On April 2, Houston County commissioners deadlocked on a vote to guarantee $16,667 in local funding for a Winona County bike trail.

Chairman Justin Zmyewski cast his first tie-breaking vote of the year, approving the project.

The "Old Highway 61 Trail" rebuild was tabled for more study on March 26.

"It's an important piece in the overall trail system," EDA Coordinator Jordan Wilms reported last week.

Wilms was joined on April 2 by MnDOT (Department of Transportation) representative Jean Meyer, who reiterated that the state will pay 90 percent of the $500,000 project.

The city of La Crescent, Houston County and Winona County are expected to each pay one-third of the remainder.

County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski said the work is slated for 2014-15. Wilms said that the county may be able to pay its share through a federal grant.

"It is the only connection with the Mississippi River Trail," Meyer said of the section, which links Dresbach with the I-90 Bridge. "In order to get from Dresbach to La Crescent people have to use this."

Meyer reported that the trail dates from 1964. It follows the former path of Highway 61, and that historic pavement still lies beneath the asphalt of the bike trail.

"It's between the interstate and the rail bed. People use this for commuting," she said. "It is allowable for them to use the trail, but not the interstate."

The city of La Crescent has already voted to approve the plan. That municipality will also write the grant with MnDOT. Winona County had not yet approved the plan at the time of the meeting.

"There is no connecting way from Spring Grove to any of the bike trails," commissioner Dana Kjome noted. "I just have a hard time spending county money on something that's in another county. We have other things we can use that money for."

"I wish there was money sitting around that we didn't have to levy for," commissioner Steve Schuldt said. "I'd rather see money set aside for a county highway shop."

Commissioners Judy Storlie and Teresa Walter voiced support for the project. Both have constituents in the La Crescent City/Township areas.

Storlie repeated her call for a forward-looking approach to bike trails in the area, stating that each opportunity to improve the network will yield dividends in the future.

The motion to guarantee Houston County's share of the project was contingent upon Winona County's acceptance of their portion of the costs.

Other news from the board

Commissioners approved the hiring of four 67-day temporary employees for the Houston/ Fillmore County Peer Breastfeeding program.

Personnel Director Tess Kruger reported that the program is 100 percent grant funded and will not cost local taxpayers anything.

Environmental Services Director Rick Frank brought a five-year extension of an agreement that Houston County has with Winona County for the collection and disposal of household hazardous waste. The document was approved.

Frac sand group to meet

Frank also reported that Houston County's Frac Sand Study Committee will meet on Friday, April 12.

The group is currently working on twin mining ordinances. One will cover commercial mineral extraction, while the other will be for industrial mines.

The commercial ordinance will include operations, which typically produce aggregate for the construction industry. The category includes "Either sand and gravel or crushed stone (stone from bedrock) that is produced and used for construction purposes (i.e., asphalt or concrete roads, concrete, asphalt, building or dimension stone, railroad ballast, decorative stone, retaining walls, revetment stone, roofing granules and other similar uses) or used for agricultural uses such as ag lime and bedding sand for livestock operations."

Industrial mines include silica sand, metals and items such as kaolin, gemstones "and other similar minerals used in industrial applications."

Frank referred to the sample ordinances that the group will discuss as "only drafts (in the) early stages." The committee will meet in the lower level of the Justice Center at 9 a.m.