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County approves ditch clean-out

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WORTHINGTON -- Two weeks after Nobles County Commissioners conducted a public hearing regarding clean out of County Ditch #2 near Bigelow, a decision was made Tuesday to move forward with the work.

The decision came after Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder reported the ditch was in worse shape than expected. He said workers went through the length of the ditch and found stagnant water on the north end, along with weed growth throughout the roughly 9,300-foot-long ditch. Also, silt build-up near the outlet into Otter Creek was also causing slow water flow.

"The ditch is really flat and doesn't clean itself out," said Schnieder. "Initially, we thought we could do just the north end. After further investigation, it appears there are problems up and down this ditch.

"This is the worst I've ever seen in a ditch system," he added. "This one is full of weeds, it's full of silt -- it's really bad."

Schnieder estimated the project cost at $26,000, with an additional $5,000 to $10,000 needed to do grass seeding along the ditch system.

Due to a lack of funding in the ditch system's account, commissioners opted Tuesday to establish a ditch lien, with money borrowed from the county's general fund. Property owners along the ditch system will be assessed for the clean-up, with the lien set at 4 percent interest for 15 years. Property owners have the option of paying the assessment in a one-time fee, or paying over the 15-year period.

Property owner Wes Schutte asked commissioners if they could extend the list of affected property owners to include those who live farther away from the ditch and yet benefit from it. He lives a mile away, and would not be assessed for the ditch clean-up based on the current formula.

"This is a big drainage district," Schutte said, adding that he wouldn't be opposed to paying an assessment for the improvements.

Schnieder said that while other property owners cannot be assessed at this point, the county could consider doing a redetermination of benefits on the ditch systems. A redetermination would set a new value on the ditch system and see if more property owners are benefitting.

"There is a legal process that we'd have to go through, and there is a cost to it," Schnieder said, adding that Jackson County is going through the process with its ditch systems at this time.

Commissioners directed Schnieder to gather more information about redetermination of benefits

In other action, the board:

- Awarded the 2010 construction projects bid to Knife River of Sauk Rapids at nearly $2.73 million. The bid, which came in more than $90,000 over the engineer's estimate, is for bridge replacement and bituminous overlay projects, as well as reconstruction of County State Aid Highway 27. The projects are expected to be completed between mid-August and early October.

- Approved appropriations of $850 for Travel Southwest Minnesota and $1,000 for the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council.

- Approved the Family Services Management Agreement with Pipestone County for a shared director.

- Approved a joint powers agreement with Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water.

- Accepted participation in a matching grant offered by the state to purchase mobile and portable radios to be used with the ARMER system. Sheriff Kent Wilkening said approximately six mobile radios could be purchased with the grant dollars.

- Received a report from County Administrator Mel Ruppert regarding the feasibility of working with other counties of southwest Minnesota on joint financing for capital projects. Ruppert said combining efforts could reduce some fixed costs if counties combined projects for bonding.

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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