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Board looks at how to tackle road work on township roads

ric.johnson@austindailyherald.com

As part of Tuesday’s Mower County Board of Commissioners meeting, conversation turned to road projects in the county, specifically those on township roads.

Public Works Director Mike Hanson requested clarification from the board on how to approach requests from townships in the county who come forward about needed road repairs and how they might be funded under the state’s Local Road Improvement Program.

In particular, Hanson was looking to discuss the county’s role and how much aid it would lend in the process.

Under the LRI, roads that qualify would have to be of regional significance. One example is a road that may pass industry. Through the program, there is $75 million available in the next round of funding.

However, in terms of what the county could possibly do in working with the township, Hanson and the board were leery of how much it should do.

“I hate to say no, but in the same breath I do know we had a lot of time invested in our local system from the county standpoint,” Hanson said.

Time was one of two potential concerns. The other was liability considerations should the county take on administration duties of any project given the go-ahead.

Major projects such as grading roads would become more labor intensive for the county.

“Do we really want to get involved in black-topping township roads Mike?” Comm. Jerry Reinartz asked. “I don’t think that’s our responsibility. What is new here that townships haven’t always done for themselves?”

One of the prerequisites for the grant money is that the county becomes the fiscal sponsor any LRI projects by the townships. County commissioners, as well as County Administrator Trish Harren, voiced support for the fiscal sponsorship as well as grant-writing, but pulled up short of wanting to get involved in much more.

Largely, it’s because the resources aren’t there to do the engineering design work should the county become more involved.

“Relay the message we’re okay with those items, but anything above and beyond that would be the townships responsibility,” Commissioner Mike Ankeny said.

“I think it’s generous of us to write the grant and host it, but that is really the max of how we support that,” Harren added.

Harren also said after the meeting that the county outsources quite a bit of the engineering work within Mower because of the limited resources.

Two too much

Commissioners on Tuesday voted to extend Interim COVID Policy sick time through March 31. The policy includes 80 hours of sick time to cope with possible COVID-related illnesses for county employees.

However, commissioners declined adding two hours to that 80 that would cover reactions arising from COVID-19 vaccine shots, questioning whether it was needed.