On Oct. 23, Houston County commissioners voted to place a "for sale" sign on a 22-acre parcel that the county bought in 2008.

The land, located near Caledonia High School, was to have been the site of a new Houston County Public Works facility. Now, it appears that's definitely not going to happen.

A previous set of commissioners voted on Dec. 16, 2008, to authorize up to $8 million in bonding to pay for the parcel and build the facility, which architects estimated would cost $6,976,588.

Following subsequent elections, and with $17 million worth of bonding needed to build a new Justice Center, the idea was firmly put in mothballs.

"Are we going to just sit on something that if we could get it sold, could be better used elsewhere?" Commissioner Justin Zmyewski asked, adding that the farmland is currently leased for three years, and it might be good to sell before another such agreement is needed. The farming contract is only good for another year, he added.

"I'm all in favor of selling it," Chairman Jack Miller remarked. "I don't anticipate building out there. The initial plans for that building went well beyond what was needed."

Members discussed using the proceeds from the sale to make repairs to the current highway shop with the possibility of an addition at that site at some point in the future, rather than putting up a whole new structure.

Commissioner Tom Bjerke suggested simply advertising the land as for sale by owner. The county will ask for the amount that they paid for the parcel - $315,000, commissioners decided. Zmyewski made the motion, which passed by unanimous vote.

Highway projects approved

On a related note, commissioners voted to accept the lowest bid received to replace two sets of windows at the highway shop in Caledonia.

Stemper Construction will do the work for $3,976. County engineer Brian Pogodzinski reported that funds are still available in his 2012 budget to cover the repairs. Bjerke asked that the contractor inspect the building for other needs while there, such as new caulking around other windows.

A resolution prioritizing county bridge replacements for the next five years was passed. Pogodzinski said that the state requires the list to be updated yearly.

There are 26 bridges on the schedule, the most expensive of which is on CSAH 8. That structure will cost close to $2 million to replace, according to estimates. Most of that money would come from federal funding.

The board signed a grant agreement in the amount of $619,903 for the Perkins Valley Drive construction project. Funding will come from State of Minnesota flood relief bonds. An "S" curve on the township road will be straightened, and a bridge replaced.

Zoning matters discussed

The same project also came up later in the meeting, when conditional use permits (CUP) were discussed. Adam Larson appeared for contractor J.B. Holland seeking a CUP for mineral extraction.

The company proposes to remove approximately 30,000 cubic yards of material from an existing borrow pit to rebuild the roadway.

Zoning administrator Bob Scanlan reported that archaeological studies were complete on both the extraction and construction sites and told the board that the Planning Commission recommended approval of the permit.

The CUP was opposed by Money Creek Township board member Dale Omodt and neighboring landowner Lucille Omodt-Crow, both of whom had appeared before the Planning Commission on Oct. 11 (see elsewhere in this week's Herald).

Omodt-Crow stated that the borrow pit was located too close to the Historic Omodt Cemetery and that "permanent, irreparable damage" would be done to the area.

"It's going to be a permanent eyesore," she added.

Dale Omodt told commissioners that alternative borrow sites were available and should be used.

Larson conceded that his company was looking at alternative sites, but wanted to be able to utilize the pit on Dennis Kinstler's land (where the cemetery lies).

Bringing another site on line would take time, Scanlan reported, since it would require another public hearing and archaeological report. That could upset construction schedules.

Scanlan said that the board had until Nov. 9 to decide. Commissioners postponed a vote until they can review the site.

Bjerke noted that some board members may walk the land with township board officials, as long as a quorum is not present.

Three other CUPs were approved with virtually no discussion. The first was for Randy Roemer of Black Hammer Township to build a cabin in an agricultural district. The other two were annual permits for temporary agricultural housing at a pair of La Crescent orchards.

Revenue check dispersed

Jim Nissen, La Crosse district manager for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, reported that his agency had paid $25,634 to Houston County in 2012 as part of the Refuge Revenue Sharing Act.

The program is intended to make up for losses to local property taxes, since federal lands are not taxable.

Last April, USFWS added another 34 acres of Houston County land to the refuge in the Root River bottoms, Nissen added.

The Pool 8 habitat project on the Mississippi River (including restored islands) is now complete, he told commissioners.

Forfeited home to be demolished

Three sealed bids to demolish and clean up a tax-forfeited home site within the city of Houston were opened. Low-bidder Ole's Excavating was awarded the job for $5,500.

Auditor Char Meiners said the expense would be paid by her office and the county may be able to recoup the cost from the sale of the lot.

Meeting scheduled modified

The Houston County Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday, Oct. 30, even though it was a fifth Tuesday since the board will not meet on Tuesday, Nov. 6, because it is General Election Day.