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Lincoln County Board considers road contract enforcement

IVANHOE — The Lincoln County Board expressed a willingness at Tuesday’s meeting to enforce late penalties if a Lake Benton area road project isn’t completed by a contract deadline.

County Highway Engineer Joe Wilson informed commissioners that gravel replacement on Lincoln County Road 10 in Verdi Township west of Lake Benton is running behind schedule. The contractor has until Friday to complete final grading needed to bring the project up to required specifications.

Wilson said the construction crew was re-assigned to a similar project 10 miles away in Tyler, which is being completed for the RTR School District.

“It doesn’t look like they’ll be back this week,” Wilson said. “Getting it completed this fall could depend on the weather. If we have rain or snow next week, the best thing to do might be to ask them to come back next year.”

He said having construction vehicles in a wet area at the end of the season could leave the road in worse shape than if it was allowed to stay unfinished until 2020.

When asked about the possibility of insisting on either timely completion or payment of late penalties, Wilson said he would base the decision on the wishes of the county board. He expects that the road will be easily passable this winter if left in the current condition.

Even so, board members decided by consensus that late penalties should be considered if necessary since the project was left unfinished even though weather conditions were good.

“They left the project to go to another one,” said Commissioner Jack Vizecky. “It’s supposed to be done by the date on the contract unless there’s a good reason. A contract is a contract. It shouldn’t just not mean anything.”

He added that making too much of an allowance for non-performance could open the door to similar delays on other road projects, either with the same contractor or possibly others.

“They could have just as well stayed and finished it,” said Commissioner Mic VanDeVere. “If it causes a long delay, it’s something that at least would need to be discussed.”

In other road-related business, Wilson informed the board about plans by the city of Lake Benton to seek Minnesota Department of Natural Resources state park funding for road work that’s needed to improve access conditions between U.S. Highway 75 and the new public access on Lake Benton’s western shore.

The DNR completed a substantial public access construction project this summer. A large paved parking lot and a group of boat ramps are now situated at what was formerly a narrow, winding access point next to a vacant creamery building.

“At this point we’re not sure where things stand with additional funding,” Wilson said. “There’s about 500 feet of road that’s in need of an upgrade, but the funding program usually is only for state-owned land. Funds are available for DNR road projects every year, so it might qualify a year from now if it doesn’t happen right away.”

In other business, the board agreed to renew Lincoln County’s membership in the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition. The group asked for $1,000 in funds, but agreed to allow member counties to remain part of the organization for any contribution of $500 or more.

Commissioner Joe Drietz said he favors keeping the county’s share at $500, with the possibility of giving more in future years if rural broadband proposals continue to move forward.

“The $500 is what we’ve been paying each year to get things started,” Drietz said. “We still haven’t gotten to the point of having an implementation phase.”

The board also approved a high bid for haying rights on land in Ash Lake Township south of Ivanhoe. The site is the former location of the Lincoln County Landfill, which was operated until the 1980s. At that point, solid waste from the county began to be disposed at Lyon County Landfill in Lyons Township near Russell.

Ryder Olsen submitted the high bid of $1,000 per year for a three-year contract. Two others also bid for haying rights, with bids of $536 and $508 per year.

Lincoln County Auditor Deb Vierhuf said the county will generate $2,250 more from the new haying contract than it did in the prior three-year contract period. After no one bid on the previous contract, an agreement for haying activity was reached for $250 paid to the county per year.

The board voted to approve Olsen’s bid as the highest of the three. Vizecky abstained from the vote since he and Olsen are relatives.

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