By Kate Klimesh,
In recent months, the County Supervisors have heard many complaints about the state of roads in the county, with residents requesting action be taken to improve conditions for safety. County Engineer Lee Bjerke, has the difficult task of assessing projects for upcoming years, based on available funding, and he agrees there are roads that need attention. The issue is finding funding to complete them.
At the Monday, Aug. 8, Winneshiek County Supervisors meeting, the discussion was held on the condition of the roads in the county and on the possible option of bonding to help repair roads that do not now, nor would not have funding available through standard road monies, i.e the Road Use Tax Fund (RUTF), local property taxes, federal funds or the Farm to Market (FTM) account. Annually, Bjerke prepares a list with his staff where they prioritize road and bridge projects in the county for consideration by the supervisors to be funded based on funds available.
In prioritizing the list of roads and bridges to be improved based on current funding levels, Bjerke reported that the projects in need now would not be completed until 2047 if the county did not exercise a bonding option. “And what was $30 million in estimated repairs last year, is probably closer to $40 million this year with the cost of things going up. Costs are levelling off a bit, but still far from where we started [when first discussing bonding for road projects].” Bjerke will be bringing updated estimates of road projects to the Monday, Aug. 15 meeting for supervisor review.
The supervisors discussed the need for bonding, and whether to present the bond on a vote referendum and have the county residents decide to take on the bond — a loan taken out by Winneshiek County to repay over a set number of years — or to set the agenda item and decide among the supervisors themselves whether the money should be borrowed now, and is in the best interest of the residents of the county.
“That number, 2,047, that is a wake-up call,” noted supervisor John Beard.
Full story in this week’s Public Opinion, read it here.