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YM Board endorses Wood Lake infrastructure project

GRANITE FALLS — A multi-million dollar water and sewer system upgrade proposed by the city of Wood Lake was given support Tuesday by the Yellow Medicine County Board.

Commissioners approved drafts of letters of support that will be sent to State Sen. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls and State Rep. Chris Swedzinski of Ghent. The letters endorse a $2.8 million request for state bond funds.

The city started to plan for the project in 2016. Since then, officials have put together a funding proposal with the help of state and federal agencies.

The letters also state that the city will face costs that are not eligible for agency grants. One of the biggest items not covered is road repair that will be necessary on city streets and county roads within the city limits. State bond dollars should help to keep the project affordable for taxpayers.

“It’s a big city-wide improvement,” said Yellow Medicine County Administrator Angie Steinbach. “The city has consulted the county about what will be needed to make it work. Part of the process is trying to line up funding from the state.”

The board approved the letters as written. Meeting correspondence notes that Dahms has already authored a bill on behalf of the city, which could make bond dollars available in 2021.

In other action, commissioners approved a furnace upgrade at the county highway shop on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Gary Johnson voting no.

Highway Engineer Andy Sander presented a $4,800 estimate for a furnace unit. He explained that it’s one of three that will be needed to update the building. A second unit was approved earlier this winter and a third was salvaged from the former Clarkfield school.

Up until now three furnaces were situated in a shop bay area near the center of the building. Two of the units will be placed in that location, while a third will be installed on the west side in order to have more effective air flow.

Sander said the furnace upgrade will replace original units that date back to when the building was constructed in the 1970s. Funding for the furnaces will come from either highway department reserves or from its equipment budget.

“We’ve been nursing it along for years,” Sander said. “This will update the whole system in one project. It will lead to better energy efficiency.”

Johnson said he voted against the proposal because he wanted to be sure that it’s necessary to have all three of the units.

“If we could get by with two of them, there’s no reason to purchase a third one,” Johnson said. “There’s only about another month left in the heating season. I’d like to wait until we can put it into the next budget.”

The board was also introduced on Tuesday to Kris Holien, who began his duties as Yellow Medicine County’s veterans service officer on Feb 12. He is replacing Michelle Gatz, whose retirement will take effect at the end of February.

Holien retired from the U.S. Navy in 2017 after 20 years. He is completing a four-year degree in human resources management from Concordia College in St. Paul.

“I’ve been looking for an opportunity that will allow me to work with veterans,” Holien said. “It will be a continuation of the career I had in the Navy.”

Holien is originally from Sacred Heart. He said he plans to have an outreach schedule that’s the same as what’s been done for a year. After that, he’ll consider possible changes depending on the needs of veterans throughout the county.

The board appointed Holien to a four-year term, which is necessary to follow state statutes. Counties normally reappoint their veterans service officers every four years.

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