Rural signage issue raised in Nobles CountyWORTHINGTON — An increasing concern among emergency responders led to a discussion among Nobles County Commissioners regarding the need for residential signage in rural areas.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — An increasing concern among emergency responders led to a discussion among Nobles County Commissioners regarding the need for residential signage in rural areas.
Commissioner Diane Thier requested the discussion Tuesday after the issue of signage was raised at a recent meeting of the county’s fire chiefs. Rural signage would involve placing markers at the end of all driveways for residential properties and building sites in the county. Those signs are estimated to cost nearly $30 each.
“If the township wants them and wants to pay for them, that’s one thing,” said Thier. “It can either come out of the townships or the individuals.”
Nobles County Emergency Management Director Dan Anderson said the fire chiefs and ambulance personnel he spoke with were in favor of the residential signs. Paul Hohensee, Bigelow Fire Chief, reiterated that during the board meeting.
“Speaking for all the chiefs, we would like to see it be a county program where it’s done all at once,” said Hohensee, adding that someone would need to come in and do marking for the signs. “If we have one township do it at a time, a lot won’t get done.”
Hohensee said every second counts when responding to an emergency situation, and residential signs would make the job easier for the sheriff’s department, fire and ambulance.
“If you go into any other counties or into Iowa, they have them,” he said. “It’s a big plus.”
Thier asked if the street signs weren’t good enough in directing emergency responders to the correct address, but Hohensee said, “Those road signs don’t do you any good between sections.”
Hohensee said the Bigelow Fire Department wanted to purchase the signs and have the firefighters install them.
“That’s going to help us, but it isn’t going to help Worthington, Round Lake or any other place,” he added.
“I’ve got a feeling that most of the townships are in favor of it,” said Commissioner Marv Zylstra.
With an apparent need for the signs, the next question is how to pay for them.
Sheriff Kent Wilkening said state statute specifically says 911 funds cannot be spent on signage. Counties have worked for years to try to get the law changed, but Wilkening said they haven’t been successful.
Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said the rural street signs were paid for through the township road account fund. Those signs will need to be replaced by 2015 to meet new standards for reflectivity, and Schnieder said the residential signs could be placed at the same time.
“The county could take care of it and take money out of the township road account to do this,” Schnieder said. Another option would be to assess a one-time fee to property owners for the residential signs.
Commissioner David Benson said until the county or the township agrees on a method for signage, rural property owners should take matters into their own hands.
“The best thing you can do right now is put six-inch numbers (of your 911 address) on your mailbox,” Benson said. “That would help Paul or anyone else that is out there.”
In other action, the board:
- Approved a resolution of support for the Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council to continue receiving insurance coverage through the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust (MCIT). The resolution follows a letter MCIT sent to SMOC regarding the potential release of community action agencies from its membership.
Neal Steffl, SMOC’s executive director, said the agency’s premium increased to $60,000 in 2009, a nearly $20,000 increase from the previous year. Still, seeking insurance elsewhere would mean a considerably higher cost, he said.
“Our services go to your constituents,” said Steffl. “We’re a provider in Nobles County, and we operate on a very thin margin. If worker’s comp and other liability costs increase … it would probably cause us to withdraw as a provider in the county.
“There’s an effect we feel the counties are going to feel if we get kicked out,” he added.
- Approved an ARMER participation plan. This is the next step in the county’s move toward a new radio system for law enforcement and emergency personnel. The signed plan will now advance to the Regional Radio Board next week. Sheriff Kent Wilkening anticipated that 12 of the 13 counties in southwest Minnesota will have agreed to move forward with participation by next week’s meeting.
- Designated Nobles County Emergency Management Director Dan Anderson as the ARMER system administrator for the county. In this role, Anderson will ensure the county receives the proper equipment, keeps a record of inventory and assigns equipment to staff as they move forward with the ARMER system for law enforcement and emergency personnel.
- Received an update on the work being done to one of the buildings at the county’s public works facility on Diagonal Road after damage was done to a wall this winter. Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said the wall will be covered with insulation and a reinforced stucco coating. He requested board permission to have further insulation done in the building, and it was approved with Schnieder’s discretion once a cost estimate was obtained. The money to complete the insulation project will come from the public works budget.
- Approved the purchase of two tandem axle trucks in the county’s public works department. The trucks will replace a 2000 Caterpillar motor grader and a 1998 Ford truck, both of which have been designated as surplus property. The cost of the new trucks is approximately $30,000 more than what was budgeted, however the department has funds remaining from its 2009 budget to cover the cost.
- Approved filling a vacant three-fifth’s time secretary position in the Nobles County Extension Office.
l Approved an on-sale beer license and set-up permit for the Prairie View Golf Links in Worthington Township.
- Approved a credit card request for the interim family services director.
- Named Marv Zylstra and Diane Thier as representatives on a health, human services and corrections task force.
- Appointed Vern Leistico to serve as the board representative on Worthington’s Economic Development Association.
- Received an Extension program update on 4-H activities, After School Adventures and nutrition education.