Morrison County Board of Commissioners

Morrison County Public Works Director Steve Backowski speaks to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, April 13. Left to right, Commissioners Mike LeMieur, Randy Winscher, Jeffrey Jelinski, Greg Blaine, Mike Wilson and County Administrator Deb Gruber.

The Morrison County Board of Commissioners approved the bid for a $2.7 million road construction project in Pierz, Tuesday.

The project is a combined effort between Morrison County, the city of Pierz and the Rich Prairie Sewer and Water District (RPSWD). At a special meeting of the Board, Public Works Director Steve Backowski asked it to approve a bid from C&L Excavating of St. Joseph to complete the county’s portion of the project, as well as to allow him to enter into an engineering contract with Short Elliott Hendrickson for staking, observation and inspection.

The project includes reconstruction on County State Aid Highways 43 and 39 — Third Avenue Northeast in Pierz — from Centennial Drive to Kamnic Street. RPSWD will cover the replacement of water and sewer lines, while the city of Pierz, mostly through outside funding, pays for the new trail that is set to go in on the south side of the road. The county will pay for storm sewer replacement and the reconstruction of the street itself, which makes up about $1.2 million.

“It’s a pretty complicated project for us in that we have three different entities involved,” Backowski said.

For its part, the city of Pierz obtained federal transportation alternative program (TAP) funding, which covers 80% of its portion. It also received Safe Routes to School dollars from the state of Minnesota, which it will use to match the federal money. RPSWD will mainly be utilizing local assessments to cover its portion of the project.

Backowski said Morrison County will use its municipal construction funds, but those won’t be enough to cover its entire portion of funding. The rest will include regular construction funds.

He explained that County State Aid Highway funds are split into two accounts; a regular account, which covers rural portions of the County State Aid Highways, and a municipal fund, which covers projects within small cities. Oftentimes, the money in the municipal construction fund is not used, in which case it is transferred into the regular account.

“We’ve done that telling the cities that when they have a project, we will work with them to get their project done,” Backowski said. “Those funds were really meant to be spent within those cities. This is a situation where we are going to be spending our current balance of municipal construction, but we’re also going to be bringing back some of the regular construction funds that were transferred to pay the difference.”

Backowski asked the Board to accept a bid of $2.7 million from C&L Excavating, which was the lowest of eight it received.

Before the Board accepted the bid with a unanimous, roll call vote, Commissioner Randy Winscher asked for specifics on the trail portion of the project. Namely, he asked if it would tie in with the Soo Line Trail and, if that was the case, if the federal government would be able to claim jurisdiction over the Soo Line because of the federal TAP dollars used by Pierz.

Backowski said, although the plan is for the city’s trail to eventually connect with the Soo Line, that was not a concern because no federal dollars are being used on the Soo Line itself.

“They have a pretty comprehensive plan, a very good plan,” Backowski said, referring to the city of Pierz’s trail plan. “When it’s all complete, this is a part of it. Eventually it will tie into the Soo Line and they’ll have a good loop around the whole city.”

In response to a question from Board Chair Mike Wilson, Backowski further clarified that the county’s portion of the project basically picks up where the sewer and water work ends. Though it will cost more than just a standard overlay project, he said it would take care of some other needed improvements.

“The storm sewer’s going to be improved, there’s curb and gutter that is deteriorated and in need of repair, structures that need repair, so all those things will be taken care of as a part of the project and our cost,” he said.

Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski asked how long this project had been in the works, as he knew it was something each entity had been working on for quite a while. Backowski estimated it has been about three years.

“It’s a long time that we’ve had this discussion,” Jelinski said. “Finally, we’re coming to the point where, it’s time to get to work.”

The Board also unanimously approved Backowski’s request to enter into an engineering agreement with SEH. That will be paid for by a 60/40 split between Morrison County and the city of Pierz.

Board of Commissioners Briefs:

In other business Tuesday, the Morrison County Board of Commissioners:

• Accepted a bid of $163,350 from Eagle Construction Company, Inc. of Little Falls for wing wall repairs on the Soo Line Trail bridge over the Mississippi River;

• Officially approved the resignation of County Recorder Eileen Holtberg, effective May 14;

• Discussed areas the Board would like to prioritize with funding from the American Rescue Plan. Housing and broadband services were suggested. No action was taken;

• Discussed the possibility of selling a water pump to the Todd County Ditch Authority. No action was taken; and

• Discussed the next steps in the Paycom human resources information system implementation.

The next meeting of the Board of Commissioners is 9 a.m., Tuesday, April 20, in the Board Room at the Morrison County Government Center.

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