Rock County approves $4 million bond for roads, bridges
LUVERNE — Rock County Commissioners unanimously approved a $4 million bonding project following a public hearing in Luverne Tuesday and will dedicate the funds toward improving roads and bridges.
“Every Rock County Commissioner will tell you the most common complaint they get is about infrastructure, and they want to do everything they can do address that,” said Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre.
Prior to the bond approval, board members adopted the county’s five-year capital improvement plan for 2014-2018. In it, they identified capital equipment replacements in the county highway department and Heartland Express, road and bridge improvements, library, courthouse, human services and highway building improvements and investments in rural fiber, Rock County Rural Water, Next Gen 911 and CAD at the Law Enforcement Center.
Commissioners had two options for bonding: a $4 million option with an annual principal and interest payment of $400,000, or a $6 million option with $600,000 in annual principal and interest payments, Oldre explained.
“At the end of the day, they decided to take the $4 million bond option, with 100 percent going to roads and bridges,” he added.
Rock County’s estimated wind energy production tax revenue is currently at $610,000 per year, so Oldre said the $400,000 annual payments will come from the production tax. The remaining $210,000 in annual production tax revenue will finance capital equipment purchases for the county highway department.
“We will receive our first half wind payment on July 1, and the next in July 2015,” Oldre said. “Our first principal and interest payment (on the bond) is August 2015, so the board will maintain a one-year reserve in payments.”
The reserve is needed in case something were to change with production tax revenues, he added.
Rock County Highway Engineer Mark Sehr said capital equipment purchases will be spread over the next five years and will include the acquisition of five new tandem dump trucks.
“We’re in need of turning our trucks over — our fleet,” said Sehr. “They’re getting to be 13 to 15 years old.”
One truck will be purchased each year — at a cost of about $245,000, or $260,000 fully equipped, Sehr said. Other purchases to be spread out over the five years will include disc mowers, trailers, a shop hoist, backhoe, a car and three pickups.
Sehr said the bond money for roads and bridges, while it won’t solve every issue, will be spent primarily on pavement rehabilitation on nearly 35 miles of county roads.
“Basically, in my mind, it’s going to allow us to catch up with some of the road work that we don’t have the funding capability to do right now,” Sehr said. “Under our current funding, we get so much money from the highway users fund, and that’s not been able to keep up with our needs.”
Approximately 30 miles of Rock County roads will get a mill and overlay this construction season, with 1.5 inches of the roads milled off and replaced with three new inches of material.
Doing all of the work in one year is hoped to bring in some competitive bids.
“Mark is fairly confident these mill and overlays will buy the roads another 25 years of life,” Oldre said. “We’re trying to make the dollars stretch the maximum amount.”
He said there is a 30-day waiting period on the bond process because it is subject to a reverse referendum if the public objects. At this point, Oldre anticipates the sale of bonds would be May 6, if everything moves forward.
Continued low interest rates made the bond issue attractive at this time. Oldre said they’re looking to get bonds at 1.6 to 1.75 percent interest. Rock County is working with Northland Securities’ George Eilertson and bond counsel Mary Ippel, of Briggs and Morgan.
In addition to the bond money, Oldre said the county is advancing $1 million in its road and bridge account for the work to be done this year. Also, Rock County Commissioners requested Oldre to bring back the wheelage tax issue for consideration.
Rock County took no action on the wheelage tax revenue option a year ago, and has until July 1 to decide if it wants to participate this year. If they choose to collect the wheelage tax, Sehr said it would mean an additional $80,000 per year for the county highway department.
“It certainly can be used,” said Sehr. “It’s another tool the board can consider.”
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.