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Analysis paralysis

Sun, Oct 22nd, 2000
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Will someone please make a decision?By Mike McGrath
Monday, October 23, 2000

Last Tuesday, the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners spent yet another lengthy session reviewing more details about the informal agreement that York Township officers claim existed between them and the county highway department.

In what actually deteriorated into a complete rehash of the previous weeks meeting and arguments, the Board failed to make a decision on whether or not to compensate York Township for extra road maintenance costs that they claim to have absorbed due to extra detour traffic on their roads during the construction of County Road 44.

In what first appears to be an administrative action, the Boards decision in resolving this claim could actually set a precedent that could be seen as an official policy: compensating townships for extra traffic on their roads whenever the county has a construction project which requires detours.

York Township is claiming that it spent an extra $30,665 on road maintenance during the four year construction project on County Road 44. To acknowledge and satisfy some of their claims, the former County Engineer Gene Ulring gave York a $6,995 credit on legitimate engineering expenses for an unrelated bridge project, but the township still wants its $30,665 claim.

The Board had asked the current Engineer, Steve Voigt, to gather more data on official haul routes during the project, and to poll the other townships within the construction zone on whether they had been told that they would be compensated for extra road maintenance due to the projects impact.

Having done his homework, Voigt informed the Board that "a distinction needs to be made between haul roads and detour road." he continued, we are talking about unofficial detours in which there may have been a small increase in traffic spillovers. The usual custom of counties is to work it out (with the townships) in advance. York did it without concurrence with the county, they wrote their own check. The other townships feel that there was no agreement."

York officials, who were present in the room along with representatives from several construction contractors as well as a representative of the project engineer, continued to maintain that they would not have kept records on this if they werent told to do so by Ulring.

As the arguments began to repeat themselves over and over, Commissioner Duane Bakke began to pressure the Board for a decision. "They got paid for their designated haul roads just like the other townships. What do we need here, a motion?" he asked sternly. "I move we deny the payment."

Bakke's motion was quickly seconded by Commissioner Robert Underbakke, and though it was hoped that this would bring quick resolution, it actually brought on more redundant discussion which yielded only increased tensions.

Ever seeking the compromise, Commissioner Don Boyum began, "I feel a little responsible as a county. Why would they keep records if they hadnt been told to do it? Im not saying we should pay all of the bill."

The conversations then began to shift towards what amount of the claim, if any, should be paid. Commissioner Helen Bicknese offered her opinion, "my thought is the same as Commissioner Boyums. There should be some compensation."

Pointing out that this had already been done, Commissioner Bakke exclaimed, "we have the $6,995 they were (already) paid," referring to the engineering credit Ulring had officially, yet unofficially given York.

At this point, Chairman Gary Peterson interjected with his opinion. "It bothers me that the numbers change. I dont think we know enough about it. We dont know all the facts, something is still cloudy. I dont know how we get there."

Finally, the vote was taken on Bakke's motion to deny the claim and it failed 3-2 with only Underbakke joining in Bakke's move to end the issue.

Much to the dismay of most of those present, the discussions on this issue, begun at 10:15 in the morning, continued until ten minutes before the noon hour. One by one, people filed out of the room as it became evident that a decision would not be made to resolve the claim.

Chairman Peterson continued to announce that he felt there wasnt enough information to make a decision, but he also asked the others if they wished to make a motion to pay part of the claim.

However, silence ruled. Wearily, Peterson announced that the issue would yet again be put on next weeks agenda.

Employee Business

While most of the other business of the Board was strictly administrative in nature and without much controversy, a request to send an employee in the Auditors office to a one day computer training session in St. Cloud brought a dissenting vote from Commissioner Bakke.

The price tag of the training and overnight stay is over $900 and Bakke felt the training should be done "in house". As Auditor Angela Burrs explained that everyone was too busy to train the employee, the Board approved the request on a vote of 3-1.

The Board also approved the countys contribution for non-union employee insurance premiums in 2001 to be at 100% for the single plan ($333.68), and 50% for the family plan (467.16).

Courthouse Business

Despite the recent recommendation of the Facilities Planning Committee to relocate the courthouse to a county campus near the new Fillmore County Office Building, the Board reaffirmed by consensus its decision to continue with the installation of an elevator in the current courthouse building.

It was also decided to pursue the installation of handicapped-accessible doors in the main entrance to the courthouse.

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