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County official calls for action on drainage

Drainage continued to be a hot topic of discussion for Davison County Commissioners Tuesday. Commissioner Denny Kiner believes it's time for action. "We've been ignoring drainage issues for three years now," he said. Many farmers are installing d...

Drainage continued to be a hot topic of discussion for Davison County Commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioner Denny Kiner believes it's time for action.

"We've been ignoring drainage issues for three years now," he said.

Many farmers are installing drain tile -- the traditional name for smooth or corrugated plastic piping -- to move water to make flooded fields more productive.

But downstream residents -- some a mile or two from drainage efforts -- have complained that drained water is negatively impacting their lands, Kiner said.

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County law requires a resident to apply for a drainage permit before doing any work, but Kiner said numerous nonpermitted drainage projects are currently under way north of Lake Mitchell and throughout the county.

"It's fine and dandy to do (drainage projects), but it comes down to the fact that water needs a place to go," Drainage Administrator Dan Sudrla said. He receives an average of six calls a day regarding drainage permits or complaints, he said.

One problem area generating flooding complaints is between Lake Mitchell and 248th Street on both sides of 407th Avenue. "The land just isn't draining," Sudrla said.

"We're going to need enforcement to get it stopped," Commissioner Gerald Weiss said. The commissioners, however, gave no orders to immediately proceed with enforcement actions.

Roadside ditches aren't engineered to move water efficiently, said County Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg. In many cases, he said, soil was removed from ditches to be used in the building of rural driveways. Culverts were later installed, he said, but too deeply. Without a consistent fall line for water, some ditches became a series of stock dams that only move water when runoff is extremely high, noted the commissioners in a recent meeting.

The fact that some culverts were incorrectly installed is not the county's fault, Kiner said, but it is rapidly becoming a county problem. Water problems have always existed in the area due to a high water table, but they weren't as noticeable prior to development, he said.

Natural land contours dictate the direction drainage will take. Kiner said the natural, north-south dividing line for water flow is 249th Street, which is north of Lake Mitchell. Firesteel Creek criss-crosses the road numerous times as it wends its way east to the James River, but drainage issues extend nearly two miles north of Lake Mitchell.

"We're fortunate in this county that we have a place to drain to," Kiner said. "Many other counties don't, but we still need to take action."

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The best route to direct water needs to be determined, he said. "We first need to determine what action we need to take and figure out a way to pay for it later."

Commission Chairman John Claggett noted the drain tiling of fields doesn't necessarily result in downstream problems. Properly done, it can improve land's ability to accept water, he said. "Minnesota has a lot of drain tile and it doesn't have the drainage problems we do," he said.

The commissioners placed the drainage issue on next week's commission agenda for further discussion.

Jail tour

Earlier Tuesday, the commissioners took their annual tour of the Davison County Jail accompanied by Jail Administrator Don Radel, Maintenance Supervisor Mark Ruml and county resident Carl Walter, who asked to accompany the group.

The biggest headache at the jail continues to be the shower facilities in each prisoner pod. Excess moisture has deteriorated concrete block walls and blistered paint. Previous attempts to repair the showers haven't worked.

Radel presented the commissioners with an inspection report prepared by Puetz Corp. It said excess moisture trapped in the wall migrated through the concrete, resulting in cosmetic and, potentially, structural damage. Vinyl flooring and plaster in cell areas is also being damaged by excess moisture.

The report recommends the removal of existing stainless steel shower surrounds and bad plaster. It recommends the installing of ceramic tile over an epoxy wall-coating system.

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To do the work, the report also recommends removing all toilet fixtures, bed tables and benches in cell areas; removing all vinyl floor coverings and failed plaster or concrete; repairing walls; beadblasting floor slabs and applying the epoxy floor coating; and reinstalling all fixtures -- at an estimated cost of $100,000 to $125,000 over three to four weeks.

Radel urged the commissioners make the repairs "a priority project for this year," even though money for the repairs was removed from the county budget.

The commissioners also asked Ruml to investigate whether the ventilation systems in the prisoner pods are doing an adequate job of moving moisture-laden air out of the jail.

Other business

In other business, the commissioners:

  • Authorized Weed Supervisor John Geidel to hire a seasonal worker at a pay rate of $11.50 an hour, and also approved Weinberg's hire of a highway worker at $12.50 an hour. The highway worker candidate has experience, a commercial driver's license and sprayer certification, Weinberg said. Workers must clear a physical exam and drug testing.
  • Heard from Highway Department worker Rodney Mather, who has been on sick leave since December, after receiving a head injury while cutting trees with a county work crew. Mather said he continues to improve but has not been medically certified to return to work. Mather suffered hearing loss from his injury and will soon have a hearing aid that his doctor hopes will also help with balance issues. He said his physician also hopes to gradually wean him off medication for migraine headaches. "Then I can get back to work," he said.
  • Discussed Commissioner Gerald Weiss' request that Highway Superintendent Weinberg add gravel to a rapidly deteriorating section of county Highway 41 about a half-mile west of state Highway 37. Weiss said large potholes pose a safety problem for drivers who are unfamiliar with the road. Weinberg said rain has limited access to gravel pits, but he believes he can find a supply nearer the damaged roadway. He said road crews will grind up the section of road with the county's Asphalt Zipper and add more gravel in the near future.

The commissioners also fielded Weinberg's suggestion to consider removing the load limits from rural roads at their May 23 meeting. Roads are drying out and firming up, Weinberg said.

  • Noted the $12.447 million balance of the suditor's account on file with the county treasurer after April tax collections.
  • Postponed for another meeting an appearance by Tobin Township worker Dave Tuttle, who was scheduled to report on overweight trucks on county roads.

Board of Adjustment
Sitting as the Board of Adjustment, the commissioners:

  • Approved Ronald Baker's application for a conditionaluse permit for a cattle-feeding operation for up to 1,498 cows about three miles west and a half-mile south of Mount Vernon, with the condition that Baker meet all Department of Environment and Natural Resources engineering requirements for a manure management system. Also approved was a related setback variance for the project.
  • Approved applicant Richard Gerlach's request for a variance in lot size for land to allow a relative to build a new residence at 26399 401st Ave., southwest of Mitchell.
  • Approved Beverly Carlson's request for a variance in lot size to separate a farmstead residence from agricultural land at 41055 256th St., southeast of Mitchell.
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