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Stevens County Board of Commissioners take county road tour

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MORRIS - The Stevens County Board of Commissioners took to the streets of Stevens County on Tuesday as part of an annual tour of the county's roads and ditches.

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This season's big construction projects included new pavement and a mill and overlay on sections of County Highway 13 in the southwest section of the county, and a reconstruction project on Main Street in Alberta.

While on the tour, County Engineer Brian Giese also highlighted some upcoming challenges for the county road construction program as a result of changes in the new federal transportation bill - Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).

"The bill makes pretty big program changes, and it's not good for local governments," said Giese.

Basically, federal funding for road projects will be shifting to interstates and U.S. highways and away from local roads, Giese explained, dropping the local share of federal road funds from about 30 percent down to around 15 percent.

Stevens County currently has two federal aid projects planned - construction on CSAH 22 in 2014 and CSAH 1 in 2016. Giese said these projects are "in serious danger of elimination, reduction or delay."

Without federal funding, Giese said the county will not be able to take on many major construction projects in the future.

Sheriff proposes changes to county emergency management

Sheriff Randy Willis asked the board to consider a change in the structure of the county's emergency management services by promoting Deputy Emergency Management Director Dona Greiner and shifting the sheriff to a supporting role.

"In the ensuing four years, [Dona] has done the major amount of work that the emergency management director does," said Willis. "She's done extremely well in it, and she's worked extremely hard - she's become the go-to person in this region for other emergency managers."

Human Resources Director Janet Raguse is working on job description for the position change and will bring that back to the board. The board did not make a decision about the request Tuesday, but will continue to consider it.

Other business

• Facilities Manager Nick Young presented the board with the damage to county buildings and vehicles from a severe storm over the summer. The Stevens County Courthouse received about $30,000 in damage, but Young said it was primarily aesthetic. Other county assets affected by storm damage were the courthouse garage, Stevens Traverse Grant Public Health building, the DAC building, and several county vehicles.

The board voted to move forward with repairs to four county vehicles, and authorized Sheriff Randy Willis to repair the sheriff's fleet of vehicles as he saw fit. The board planned to wait on potential building repairs until the spring.

• The board accepted an Emergency Management Preparedness Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $15,259. The grant requires a county match for the funding.

• The board approved a joint powers agreement with six other counties to oversee the Chippewa River watershed. The agreement included a one-time payment of $1,200 for the Chippewa River Watershed Project's reserve account.

• The board moved their regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 6 to Monday, Nov. 5 at 9:00 a.m. at the Stevens County Courthouse so it would not conflict with the general election. The board also moved their Tuesday, Dec. 4 meeting to Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 9:00 a.m.

• The board scheduled their annual Truth in Taxation hearing for Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7:00 p.m.

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Kim Ukura is the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune. 

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