By Emily Bialkowski
The road traveled by those both for and against golf carts on County Hwy. 26 has been a bit salty and has resurfaced several times at the county board level.
In September 2012 the Houston County Board was asked to consider opening up a quarter-mile portion of County Hwy. 26 to golf cart traffic. The request was made to specifically allow carts to travel from Money Creek Haven Campground to the town of Money Creek.
The topic took several months to research, and by early December the board voted against the proposal citing safety issues as a factor in their decision.
Fast forward to the Feb. 5 county board meeting and the topic came back for more discussion.
Money Creek Haven Campground representative Wayne Fitting said he didn’t feel the campground received proper representation on the matter.
Commissioner Steve Schuldt said his decision was based on facts presented by the county engineer on safety. But Commissioner Justin Zmyewski said he could see where the request might have been misinterpreted and suggested the topic get one more go around.
On March 26 several members of the Money Creek Town Board spoke in support of allowing golf carts on the highway.
“I think if you were to drive the road you’d see it’s open and has good visibility. It’s no different than a farm tractor or anything else. It’s really not as bad as it appears, but I realize it’s your decision,” Town Chair Dale Omodt said.
The chair also said they began writing an ordinance to allow such travel months ago but quit after realizing they would also need the county’s approval.
County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski said the combination of traffic volume and a narrow roadway made conditions unsafe for golf cart traffic.
“I’ve went out there a couple times within the past year looking at roadway, pavement conditions, traffic volumes, and my primary concern is the existing pavement is 11 foot paved lanes with no gravel shoulder at all. It’s about 10 feet too narrow on state design standards to meet for a roadway of that volume,” Pogodzinski said.
But members of the town board said they believed large tractors are more of a hazard than golf carts, and Commissioner Justin Zmyewski agreed. He said, “I don’t see it as big of an issue as what some seem to be making it to be.”
Commissoners Teresa Walter and Steve Schuldt disagreed, saying, “I personally think it’s a public safety issue and we shouldn’t reverse our decision.” And, “I think we have to look out for public safety – that’s our job,” they said, respectively.
Pogodzinski said the matter could be revisited when that portion of Hwy. 26 gets on the reconstruction list. At that time accommodations could be made to make it safe for a variety of vehicles. “Right now it’s not on the schedule to be redone,” he said, “but I doubt it’s going to hold for 20 years.”
The board took no action on the item thereby maintaining its stance against such traffic.
In other business the board entertained several personnel matters.
• Human Resources Director Tess Arrick-Kruger asked the board to amend the insurance committee to include up to two members of each union. She said the committee will have a lot of work to do as the Affordable Care Act rolls out, and the extra representation will help ensure all stakeholders will be included in discussion. The request received a unanimous nod.
• The board also agreed to modify an agreement with Springsted Inc. to pay an additional $900 and travel expenses for consulting work they did with the human services department. The amendment brings the bill to about $7,900.
• In light of the economic development coordinator’s resignation, Arrick-Kruger recommended the board outsource a portion of the work to Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) for 14 hours per week at a cost of approximately $36,000 per year. The outgoing coordinator’s 2013 salary and benefits package amounted to $81,925, so the proposition yields a savings of about $45,000.
The recommendation received the go ahead for a year with both parties having a 30 day out if necessary.
Other county departments are also picking up duties executed by the former coordinator.
• In November 2012 the board was notified of an OSHA complaint at the county highway building. Arrick-Kruger said a recent inspection of the facility yielded a “no notice” performance and that the matter has been cleared. The board, however, continues to make plans to either refurbish or replace the deteriorating facility.
• Finally, the University of Minnesota Extension sent a letter to the county board saying Tina Storlie, community nutrition educator, is no longer an extension employee and that they are unable to refill her position at this time due to budget constraints.
The board reviewed its monthly finance report, during which time Finance Director Carol Lapham warned that tax notices have been sent out.
The board was also warned that money should start to be set aside for reconstruction of County Hwy. 249, which does not qualify for any state aid. The road will need attention in the next 10 years and will cost approximately $9 million to repave by today’s estimates, without bridge replacement costs.
• About 430 vehicles per day travel the portion of County Hwy. 26 that golf carts were proposed to travel on
• 60 percent of traffic fatalities happen in rural areas
• Only two counties in the state of Minnesota allow golf cart traffic on county roadways