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County could opt to fund E911 rural signs

Nobles County's neighbor to the east, Jackson County, already has the E911 signage in place.

WORTHINGTON -- After several years of discussion and numerous requests from emergency responders, Nobles County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to fund rural signage for individual E911 addresses, if there is a consensus among the 20 townships to support the project.

Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder explained Tuesday that 13 of the 20 townships have responded to a question asking if they supported or did not support rural signage. Of those, five townships said no and the remaining eight townships said yes.

The signs would be posted at rural residences, as well as individual wind towers and livestock sites throughout the county. An initial estimate showed the need for more than 2,500 signs and, at a cost of $85 per sign, the total cost would be approximately $215,000.

"The fire departments are the ones that are really pushing it," said Commissioner Gene Metz, who met with all of his townships to discuss the issue of rural signage. "The GPS units aren't entirely accurate, and there's a cost to keep those systems updated. They're having a tough time just paying for their radio system."

Townships had questioned who would pay for the E911 signs, as many of them are already strapped for funds to maintain township roads.

After delving into the funding issue, Schnieder suggested the county consider paying for all of the E911 signs with reserves in the environmental services department. The department, which collects fees for various services, has amassed a reserve fund of more than $1 million.

"Wayne Smith (Environmental Services director) feels this is a justifiable use for some of these reserves," Schnieder said. "It does benefit environmental services."

Commissioners supported using the funds from reserves, but said they would delay a formal decision until March 19, a week after townships conduct their annual meetings, in hopes of getting feedback from the remaining seven townships that didn't respond to the inquiry.

"Some of them may want to discuss it at their annual meeting," Schnieder told commissioners.

Commissioner Marv Zylstra said he would like to get feedback from those counties that didn't respond, saying the townships he met with were most concerned about paying for the signs.

"There are 132 (wind) towers over by Wilmont and if someone would ever slip and fall, it's important that you get to the right tower," Zylstra said. "Minutes are critical in some of those situations.

"I think if we've got reserves, that's the way we probably should go," he added.

In other action, the board:

* Authorized the advertisement for bids for 2013 bituminous surfacing projects, including approximately three miles on County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 7 between CSAH 25 and CSAH 14; approximately six miles on CSAH 14 between U.S. 59 and CSAH 1; and approximately 3.3 miles on Nobles County 57, between Hawkinson Bridge over Lake Ocheda and CSAH 4. All of the projects will be completed by the end of June.

* Authorized the advertisement for bids for a bridge replacement project on CSAH 14 in Larkin Township, over Kanaranzi Creek, just west of Midway Park. Schnieder said he had hoped to complete the project last fall, but the permit didn't arrive until November. Due to the presence of nesting swallows and Topeka Shiners at the site, the bridge replacement cannot be completed until after the middle of August. Schnieder said the timber bridge will be replaced with precast concrete culverts, and the work should be finished by mid-September.

* Adopted a resolution identifying the prioritized bridge replacement list.

* Approved the 2013 township road allocation of $401,052.38.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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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