WORTHINGTON - On a split vote Tuesday morning, Nobles County commissioners authorized allocating $175,000 in state grants to help fund improvements on Lake Ocheda. The dollars, awarded to the county in $50,000-per-year increments to target aquatic invasive species (AIS), have been saved up specifically for this project, according to Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder, who oversees the AIS fund.
Schnieder said slightly more than $200,000 is available in the fund. He and Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator Dan Livdahl requested all of the funds to be put toward the Lake Ocheda project, which includes replacement of the outlet dam, installation of a fish barrier on the Ocheda dam and an early fall lake drawdown to cause a fish kill. The three-basin lake is infested with carp, which is considered an invasive species.
While commissioners Bob Demuth Jr. and Matt Widboom favored allocating the full amount, the three remaining commissioners voted to give just $175,000 toward the project.
Commissioner Gene Metz, who made the motion, said there was a lot of latitude when the AIS funding program began.
“I’ve got a little reservation about taking this whole thing and using it on clean-up, rather than a prevention program,” Metz said.
Schnieder explained that an extensive campaign was done initially when the first grant funding was received.
“You can encourage people to do the right thing,” Schnieder said, noting it isn’t feasible to have all of the boat landings in the county monitored 24-7. “I think our use of money to get something done is just as valid as educating the public.
“We thought this was a great project to try to get something done, with no added assessments for the property owners,” he added.
Commissioner Justin Ahlers, in his support for the $175,000 allocation, said, “I have a hard time draining the account on one project.”
Schnieder noted that funds will continue to be allocated to the county each year.
“Every year I need to send in a report on what it is we plan to do with the money,” he said. “If we don’t spend the money on this project, I need to give them justification on why we didn’t do it.”
Livdahl, meanwhile, said a $200,000 allocation from the AIS fund for the Lake Ocheda project would allow the watershed district to direct some of its funds for needed repairs to the Prairie View project, which was damaged again during spring flooding.
Commissioner Donald Linssen took issue with the $200,000 in grant money that hasn’t been spent on anything.
“I would have an issue with giving you more,” he said. “We have to be doing something or we shouldn’t be getting the money.”
Still, Linssen voted to only allocate $175,000.
The Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District will meet Thursday to discuss awarding the bid for the Ocheda dam project. The low bid came in at nearly $274,000.
In other business, the board:
- Accepted more than $994,300 in Local Bridge Replacement Program state grant dollars to help fund the replacement of six bridges this year.
- Received an update from County Administrator Tom Johnson regarding disaster declarations from spring flooding and the ice storm. Johnson said $328,689.50 has been reported thus far in damages caused by the spring flooding, while the ice storm (Winter Storm Wesley) damages are currently at more than $2.2 million. A review of damages will begin the week of May 7.
- Approved a request from Jerry Lonneman for a five-year tax abatement on a new home in the 300 block of Oklahoma Avenue, Adrian, through the Nobles Home Initiative.
- Authorized advertising for bids on an intersection lighting project. Schnieder said the goal is to have the lights, to be installed at 21 intersections on the county highway system, operational by September or October.
- Approved payment of $11,423 to Nau Construction for work related to the installation of the air handler unit at the county government center.
- Recognized Tammy Fishel, income maintenance supervisor with Nobles County Community Services, for 15 years of service.
- Approved a request from the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office to send Chief Deputy Chris Dybevick and Investigator Melissa Einck to attend a national training for Project Lifesaver in August in Orlando, Fla. Dybevick secured an educational grant of $1,000 to attend the training.
- Approved the 2018 County Feedlot Officer and performance credit reports.