Murray County bypassed for TH 267 turn back

SLAYTON — Murray County Engineer Randy Groves told the Murray County Board Tuesday that the Minnesota Department of Transportation has passed the county over for turn back funding in spite of it being high on the list with Trunk Highway 267.

“I had been at an Area Transportation Partnership meeting in Willmar recently,” Groves said Thursday. “We meet regularly to discuss MnDOT road projects and county road projects as well as funding.

“TH 267 has been a turn back candidate for many years,” he said. He explained that the state will occasionally turn back lesser traveled roads over to the county and give them funding to maintain them.

This year, the Minnesota Legislature gave a big chunk of money to MnDOT to spend at their discretion, Groves said.

“They gave $9.6 million to Chippewa County for a turn back,” Groves said. “Chippewa was farther down on the list than Murray County. It was a real letdown to the board and me because of all the years we’ve worked with MnDOT on this.”

MnDOT District 8 AICPI Planning Director Lindsey Bruer agreed that Trunk Highway 267 has been near the top on the turn back lists.

“There is limited funding statewide for turn backs and can take a long time for funds to become available,” Bruer said.

She said there is a process that the county and state have to go through for these turn backs and that the two government entities have to be in agreement with the county on the scope and cost estimate of the project.

“We have been in talks with a number of counties, including Murray and Chippewa,” Bruer said. “We recently had an opportunity to move a turn back up and fund one that wasn’t planned to happen for a few years but the funds had to be spent before the end of this fiscal year

“The decision was made and my work was put on the back burner,” he said. “I don’t think the explanation was very good. It was a one-time funding to supplement MnDOT, so who knows if there will be another opportunity. (Legislators) seem to favor state roads because there wasn’t anything for counties this time. Highway 277 (Chippewa) was further along in the process so MnDOT chose that turn back ahead of the Murray County turn back.”

“We agree that Murray County has been waiting for a long time and we could have done more to get them ready, so we plan to work more proactively work with Murray County to make sure we are in a place in the process where, if we have funds available with short turnaround time again, we can be ready.”

Groves said there was some up-scoping possible, where their projects would move up to fill in holes in the project schedule, and possibly additional work done, such as bumping from just milling to milling and overlay.

In addition to the disappointing report regarding Trunk Highway 267, Groves updated the board regarding the possible cost of a new equipment storage building.

“We’re running out of room in our main shop,” Groves said. “We’ve got things stacked on top of each other. I’ve since gotten the floor plan that wasn’t available at the meeting.”

Groves told the board that the civil (ground site work, i.e. grading and underground work) expenses will be around $320,000.

Building construction will be around $2.5 million for 34,400 square feet.

Soft costs such as architectural and engineering (designing) fees, permits, bonding and bidding will be around $200,000.

Subtotal will be about $3,020,000.

Inflationary costs will be about 4-4.5 percent for construction next year, around $136,000.

Total for project next year would be about $3.15 million.

Groves also shared a concern about the new building fitting on the old lot. The square footage alone would cover the entire lot including the county’s “lay down” space.

“The building will already take up all of our lay down yard,” he said. “That’s where we store gravel, corrugated culverts and stockpile other pieces of road maintenance equipment and scrap metal.”

However, Groves said, the county is still in the fact-finding stage. No action was taken on the estimates.