David Enblom, of WSB Engineering Consultants, hired on an interim basis to handle county engineering duties, addressed the Mille Lacs County Board during a public works work session discussion on Nov. 16. Enblom, who is also a retired Cass County engineer, said that the last two engineers had not tapped into the state aid available to them to the tune of nearly $900,000, which may help with the County’s budget shortfall.

Enblom said that the County had to pay for projects which should have come from the missing state aid money and that it should be a priority to get public works’ finances in order to make sure the County is “square with state aid.”

“The last three years (under the last two engineers), the County has not been putting in submittals for state aid,” said Enblom. “We found there was between $800,000 to $900,000 of local dollars from state aid available.”

He said that he requested that state aid and the County now has those funds coming. 

“Reviewing who was in the position and the knowledge base you need … you don’t get that from not being an assistant county engineer,” noted Enblom. “One of the most difficult things is state aid finance and how it works.” He added that if an engineer comes with a background in another type of work, they wouldn’t typically understand it but that having a highway accountant who is up to speed in state aid finance will help the department stay abreast of those funds. 

Enblom also noted that it has been a long time since Mille Lacs County has applied for federal money and that the County may be looked on favorably since the funding is equity based. 

Commissioner Genny Reynolds said that she sits on the MnDOT board and has been frustrated hearing about all the federal funding and has asked previous engineers who responded that there was no money there. She asked Enblom if the road project in Princeton (Seventh Street, which is also County Road 4) might qualify. He responded that it might and that he would look into it. 

Road shoulder discussion

Enblom also addressed the construction of road shoulders. He said that the County has been over-constructing shoulders that are eight feet wide, which is above the standard and more costly. “The standard, if there are less than 1,000 cars per day, is a four foot shoulder,” said Enblom. “Is there some board decision to have eight foot shoulders?”

Commissioner Tim Wilhelm responded saying only where there are Amish living but at the south end, there are no Amish. 

“My suggestion is to bring the shoulder down which would cost 20 percent less,” said Enblom.

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