County board approves tile line
WORTHINGTON — On a 4-1 vote, Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday approved moving forward with repairs to Judicial Ditch 11B, which will include the replacement of approximately 2,500 feet of county tile.
The decision was made after Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder reported the tile line was in worse condition than previously thought, and plans to run a water jetting system through the tile line could further damage or destroy it.
A public hearing was conducted in late July regarding the maintenance of the tile line, but after taking testimony and discussing the issue for nearly an hour, commissioners opted to deny a request to replace the tile.
On Tuesday, Schnieder returned with new information — that a silt blockage exists in the 93-year-old system, which is now functioning at just 20 percent in some areas.
“The concern I have is we can go in and run the jet, but it’s a high-pressure jet,” Schnieder said. “With the condition of the tile, there is potential we could damage or break tile. Before we proceeded with going out with a jetter, we decided to come back to the board and see if you want to reconsider.”
Schnieder said the board would have to decide whether or not to move forward with the repairs and replace the 2,500 feet of tile line, but reiterated that something had to be done to make the line functional again.
Commissioner Gene Metz, who abstained from voting at the July meeting, said Tuesday that the board would be “delaying the inevitable” if it wanted to conduct another public hearing on the problem tile.
Schnieder estimated the cost to replace the line to be between $10,000 and $15,000. The project would be paid for by the Judicial Ditch 11B account, which has a current balance of more than $70,000.
Board chairman Bob Demuth Jr. said that if the county was going to spend the benefiting property owners’ money, he thought another public meeting should be scheduled first to discuss the process with them.
Commissioner Matt Widboom disagreed, saying the board heard from landowners at the July meeting.
“I felt like our inaction earlier this summer delayed the project,” Widboom said. “The words ‘not functioning’ were used quite a bit in our original discussion. In that first meeting, I thought we needed to go ahead and repair it.”
Commissioner Marv Zylstra agreed with Demuth, saying another public meeting should be called.
Schnieder said that with harvest season approaching, the public meeting would have to be scheduled for late November, meaning that the work likely wouldn’t get done until next year.
John Penning, whose brother owns the property where the broken tile is located, then said harvesting the crop from that land was taking place now, and it would be ideal to get the line replaced yet this fall.
“The line is shot,” Penning said. “Our concern is it’s going to impact our laterals (tile lines) coming into it.”
Commissioner Donald Linssen, who noted his concern about making a decision without bringing property owners together again, said he understood the urgency.
“If we have a rain and everything backs up, the property owners won’t be happy about that either,” he said. “As a taxpayer (however), I think we have the responsibility to have them show up for a meeting.”
Metz said repair projects on county tile lines will “be coming up all the time, and I don’t think we can have a public hearing each time one of these projects comes up.”
Aside from discussion about hosting another public hearing, commissioners also talked about who was responsible for paying to reconnect lines into the county system. Penning said he had no qualms about paying for those hookups, considering there are numerous lateral lines running through the property.
“In this case, we benefit from the hookups big time and I want it done right,” Penning said.
Typically, Schnieder said the county would have to pay for the hookups, since it is repairing the line.
Metz moved to proceed with repair of the system by replacing the 2,500 feet of tile line, with the hookups to be at the expense of the property owner. The motion passed on a 4-1 vote, with Demuth opposed citing his wish for a public hearing.