•Project will begin Sept. 3 taking 35 working days until its completion

By Tim Douglass


Pope County Board of Commissioners decided it would go ahead with the planned reconstruction project on County Road 17 at their regular meeting last Tuesday.

The board awarded the bid for the reconstruction to Joe Riley Construction of Morris, the low bidder at $1,281,559.60.  The engineer’s estimate for the project was $1,348,249.

“The bids we received came in very good, with nice tight bidding and all were just under the estimate,” Pope County Engineer Brian Giese told the board.  He recommended the board award the contract to Joe Riley Construction.  

The  project is scheduled to start this year on September 3 and be completed within 35 working days, Giese stated.

Giese also pointed out that there were two active cases in litigation associated with the project on CR 17.  The first is the appeal of the Board of Adjustment’s decision to uphold local permits associated with the project.  The second is the appeal of the District Court decision awarding summary judgment in favor of the County associated with MERA claims brought forth by Peters Sunset Beach Resort.  Neither action has an associated legal restriction from proceeding with the project, Giese explained.  Waiting for the resolution of the appeals would delay the project by at least one construction season.

Pope County Commissioner Gordy Wagner asked if Giese or the rest of the board was comfortable moving forward or if the county should “wait for the rulings.”

“If we wait, (the project) is not likely to get cheaper,” Giese said.  He also said the county’s chances of losing on appeal was low and the “cost of delaying is high both in user satisfaction and in construction costs.”

“And that says nothing about the people who travel that road and want it improved,” said Pope County Board Chair Paul Gerde.

Pope County Commissioner Larry Lindor said the appeals were the “last attempt to stop the project,” adding that if the county waits it will move the project into the next year.

“I didn’t mean I was in favor of delaying it, I just wanted to ask the question,” Wagner stated.

Giese said the county has “worked hard to address all the public concerns on the project, including the concerns of the Peters family.”  He said the county has done as much as it can to address the public concerns, while still maintaining the road at its location as was required by the National Preservation standards.

“So, I certainly do not feel that moving forward just because there’s still disagreement of the final design of the project is done at the face of any particular individual,” Giese said.    “This is a public project and we have taken into consideration the concerns of the Peters family and Peters Resort community.  …I feel strongly we’ve worked hard to address those concerns to the extent possible.”

“I want to commend you,” said Wagner.  “I think you’ve bent over backwards from when we started on this.  You have to work to your standards plus you’ve addressed their desires.  Thank you very much,” Wagner added.

 “I think the county, you and your staff have gone above and beyond on this project,” Gerde.  “Thank you as well, Brian.  “It’s been, what, 15 years? Or we can go back a few decades.”  It’s time,” Gerde added, before calling for the vote to award the contract and move forward with the project.  

In other action, the board:

• Approved the official proceedings of the Pope County Board of Appeal and Equalization held on Monday, June 17.  The board also approved the official proceeding for its June 18 regular meeting.

• Approved upgrading 10 mobile and 14 portable radios for the Pope County Sheriff’s Office.  The cost of the radios would be approximately $145,359.66 which would be paid for from the public safety funds that were received from the State of Minnesota last fall, according to Pope County Sheriff Tim Riley.   The current balance of the Public Safety Aid Funds received by Pope County is $288,128.00, it was stated.

• Approved the per diem expense reports.

• Heard reports for each commissioner on their representation on various board and meetings since the last board meeting.