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Highway designation, rural signage addressed by county

WORTHINGTON -- A pair of issues appearing before Nobles County Commissioners several times in recent years may be on the road to being completed, following board action taken during Tuesday morning's meeting.

The first is the designation of an approximately half-mile of Zeh Avenue as a County State Aid Highway. The request came before the board several years ago for the designation, which would bring added funding to the heavily-used road by the soybean processing facility at Brewster.

Because the portion of roadway needing the designation is partially in Jackson County, and because Jackson County initially didn't have sufficient CSAH miles in its banked account, the designation was delayed.

Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said Jackson County now has the .27 miles of CSAH designation to offer, but to give those designated miles to Zeh Avenue comes with a cost. Jackson County wants Nobles County to finance maintenance of the approximately quarter-mile of road, as well as any future reconstruction. That also means the county is liable for anything that happens on the short stretch of highway.

"Just overlay on that quarter-mile would cost $30,000 to $40,000," Schnieder told commissioners Tuesday. "We don't have that much money in the CSAH system, but we do have county roads in Brewster."

Schnieder suggested the county take over maintenance of the section of Zeh Avenue for Jackson County, but then turn back Nobles County 75 within Brewster's city limits. Before the turn back could occur, he said the county would need to fix up the road, as well as curb and gutter.

"The way the condition of the road is, there's no way we want it," said Brewster City Clerk Jim Naumann. "It's the worst condition of the roads in town. It needs serious milling down."

Commissioner Marv Zylstra said the soybean plant is a "huge economic impact in our county," and encouraged the board to begin the process of designating the miles. The full board unanimously approved the motion and, as a follow-up, encouraged Schnieder to work with the city of Brewster to negotiate the possible turn back of Nobles County 75.

The second issue to resurface is rural signage. For years, Nobles County emergency responders, including fire and rescue departments, have requested rural signs be erected to identify house numbers.

Sheriff Kent Wilkening said there was discussion about the need for signs at a recent meeting of the county's fire chiefs, and said the board would be getting another request from the group.

"This is something they feel is important to have at the end of driveways," Wilkening said. He said turnover in the fire departments, with younger individuals coming on board, means firefighters may not know where a particular address is.

"Sometimes mailboxes are clustered and they may not be at the driveway," added Schnieder. "(Rural signage) does have a lot of merit to it."

In addition, it was pointed out that wind towers and livestock sites also have rural addresses and should be signed.

In the two years since the idea of rural signage was raised, Schnieder said the price of steel for the posts has increased considerably. He estimated that with labor, it would cost approximately $50 to $75 per sign.

"I think you've all heard from the emergency management and firefighters that feel this is really a top priority in their mind that they get these signs installed," Schnieder added.

He and Wilkening were asked by the board to get an estimate together on how many signs would be needed in the county, and bring that information to the next board meeting, slated for Oct. 2.

In other action, the board:

* Announced that Alan Oberloh, mayor of Worthington, and John Faber, mayor of Adrian, were selected to fill the at-large positions on the county administrator selection committee. Upon the committee's recommendation, the board also approved hiring the services of Springsted for the employment search, at a cost not to exceed $18,000.

* Accepted the 2013 Natural Resources Block grant of $85,033 for the Nobles County Environmental Services office. This grant is $5,800 more than the grant received for 2012.

* Accepted the low bid from Larson Crane Service, Worthington, for the construction of two Nobles County bridges, one on County State Aid Highway 18, three miles west of Kinbrae, and the other in Lorain Township, one-quarter mile north of Worthington. The low bid of $494,161, was approximately $18,000 more than the engineer's estimate for the projects.

* Approved pavement of the Nobles County Government Center's garage access parking lot at a cost of $33,261. McCuen Construction presented the lone bid for the project.

* Authorized support for Nobles County's inclusion in a federal class action suit led by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The suit seeks payment from the two mortgage companies for Department of Employment and Economic Development taxes that have not been paid. There is no cost to Nobles County to take part in the suit, although if the state wins, a portion of the winnings will be collected prior to distribution of funds to counties.

* Approved a request to hire an assessment technician I position in the Nobles County Assessor's office.

* Approved, in a joint meeting with Murray County Commissioners, a request from David and Chad Wiener to add land into Judicial Ditch 12. The Wieners will pay an outlet fee of $1,273 to join the ditch system.

* Approved the replacement of carpet in the Extension office, in the lower level of the Nobles County Government Center, at a cost of $8,274.

* Approved a request from Worthington Taxi Service to place an antenna on the county-owned tower on the Public Works building on Diagonal Road in Worthington.

* Reappointed Les Johnson and appointed Jay Milbrandt to the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed Board; and approved the appointments of Frank Engels, Brent Feikema and Janice Moen to the Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water System 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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