By Mel Stegner,

The Pope County Highway Department Engineer, Brian Giese, was on tap to present the highway department monthly report at this week’s board of commissioners’ meeting. “We’ve had some setbacks on our spring work. Weather has made it difficult to get road surface repairs and maintenances, including blading gravel roads, completed,” said Giese. “As long as the weather hangs in, we can get it done as soon as possible.”

The highway department will have a full engineering staff on May 16 as Grant Jensen will graduate with his civil engineering degree and join the staff. On May 9, the department is hosting an open house at the office for landowners affected by the County Highway 15 project. Duininck Brothers is the contractor for the County Highways 1, 3 and 18 projects and may be willing to start these projects early. 

The engineering staff has been working diligently on state aid design variance justifications for the County Highway 17 project. The next regular board meeting will feature information pertaining to the variances. The public hearing regarding the removal of trees along County Highway 17 will be held on June 14 at 9:30 a.m. A draft will be presented at this meeting, with the permanent decision shortly after.

The final payment for the bike trail reclamation between Starbuck and Glenwood was approved. “We were waiting for paperwork but have since received it. The contractor had requested that we wait and make a lump sum payment to them upon completion,” said Giese. 

The commissioners declared Friday, May 6, Childcare Provider Appreciation Day in Pope County. The effort was organized by West Central Initiative as well as other community groups to thank and acknowledge the role of providers in Pope County. This coincides with the Childcare Provider Grant Program that the board and the HRA/EDA have created using ARPA funds.

The board opted to donate some of the obsolete surplus technology items to New Hope for Used Computers. “The computers in question are going to cost more for us to dispose of than donating them. We remove the hard drive so the information stored on the equipment is not accessible by the organization, and let them have the box and guts,” said Information Technology Manager Brian Gates.

It was voted on and passed unanimously to extend the lease of the temporary office space being occupied by Western Prairie Human Services. The office space in the annex building is expected to be completed, but the furniture installation will not be completed until August. 

The county was recently notified of the expiration of the term for the Sauk River Watershed Manager Donavon McKigney. McKigney is eligible for reappointment if he desires, and the board agrees. An advertisement for applications for the position will be available with a deadline of June 13. “We plan to appoint the manager at the June 21 meeting so they can start in July,” said Kersten Kappmeyer, County Administrator.

In updates from the commissioners, Paul Gerde mentioned on a personal note that recent publicity for the HRA has been negative “especially regarding the RV park in Starbuck that had storage sheds flooding. Some of the mistake was that storage sheds were too close to and even on the neighboring property, as well as improper drainage issues. The other subject is the Fremad building. The HRA is accumulating more expenses and knows that people have expressed interest in the building, whether it’s that they’re tired of it and want something done, or if they would like to see it restored. The county is going to have to decide before too long,” he said. 

Gerde also brought up that “Pope Douglas is hoping to be included on the bonding bill. They have a lot of projects going on. They have growing concerns over employee burnout. At the Transportation Committee, we rode in the bus to encounter what the bus does when going places. Currently at the Glenwood Eye Clinic, the bus must park in the intersection to get people unloaded so they have a flat surface for the lift, plus they’re expected to take the person to the door leaving the bus to sit in the middle of the road unattended. This needs to be addressed.”