Townships closing lesser traveled roads due to drifting, budgetsWORTHINGTON — Several townships across Nobles County have closed lesser-traveled roads with the amount of snow that has fallen this winter, and more closures may be announced after this latest round of snow and wind rolls out of the area.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Several townships across Nobles County have closed lesser-traveled roads with the amount of snow that has fallen this winter, and more closures may be announced after this latest round of snow and wind rolls out of the area.
Earlier this week, Nobles County Commissioners were told that some townships were choosing not to keep some of their roads open. In all instances, there are no homes along the stretches that have been closed, and they are not needed for mail or bus routes.
Robert Dieter, Hersey Township board chair, said they had three miles of township roads closed as of Thursday.
“I think after this storm we’re going to have a few more,” he said. “We try to keep them open but because of the excessive snow this year, I’m sure we’re going to be closing them.”
Dieter said the decision to not plow certain roads stems both from a financial standpoint and from an inability to keep drifts from forming in certain areas.
“I’m sure if the snow keeps coming like this, we’re going to be strapped for funds,” Dieter said.
Hersey Township is responsible for maintaining 44 miles of roadway. In a typical year, their biggest expense is grading and keeping roads in shape.
“The last three years, we haven’t had much snow removal,” he said. “This year, I’m sure snow removal is going to be the largest item in the budget.”
That’s expected to be the case in townships all across the county, and could lead more roads than usual to be closed for the remainder of the winter.
“You can’t at all blame townships if they don’t have enough money to plow the roads — they have to live within their means,” said Nobles County Emergency Management Director Dan Anderson. “It’s going to be a very long winter. (The townships) want to have gas in the tank literally and figuratively at the end of the snow season.”
Anderson said he met with fire chiefs throughout the county on Tuesday night, and they are accustomed to having some road closures during the winter months. They just need to be informed which roads will not be open so they can plan emergency response routes accordingly.
“Fire departments are fairly resourceful,” Anderson said. “Sometimes they’ll have a snow plow driver lined up to go out with them. Some cities will send two rigs out in two different directions.”
Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening sent a letter to township officials on Tuesday asking them to notify law enforcement and their local fire department of the township roads that have been closed for the remainder of the winter. As of Thursday, he’d received notification from Bigelow Township of a two-mile stretch on Quine Avenue, north of the Minnesota-Iowa line, that will not be plowed.
“That’s the kind of information we’re looking for from the townships,” Wilkening said. “That way if we get a fire or ambulance call, or even for the deputies, we know what roads are closed and where to stay away from.”
Wilkening said in the past, the townships have been “pretty good” about notifying law enforcement of roads that aren’t being plowed. The number of unplowed miles this year, however, is expected to be much higher than in the past several years.
“We haven’t had this much snow in a long time,” said Wilkening. “We never, in recent years, had anything this significant.”
Anderson said after working with townships a couple of years ago on a Presidential disaster declaration, he understands that some counties are better off than others when it comes to their budget.
“Some townships run their budgets pretty tight and others have a little wiggle room,” Anderson said. “The budget cuts and the severity of the weather will impact how many roads — and how long these roads — will be closed.”