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Lease of shortline railroad changes hands

WORTHINGTON — Public meetings are planned in Adrian and Rushmore next week for residents to meet the new managers of the shortline railroad that passes through Rock and Nobles counties.

Clark Meyer, representing Ellis and Eastern (E&E) Railroad, appeared before Nobles County commissioners Tuesday to discuss the transition. The E&E Railroad will take over from the Minnesota Southern Railway, which had previously leased the rail line from the Buffalo Ridge Regional Rail Authority. The lease changed hands June 1.

The E&E Railroad is based in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Meyer said the east end of its existing line connects to the west end of the BRRRA railway. The BRRRA is a public entity and an equal partnership between Rock and Nobles counties.

“We’re going to try growing the activity of the railroad,” Meyer told commissioners, saying if eight to 10 train cars were moved on the line per day it would be “pretty big growth.”

The public meetings are planned from 7 to 8 p.m. June 14 at the Adrian Council Chamber, 209 Maine Ave., Adrian; and from 7 to 8 p.m. June 15 at the Rushmore School Community Room, 108 Drake Ave., Rushmore.

“If you’re a landowner along there or have any questions at all, please come,” encouraged Meyer.

He said the E&E wants to be good neighbors with landowners. If all goes well, he added, he may be back in the future with plans to build “for the economic advancement of the county.”

Tuesday’s county board meeting included several action items, including a decision to continue discussion to June 20 on a request for proposals for a collaborative building project with the city of Worthington and ISD 518 on the former Campbell’s Soup site.

Johnson said he, along with city administrator Steve Robinson and ISD 518 Superintendent John Landgaard, looked over three bids received for a study and recommended LHB Inc., a Minneapolis-based engineering consultant, with a not-to-exceed price of $20,000. All three entities have to vote on whether to move forward with the study, and Johnson said the school can’t act on it until June 20, while the city will discuss it June 26.

The reason for the board’s inaction on the proposal was because commissioners Justin Ahlers and Gene Metz wanted to make sure there were enough soil borings from the site. Soil borings are not a part of LHB’s proposal.

“Steve (Robinson) was confident Dwayne (Haffield, city engineer) had the soil boring information, and they’re only five years old and the soil hasn’t changed,” Johnson shared.

Metz said he’d like a contingency in the agreement that if more soil borings are needed, the city and the school district must agree to them as well.

Commissioner Matt Widboom asked if LHB has experience in retrofitting and adding onto an existing building, to which Johnson said it has worked primarily in new construction. Johnson said waiting until June 20 will allow him time to follow up on references for the firm.

In other action, the board:

  • Presented the May Excellence in Performance Award to Stephanie Ross, coordinator of the WIC program for Nobles County Community Services.
  • Approved a professional services agreement with Kehl Associates to complete an evaluation and provide design services addressing noise issues at the Prairie Justice Center, at a cost not to exceed $10,000. Johnson said the cost would be covered by the capital improvement plan bond.

Widboom voted in opposition to the agreement on the 4-1 vote, saying he couldn’t support a $10,000 cost for a design without any handle on what construction will cost.

  • Authorized a resolution prioritizing four bridges on the county state aid highway system for bond funding. Two of the bridges are located on CSAH 15, south of CSAH 14, while one is on CSAH 16 west of Wilmont and the fourth is on CSAH 20, east of Leota.

Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said the cost to replace the bridges is more than $1 million, but there is potential to get up to $865,000 in bonding money, with the rest coming from state aid. He said the earliest the bridges would be replaced is 2019, if the funding is received.

  • Approved the purchase of a surplus 2001 Chevrolet 4-wheel-drive truck from the public works department for use by the drainage systems coordinator. The $3,000 cost for the truck, as well as maintenance and fuel, will be assessed to the drainage systems.
  • Authorized publishing requests for proposals to replace a roof on one of the public works buildings, as well as the roof on the Prairie Justice Center.
  • Approved the addition of a definition of hardship to the county’s tax policy upon the recommendation of the state assessor’s office.
  • Adopted a resolution supporting a collaboration between United Community Action Partnership and Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council Inc. to implement a family homelessness prevention and assistance program.
  • Set 9 a.m. June 30 at the Wilmont Community Center as the next Coffee with the Commissioners event.
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 The Farm Bleat

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