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County approves permit fees on 3-2 vote

WORTHINGTON -- In a 3-2 decision, the Nobles County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved both new and increased fees in the county's public works department for everything from driveway construction to utility installation, moving permits for over length, over height, overweight and over width vehicles, and for widening intersections for over width vehicle traffic.

Commissioners David Benson, Marv Zylstra and Vern Leistico voted in favor of the fee implementation.

Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said that since the department cut approximately 15 percent from its budget at the request of commissioners in 2009, the additional fees could help fund shortfalls in the department. He also told commissioners the fees will help pay for some of the damage anticipated by the heavy loads that will be travelling the county's roads in 2010 during the construction of a major wind farm.

"What we're proposing is a fee structure we think is reasonable to cover the costs on some of the minor things," said Schnieder.

He had also requested a fee be created for issuing a parade or special event permit, although commissioners rejected that idea.

Schnieder, who has been working with a group of county engineers in the region on a study looking at the damages caused to roads by oversized vehicles, surveyed other counties on their fee structures for moving permits.

"I think we're one of the few counties in the area that doesn't have a fee," Schnieder said. "Maybe it's time we look at recouping our costs for some of these activities."

He said the county has an opportunity to collect on the amount of damage that could be caused to the roadway by the overweight and over length vehicles that will be hauling materials for the wind farm.

"A wind tower can take almost a year out of a roadway that was designed for 20 years," said Schnieder.

Commissioner Diane Thier suggested the board use an upcoming board retreat for more time to look at each proposed fee.

"I'm not willing to just propose that we charge these fees," Thier said.

"I think Steve and some of the other counties in the area have done some good background," said Benson, adding that the damage from overweight loads puts significant costs on counties.

"These are private companies, sometimes overseas companies, that we're subsidizing," he said.

Leistico was also in favor of the fees, saying, "It makes a lot of sense to me that we're trying to cover our costs."

In other action, the board:

- Elected Marv Zylstra to serve as board chairman for 2010, and Diane Thier to serve as vice-chair.

- Approved a draft update of the five-year road plan as presented by Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder. The plan is used as a guide for scheduling maintenance and engineering design work.

Projects identified for completion in 2010 include the reconstruction of County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 27 in the city of Rushmore; bridge replacements on CSAH 11 near Ellsworth, CSAH 2 near Bigelow, CSAH 19 near Leota, Nobles County 68 in Larkin Township and Nobles County 70 in Wilmont Township; and bituminous overlay projects on CSAH 2, CSAH 1, Nobles County 65 and Nobles County 73. The projects total nearly $2.77 million.

- Approved advertising for a vacant maintenance supervisor position and voted to continue with a request made in 2009 that department heads come before the county board each time there is a vacancy. With the request, commissioners can determine if the position is needed.

- Recognized Dean Swanson in appreciation for his 47 years of service on the DAC board. Swanson had served on the leadership team since its inception.

- Set the regular board meetings for 2010 as the first Tuesday after the first Monday of each month, and the second to last Tuesday of each month, to begin at 9 a.m., in the board room of the Nobles County Government Center. Two changes to the calendar were also approved, including moving the Dec. 7 meeting up to Dec. 2, and moving the May 18 board meeting back to May 25.

- Set the 2010 Board of Equalization meeting for 7 p.m. June 15.

- Approved minimum salaries for elected officials. During an election year, the minimum salaries must be set for those interested in seeking an elected office in county government.

- Approved the Daily Globe as the county's official newspaper for publication of official news, and approved the county's Web site of, as the county's official Web site.

- Approved the reappointment of Gary Ewert to the Heron Lake Watershed District board.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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