As 2019 drew to a close, the Chisago County Board of Commissioners set the table for their work in 2020 at their meeting Dec. 18.

Much of the meeting focused on staffing questions in a variety of departments within the county.

One example of staffing issues they tackled was in the Auditor-Treasurer’s Office, where Bridgitte Konrad recently was appointed to the top post to replace Dennis Freed, who is retiring. The department also has two clerical positions to fill besides finding a replacement for Konrad, who previously was chief deputy auditor-treasurer.

“One of those positions we have left unfilled for just shy of two years,” Konrad said. “And now we have a retirement that will take place at the end of December, and I recommend that we leave that position unfilled at this time.”

Konrad recommended to fill her former position with a person well-versed in accounting.

“I would like them to take over the portion of the auditing work that Dennis had been focused on,” she explained.

The county faces four election cycles in 2020, so Konrad would like to hire part-time staff to help with elections.

“I would like to do that as soon as possible, so those people would be on board for the presidential primary and the township elections that are coming up,” she said.

The commissioners also approved the appointment of Bob Benson as health and human services director. Benson was one of two internal applicants for the position to replace Monica Long, who left the position in October.

Early in the meeting, Commissioner Chris DuBose asked County Engineer Joe Triplett about on contract between the county and Stonebrooke Engineering for design work on the Highway 19 reconstruction project.

“If we had an assistant county engineer, would he be able to handle that?” said DuBose, noting that the contract for one project totaled more than $128,000.

“If we had another engineer, yes, we would definitely not [need that contract],” Triplett said. “It’s not that it’s a complicated project, it’s about man-hours. … And that’s just one project. Our workload is such that it would definitely be warranted [to hire an assistant].”

The commissioners also considered four resolutions involving compensation and per diems for elected officials, volunteers and the commissioners themselves.

And they set their 2020 Organizational Meeting for Tuesday, Jan. 7, starting at 9 a.m. At this meeting the commissioners will determine the chair for their meetings during the coming year as well as completing other organizational tasks.

Expansion of Swedish Immigrant Trail moves forward

The commissioners approved two measures that will push forward work on the Swedish Immigrant Regional Trail, a 20-mile east-west trail that highlights the county’s Swedish immigrant history.

The county received seven bids on a portion of the project that would connect the eastern-most part of the trail, then wind through Interstate State Park and into Taylors Falls, where it would end at City Hall.

Peterson Companies, a commercial landscape and outdoor construction company based in Chisago City, presented the low bid of $1.59 million.

This portion of the project will be paid by a grant of more than $2.2 million awarded by the Natural Resources Trust Fund administered by the Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources.

The commissioners unanimously approved awarding the project to Peterson Companies and authorized the county to complete contract work on the project in hopes of getting some work started as soon as possible.

“There is a 160-foot bridge attached to this project, along with some environmentally sensitive tree removal,” Director of Environmental Services Kurt Schneider said. “We can get an early start during the winter months on the project and get that bridge moving forward.”

The long-term goal of this project is to connect the Swedish Immigrant Regional Trail with the Sunrise Prairie Trail, a north-side route that reaches from the Washington County border to North Branch.

Road and bridge update

Triplett updated the commissioners on the status of several projects that will be tackled next year.

Triplett said bids on the Highway 95 roundabout near North Branch will be opened on Jan. 16, and the roundabout at Highway 8 connection just east of Center City should be bid in February, with construction starting in May.

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