County OKs ditch benefits, damages

NEW ULM — Brown County unanimously approved redetermination of Benefits and Damages for County Ditches (CD) 4 and 10 Tuesday.

The drainage authority considered testimony by affected landowners and accepted engineer’s reports, and viewers reports of benefits and damages.

Commissioner Scott Windschitl offered the motion to approve CD 4 action, seconded by Commissioner Dean Simonsen. Action on CD 10 came on a motion by Simonsen, seconded by Commissioner Tony Berg.

In addition, commissioners directed the county attorney to prepare findings of fact and order to be considered at a future board meeting, establish landowner assessments of $97,000 in CD 4 and $365,000 in CD 10 and authorized a temporary transfer of funds from the CD revenue funds at a four percent interest rate.

Home Township farmer Greg Bartz asked for 16.5 foot buffer details on CD 10.

“I want it in writing,” Bartz said. “I’ve had a lot of experience working with this over the years. I’m concerned about whether or not the public can go on this land.”

Bartz said ditches widen over time. He asked if more land would be taken if the ditch widens.

Brown County Attorney Chuck Hanson said ditch benefit redetermination (ROB) details are spelled out in state statutes.

“We’re not taking land,” Hanson said. “We’re paying you for easements.”

Commissioner Simonsen said the ditches remain private property and are not for public use.

“If some of the ditch washes out, we’ll try to fill it back in,” said Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens.

“We should be concerned about dirt washing away. All the erosion is a bigger concern,” said Pat Krzmarzick. “How do we maintain ditch integrity? Dirt winds up in the river.”

Commissioner Simonsen said more ROB details are in the Ditch ROB Engineer’s Advisory Report and Findings of Fact. That document includes a order, history, findings, required right-of-way, recommendations, title sheets and watershed maps that a filed in Brown County and with the State of Minnesota.

Hanson said the public ditches owned by affected landowners could be abandoned by petition.’

“I can’t come out to your ditch and hunt. It’s still your property,” Hanson said.

Commissioners unanimously approved:

• Authorizing the $14,886 2018 Federal Boating Safety Equipment Grant and the purchase of dive equipment for three divers for $13,286, motion by Commissioner Windschitl, seconded by Commissioner Berg.

Brown County would match 25 percent of the costs ($3,321.50) using the sheriff’s office boat and water rescue contingency fund which had a $37,718.07 at the end of January 2019.

In addition, commissioners will consider purchasing two body recovery drag bars, poles, two lifesaving buoys and throw bags for $1,600.

• Bids for actuarial professional services for the determination of GASB 75 Other Post-Employment Benefit (OPEB) valuation, needed for completion of audited financial statements.

• The Brown County Assessor’s 2019 first quarter report. The county-wide average value per tillable acre in 2018 was $6,952; and $6,959 in 2019, not $9,959 as earlier listed in the 2019 report.

• Courthouse boardroom and Planning & Zoning Department carpet replacement. The boardroom low quote from Miesen’s Color Center, Springfield is $3,679 for carpet tiles and $2,440.80 for standard carpet.

The boardroom low carpet tile bid was approved on a motion by Commissioner Simonsen, seconded by Commissioner Berg. The P&Z office low carpet tile bid of $4,318 was approved on a motion by Commissioner Windschitl, seconded by Commissioner Simonsen. The standard carpet low bid was $2,859.36.

Both quotes include existing carpet removal and disposal, floor prep, six-inch vinyl base, labor and supplies.

The Brown County Maintenance Department recommends using carpet tiles in the boardroom for more durability and flexibility if damage occurs. Additional quotes were received from Design Home Center Inc., New Ulm; New Ulm Furniture and Puhlmann Lumber & Design.

• Discussed snow piling up in the County Road 29/State Highway 4 roundabout north of Sleepy Eye. Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens said the Minnesota Department of Transportation controls roundabout right-of-way.

• Setting a revised bid opening date of 2 p.m., Tuesday, April 9 for culvert replacement and approach work on the KC Road over an unnamed stream in Milford Township.

• Set ROB public hearings for CD 12 at 10:30 a.m. and CD 13 at 10:45 a.m., Tuesday, April 2.

• A special meeting to select county administrator interview finalists begins at 9 a.m., Monday, March 18 in the courthouse commissioner’s room.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at