rapidly and it currently lacks a trail and bikeway system. Bikeways and trails are one of the most desired features for residents, visitors, and businesses. They are self-directed and contribute to the physical and mental well-being of its users.
Leatham clarified that the Plan content is meant for long-term direction. It is to help develop community action for the next twenty years. The Plan anticipates a long term commitment with partners. Leatham outlined the outcomes for the Plan:
• Provide and focus County investment in trails and bikeways.
• Provide transportation beyond just highways by developing complete streets that serve all users.
• Identify priority corridors for future trails and bikeways.
• Coordination of trails and bikeways with planned County investments highway, roadway and parks.
• Coordination of trails and bikeways with MnDOT and city systems.
• Help enable resident’s desires and the future need for trails and bikeways.
• Planning for cross County trails, bikeways routes, and a potential greenway corridor.
Leatham stated that the Plan contains recommendations regarding the County’s commitment to create a trails and bikeway system along two main linear natural routes: the Mississippi and Crow Rivers. Adding connections to the regional trails and adding amenities such as bathrooms and water would make the trails and bikeway system a more enjoyable experience for users.
Leatham explained that the proposed trail and bikeway network includes park trails, regional trails, loop trails, North Fork Greenway, County-wide bikeways, and paved shoulders. A map of the proposed network was shown on the overhead. Leatham referred to a map (p. 30, Wright County Trail And Bikeway Plan; 5-16-11 Working Draft) of the trail and bikeway system, stating that the network of trails covers the entire County utilizing the County’s existing system, state highways, and natural resources within the more populated eastern half of the County as well as the western half of the County. Ingraham stated that a few of the trails/bikeways would be completed through a city effort. The purpose of bikeways along the shoulder is to indicate that bikers are welcome. A recommendation for the County would be to continue the eight foot wide paved shoulder policy along County State Aid Highways and County Roads with 1,000 average daily trips (ADT) or more. This is in adherence with MnDOT standards which is dependent on ADTs and speed of traffic.
Rosell stated that as a result of this Plan some policies were created to guide the County’s efforts in the coming years. The recommended policies are outlined on page 23 of the Plan handout. Mattson questioned recommended policy #5 which calls for an 8’ paved shoulder. He stated that he has attended other meetings that call for separated bikeway paths. Mattice stated that the Plan recommends changing the existing County transportation policy regarding the placement of bicycle facilities within an 8’ shoulder. Mattson stated that he is concerned about the cost to taxpayers. Ingraham stated that a separate path would not be required if there is a paved shoulder available for bikers. Hawkins clarified that sometimes there may be a need for both depending on the functional class of the highway and ADT. Ingraham stated that there are a lot of variables to consider such as traffic volume, number of lanes, composition, speed, and availability of the shoulder. The benefits for paved shoulders are numerous: ease of maintenance, providing safety to road travelers, and providing a buffer zone for passing cars that are parked or broken down on the side of the road.
Rosell stated that funding for trails and bikeways, as outlined in the Plan, should be part of the County’s Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) and adopted as part of the County transportation plan. He noted that bicycle facilities are now included as part of transportation plans because it is another option for people to get around. As part of the Plan, the County should comply with the ADA requirements and design principals.
Ingraham asked for feedback about today’s presentation and policy recommendations from the Committee. He stated that HKGi would like to hear what the Committee’s priorities are. He asked whether the routes and draft policies make sense. Mattson stated that he had a concern that less than 1% of the County’s total population was surveyed. Ingraham stated that the feedback and survey were not meant as a scientific survey. The survey was available online and at meetings. The people who completed the survey were those that were interested in the Plan. The results are not statistically valid however, based on the feedback, it was determined that trails are the number one recreation feature that County residents are interested in. People of all ages and lifestyles can utilize the trails any day of the week and during any season.
Mattson stated that he represents the largest portion of the County. He stated that farmers have select comments about hikers and bikers using the shoulders along highways. Ingraham stated that HKGi recognizes their concerns. This Plan is meant as a long-term plan that could take over twenty years to realize. This Plan is a vision for how the future roads and parks could be laid out. Russek stated that he lives on a bikeway trail. He stated that he has a concern on how to get the public interested in using trails. The trail connects with the Luce Line Trail. It should be a popular path. However, he has hardly seen anyone use the trail over the past several years. Ingraham stated that it is hard to understand the exact number of users of an established bikeway or trail. He commented that as the County builds a trail system, there will be more opportunities for its use. The City of Minneapolis is known for its bikeways and trail system. Minneapolis had a vision in 1890 and has been building their system since. He stated that although there may not have been a lot of use for its bikeway and trail system in the early years, it has become very popular over the years. Their system could not have been as well-laid out or established if it had not start out with a plan. Ingraham commented that although the County may not see an immediate value of a trail, the long-term health related exercise becomes more relevant overtime. Ingraham stated that there are a fair number of people that load their bikes into their cars and are willing to drive to a park or bikeway to ride around a loop.
Wisecarver stated that when he was associated with the Luce Line, a study was done on the usage of the trail. Over the years, there has been a slow increase in the usage of the Luce Line in the western suburbs. The citizens of Wayzata were not initially happy with the establishment of the Luce Line. However, they have figured out how to use the Luce Line to their advantage. Citizens use hand carts to pull canoes and fishing equipment to fishing locations that are otherwise inaccessible. He stated that Watertown has seen an increase in the usage of the bikeway system. He predicts that more people will start coming into Delano on the bikeway system to access the shops and restaurants. It would just take some advertising at the junctions or way stops. The County will have to retrain the public on how to use the bikeway and trails. He stated that he is confident that the evolution of the system will take time. He is intrigued by the Greenway. He stated that he can agree with Mattson’s comment that some people are not going to like this Plan. He is sure that there were landowners that were not happy when the County roads were going to be built. It is a learning process. He thought that the County has to do a better job of selling the concept of the Plan so that it can be included as part of the County’s infrastructure. It is his opinion that the Trail and Bikeway Plan is a good plan. He discussed the history of the first snowmobile trails. Since they have become popular, more land has been acquired, and bigger equipment has been purchased to groom the trails. He stated that the Plan should consider the future of the bikeway and trail system as it pertains to powered or electric bikes. Mattson stated that he has two grandsons that utilize bikeways and trails. However, he does not know if bikeways and trails are appropriate in his district. DeMatteis stated that so many people are rethinking their chosen form of exercise. People use trails and bikeways to walk, jog, in line skate, bike, etc.
Bergquist stated that he would like to emphasize the safety aspect of the Plan. Wright County is a very busy County. He would share Mattson’s concern regarding cyclists using the same roads as farm equipment. However, the people that are walking and biking on the rural roads are rural residents. By creating and implementing the Trail and Bikeway Plan, the County is protecting its own people. This is something to keep in mind whether the trails are in the form of a broad shoulder or a specifically designated off road trail.
Durst stated that after sitting on the Park Board, he has realized the importance of planning. The Plan is very long term. At the conception stage of Lake Rebecca Park, there was a lot of animosity regarding taking over all of that land. Now, a tremendous amount of people in the area use it for horseback riding. The time for the future is now. If areas are not designated as a trail now, it could be a superhighway in the future. The County will not have a chance to do this again. The County will have to work within its economic boundaries that it is challenged with now.
Sawatzke asked how a trail is distinguished from a sidewalk. Ingraham stated that HKGi did not specifically look at sidewalks because a lot of cities have separate sidewalk plans. There was an assumption in the Plan that a trail would be multi-functional. Sawatzke stated that he is not in favor of the County paying for sidewalks. The recommended policy builds an expectation that the County is going to be a great source of funding for bike paths. This is not feasible for the 17 communities within Wright County. Ingraham stated that the policy is merely referring to regional connections. The cities would be referred to their sidewalk plans. Russek stated that most cities do not allow bicycles to ride on sidewalks. Hawkins stated that sidewalks are technically for pedestrian use. Rosell stated that it is very clear in State laws that sidewalks are not bicycle facilities. This is because sidewalks were not built to keep bicyclists safe. Bicyclists using sidewalks cannot be considered safe as it places them where motorists do not typically expect them. Rosell stated that there are some blacktopped bicycle lanes that adjoin, or are located next to, sidewalks. The Plan is not recommending that sidewalks be funded with County monies. The policy is also not automatically calling for a County match of 35%. The policy discusses the County sharing “up to 35%” at the discretion of the County depending on whether the County feels the facility matches the needs and vision of the County. Sawatzke stated that he sees the words “up to” as being problematic. There needs to be consistency otherwise there could be an appearance of playing favorites. He stated that trails and bikeways within cities have not been paid for by the County in the past. Offering a County match could be a significant amount of money. Nobody is helping the County pay for trails outside city limits. The County has to pay entirely for a paved shoulder.
Rosell stated that it is important to come up with a way to connect the cities. A bikeway and trail system integrates those that are working, playing, shopping, etc. In consideration of the policy recommendation, the County could come up with consistent criteria in evaluating the amount of County match funding. He stated that one of the criteria in determining a match amount is whether the proposed trail is within the planned and approved network of trails. Sawatzke stated that expectations come with creating policies.
Mattson stated that he is not in favor of “complete streets” through the provision of shoulders, bikeways, and trails as described within the Plan document. Ingraham stated that not every street is, or should be, a complete street. However, there should be a network of complete streets. Thelen stated that today’s discussion is about a “vision”. She stated that it is possible that the County would be too population dense to consider adding a trailway system. She referred to a recent trip she took to Amsterdam. She described how they have been successful in their vision to reclaim the streets. She asked the representatives from HKGi why the trail along Highway 24 was not included in the Plan that is being presented today. She stated that there was some local interest in a trail along that road. Mattice stated that the Park Board received information from the Annandale Action Community Team-Trails Committee. Ingraham stated that Highway 24 has a really nice paved shoulder. This was a consideration in finding a balance in the Plan of affordability and need. Thelen stated that she would hate to see the Highway 24 plan be totally revoked.
Ingraham stated that HKGi will look more into the idea of the bikeway. Ingraham stated that HKGi will refine the Draft Plan based on the input that was received. The Plan will be posted on the County website. There are two Community Review Meetings scheduled for 6-01-11 at Clearwater City Hall and 6-06-11 at the Wright County Public Works Building. Feedback will be acquired from those meetings and posted on the County’s website. From that point, the Plan will be refined and would go before the Park Commission, and finally before the County Board. Mattice noted that the Park Commission would not meet in June. Ingraham stated that HKGi could adjust the schedule as long as it meets the County’s grant schedule. Ingraham thanked the Committee for their comments.
(End of 5-24-11 Parks Committee Of The Whole Meeting)
Norman brought forth discussion on the Performance Measurement Program. A handout was provided outlining the specifics of the Program. In 2010, the Legislature created the Council on Local Results and Innovation. In February, 2011, the Council released a standard set of ten performance measures for counties that will aid residents, taxpayers, and state and local elected officials in determining the efficacy of county provided services, and measure residents’ opinions of those services. Participation is voluntary. Counties that choose to participate in the Program must officially adopt the corresponding 10 performance benchmarks developed by the Council, and implement them in 2011. Counties that elect to participate in the Program for 2011 are eligible for a reimbursement of $0.14/capita in local government aid, not to exceed $25,000 and are also exempt from levy limits under sections 275.70 to 275.74 for taxes payable in 2012, if levy limits are in effect. In order to receive the per capita reimbursement in 2011 and levy limit exemption for calendar year 2012, counties must file a report with the Office of the State Auditor by 7-01-11. Annual reporting is required. By 7-01-12, counties will be required to report to the OSA that they have adopted and implemented both the performance benchmarks and the performance measurement system released by the Council in February, 2012. A declaration will be required that the County has reported or will report the results for calendar 2011 of the 10 adopted measures to its residents before the end of 2012. The information provided includes Model Performance Measures for Counties impacting the areas of Public Safety, Probation/Corrections, Public Works, Public Health, Social Services, Taxation, Elections, Veterans’ Services, Parks, and Library. Wright County must notify the Minnesota Council on Local Results and Innovation by 7-01-11 on participation. Norman said AMC supports the Program. The data requested should be readily available by the departments involved. Sawatzke said that prior to the meeting, Hiivala mentioned that he heard that many counties are not participating in the Program. Sawatzke was unsure whether the $17,000 that the County will receive is worth some of the requirements of the surveys outlined in the Performance Measures. Norman said a number of counties have been using Performance Measures for years. With regard to Sawatzke’s question, Norman said the Public Safety survey is listed but the Part I and Part II crime rates are an option (either do one or the other). Norman said the Part 1 and Part II crime rates are something that is being tracked already. Sawatzke referenced #8, Taxation, which reflects the “Level of assessment ratio (If the median ratio falls between 90% and 105%, the level of assessment is determined to be acceptable).” He said that is State Law. Norman responded that then the County should meet that measurement. Sawatzke said Hiivala was not specific on what he has heard from other counties who have elected not to participate. Russek will attend the AMC District V Meeting next week in St. Cloud and he could try to find out what other counties are doing. Sawatzke said if they are not participating, Russek should find out why. Sawatzke had concern with potentially spending more on a survey than what the County will receive. Mattson moved to lay the issue over for one week, seconded by Sawatzke. Sawatzke asked Russek to find out what other counties are not participating and why. Russek said Hiivala should provide input on the issue by the next meeting. The motion carried 5-0.
Advanced Graphix Inc.. $308.87
Ameripride Services 300.79
Annandale Rock Products 1,203.62
Buffalo Hospital 1,352.10
Buffalo/City of 551.12
Centra Sota Cooperative - E 1,688.77
Climate Air 1,805.24
Cokato/City of 400.00
Commissioner of Transport 4,422.58
CRA Payment Center 841.06
Croteau Plumbing 530.00
Dell Marketing LP 2,463.64
Frontier Precision Inc. 290.70
General Pallet Inc 262.00
Globalstar USA 116.18
Granite Electronics 1,532.79
Hardings Towing Inc. 133.57
Hillyard Inc. - Minneapolis 3,112.43
Interstate Battery Systems 187.99
Kris Engineering Inc. 1,047.27
L3 Communications Inc. 31,333,26
Lake Region Coop Oil 185.00
LaPlant Demo Inc. 935.18
Little Dukes-Clearwater 195.00
M & M Express Sales and Ser 147.10
Maple Lake Lumber Company 120.52
Marco Inc. 2,030.62
Marietta Aggregates/Martin 623.96
Marysville Township 475.50
Mathiowetz Construction 10,320.55
Matt Legal Services 100.00
McLeod County Auditor/Treas 464.47
McQuay International 654.00
Menards - Buffalo 431.46
MN State Bar Association 1,181.00
Monticello Auto Body Inc. 149.63
Morries Parts & Service Group 443.39
Office Depot 3,259.67
OMann Brothers Inc. 2,076.13
Road Machinery & Supplies 241.56
Royal Tire Inc. 5,714.23
RS Eden 860.30
Ryan Chevrolet 828.58
Safelite Fulfillment Inc. 313.48
Specialty Turf & Ag 438.19
Swing/William J 169.50
Telvent DTN 2,232.00
The Sign Man of MN Inc 693.89
Tires Plus 180.21
Total Printing 590.81
Truck Utilities Inc. 206.84
Untiedts Rental Outlet 100.00
Vance Brothers Inc. 6,846.51
Veolia ES Solid Waste Midwe 464.73
Verizon Wireless 174.14
Waste Management-TC West 3,311.23
Wright Hennepin Electric 147.16
Zack’s Inc 2,929.76
26 Payments less than $100 1,367.80
Final total $108,003.45
The meeting adjourned at 10:12 A.M
Published in the Herald Journal June 27, 2011.