At the June 21 Rushford Village Council meeting, City Engineer Derek Olinger, of Bolton & Menk, questioned the city on the direction regarding some serious sloping on the edges along County Line Drive. The rural gravel road winds up a steep hill section and is subject to slope instability and erosion issues.
“It should be a focus for future improvement. It’s a steep slope getting damage from both ends,” noted Olinger. He further stated that road safety was a big issue. “I need to bring it up, although I assume it’s been an issue for some time.” The area is currently marked with traffic cones to alert motorists. “It’s all local traffic. Most people know it’s there,” stated Olinger.
“The problem is, we know about this,” responded Councilor Mike Ebner. “It’s an issue.”
The area in question is 50-60 feet on the north side of the roadway with a 10-foot channel bottom and excessively steep road ditches with a 1:1 or less slope ratio. Temporary options explored included continued use of riprap over the area or using a different product, such as Armortec A-Jacks concrete “armor” could be used. Riprap and filling the channel in the past hasn’t held for long. The estimated cost for temporary solutions was $25,000-30,000 for materials alone, while the constructed cost may be $50,000. “This is not addressing the safety issue,” cautioned Olinger.
A guardrail, while protecting drivers, is a poor solution due to the increased risks it causes with plowing and road maintenance. The council discussed several long-term options. A retaining wall, gabion baskets (large wire cages filled with stone), soldier pile walls (steel beams driven vertically into the ground with horizontal supports), or a large culvert to carry the water would allow more space by the road top.
An oversized metal or concrete culvert may address deficiencies. However, the council eliminated the option from consideration due to cost, time in getting materials, and the amount of water flowing through the area in rainfalls, which may cause the culvert to plug with debris. The estimated cost for the remaining options is likely in the $200,000-300,000 range.
“We need to take this into consideration… where’s the rock… the bedrock?” asked Olinger. The city previously attempted to clear the channel and was met by immovable bedrock quickly. If the channel can move or if it would cause additional issues given the nature of the area was also discussed. “How long could you expect it to stay there without further issue? That’s where the problem is.”
Olinger expected gabion baskets to be the most effective and noted it as the geotechnical engineer’s first recommendation. “We’re obviously going to look for the most cost-effective solution.”
“We may have to spend something to make it last,” added Mayor Dennis Overland. For now, the city will have Public Works work on the area. Olinger will begin working on preliminary permanent solutions.
Olinger also recommended the city hold off on chip sealing specific roadways until 2023. $25,000 is budgeted for roads each year. Economy of scale will work in the city’s favor if they opt for $40,000-50,000 next year rather than try to get a smaller project this year. Crack sealing is already taking place on certain roads this summer as part of the city’s road maintenance plan.
The city is also close to hiring a part-time maintenance worker. Four applications were accepted. One candidate was interviewed by the Personnel Committee of Councilors Roger Knutson and Rick Ruberg. Due to his work background and skill set, one candidate was verbally offered the position at the equivalent of Grade 5, Step 2, or $20.16 per hour, for a 25-hour work week. The offer is in line with the city’s newly approved pay structure.
Knutson noted every candidate in recent years has asked for more than what the city has offered. “It’s a different world now.” The city has found it difficult to find suitable applicants with the required licenses/certificates for the work. The front-runner candidate does not have the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) endorsements or level to operate the needed equipment but was the only one with Class B CDL.
“I assume you could use the help soon?” asked Overland of Public Works Supervisor Trenten Chiglo.
“I could have used it a month ago,” Chiglo quipped. “I think he would fit the job well, but I think there are cheaper alternatives.”
“We’re going to have to pay people to get good work,” noted Ruberg.
Some on the council suggested the city could reimburse candidates for the cost of getting their CDL endorsements/licensure. “We have to protect the Village, too,” said Clerk Mary Miner, referencing reimbursement. “There’s nothing in our personnel policies now.” Miner will look into the required hours and cost. The city will wait to hear if the front runner will accept the job at the lesser pay scale.
The city’s recent audit was also on the agenda. Bill Sherry of Engleson & Associates was on hand to provide a summary. According to Sherry, Rushford Village has $200,000 of unspent budgetary funds. However, these funds are only deferred and are partially from COVID-19 relief funds. The unearned COVID-19 revenues are for specific purposes.
The city did take in $30,000 more than the previous year in property tax collections and $50,000 in Local Government Aid, of which there was none in 2020. Expenditures, particularly in street maintenance and storm sewer work, were up $66,000 for the year due to the water mitigation project in South Rushford.
Debt was refinanced in 2021 with net savings to the city over time. “It was really good timing considering what interest rates are doing now. You couldn’t have hit that any better,” said Sherry.
Water utility funds are running smoothly with a profit of $13,000 for the year. The sewer fund continues to operate at a loss marking a deficit of $4,000 for 2021. “You’ve been losing money year to year for some time. You will need to look at raising the rate to cover the cost of the utility,” suggested Sherry.
Lastly, Community Economic Development Associate’s (CEDA) representative Rebecca Charles discussed the ongoing recreational trail study project, in coordination with the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. Phase One, most notably preliminary community input, is now complete. Phase Two will commence this fall and a final report will be available after that. A Safe Routes to School Grant and/or Planning Grant will be applied for to assist with the organization of furthering any trail projects.
CEDA has prepared a proposal for a Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund grant on behalf of the city for upgrading and expanding the Village Hall parking area. The proposal comes with support from both Fillmore County and Arendahl Township due largely to usage of the hall during elections. The total estimated cost of the work could be $36,800 and the grant could provide up to $10,000 of that. If awarded the funds, the work would need to begin within a year.
Lastly, Community Economic Development Associate’s (CEDA) representative Rebecca Charles discussed the ongoing recreational trail study project in coordination with the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. Phase One, most notably preliminary community input, is now complete. Phase Two will commence this fall. A final report will be available after that. CEDA will apply for a Safe Routes to School grant and a separate planning grant for the city. It will assist with the organization of furthering any trail projects.
CEDA has prepared a proposal for a Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund grant on behalf of the city for upgrading and expanding the Village Hall parking area. The proposal comes with support from Fillmore County and Arendahl Township due to the use of the hall during elections. The total estimated cost of the work could be $36,800. The grant could provide up to $10,000. If awarded, work would need to begin within a year.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, July 5, at 7 p.m., at the Village Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.