The Houston County Township Officers Association 2013 board members are shown above. They are, in front, Burdette Unnasch, Richard Markos, Kermit McRae and Richard Nelson; and in back are Arlyn Pohlman, Mike Patterson and Eugene Tessmer. Marian Lynch and Julie Amundson were absent for the photo.Photo by Jan Buxengard
The Houston County Township Officers Association 2013 board members are shown above. They are, in front, Burdette Unnasch, Richard Markos, Kermit McRae and Richard Nelson; and in back are Arlyn Pohlman, Mike Patterson and Eugene Tessmer. Marian Lynch and Julie Amundson were absent for the photo.

Photo by Jan Buxengard
The Houston County Township Officers Association (HCTOA) held its annual business meeting on April 4 at Good Times in Caledonia.

Attendance included township officers from the 17 townships in the county, as well as county commissioners and department heads, as well as representatives from the Minnesota Association of Townships (MAT) and MnDOT.

In the absence of the association's treasurer Julie Amundson, board member Gene Tessmer presented the 2012 financial report of the association, which showed a beginning balance of $1,181.35. Income amounted to $13,580.32 and expenses of $15,105.68, resulting in a negative balance of $344.01.

By a unanimous vote, township officers approved bylaws for the association. "There was no copy of any bylaws when the association was set up," Arlyn Pohlman stated before reading through the document the officers had developed. "We want to get this on the books and recorded in the county."

The bulk of the meeting agenda included several speakers who reported on a variety of timely topics.

"We value the relationship between county and township government and look forward to continuing that partnership," stated Justin Zmyewski, Houston County Commissioner chairman, in opening remarks.

Nathan Redalen, is the District 1 director with the Minnesota Association of Townships (MAT), a membership association representing the 1,784 township governments across the state.

MAT awards four $1,000 scholarships each to high school juniors. The scholarship program is designed to heighten awareness about Minnesota's grassroots township government system. May 1 is the deadline for submitting scholarship applications.

On a local note, Redalen praised Caledonia Township for the annual newsletter sent to its residents. "It's very nice, knowledgeable and informative for your township."

Payment in Leu of Taxes

Kermit McRae, HCTOA board member at large, is one of three township representatives of the MAT along with representatives from the Departments of Revenue, Management and Budget, and the DNR serving on the PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) state advisory committee.

The state of Minnesota makes PILT payments from the general fund to offset the costs of maintaining and the loss of tax base from natural resource lands such as forestland, state parks, etc., to cover losses to local government when private land becomes public.

Today, the PILT payments amount to $26 million per year for the 8,474,871 acres of public land in Minnesota. All 87 counties in the state receive some PILT monies.

Houston County has 17,106 acres of DNR-administered natural resources land. In December 2000, the county adopted the method of payment at three-fourths of one percent of the value of the property. The county's PILT payment for 2012 was $352,826.17.

Road and bridge projects

County engineer Brian Pogodzinski reported there are 450 miles of township system within the county. The 2013, the Town Road account payment for the certified miles was $222,274.

The engineer reported that of the 26 deficient township bridges in Houston County, 24 are load posted. The Township Bridge account fund balance currently is $570,160.74, but this amount will be reduced as 2013 projects are constructed.

Township bridge projects started last year on Swede Bottom Road and Perkins Valley Road would be completed this year.

County projects completed in 2012 included bridge replacements on county roads 22, 4 and 249, as well as reconstructing a one-mile segment of County Road 26. A seven-mile stretch of County Road 26 from TH 76 to Rushford was paved.

"(The year) 2013 will be a busy construction year," Pogodzinski pointed out. Scheduled township projects include replacing two bridges on Day Valley Road and a bridge on South Prairie Drive, as well as reconstructing a one-third mile segment of Christianson Hill Road.

County projects include reconstruction of County Road 25 from TH 16 to the Root River bridge and also on County Road 8 from TH 44 to the Iowa State Line. Mill and overlay work is planned on County Road 4 from TH 76 to County Road 15. And, an overlay pavement will be applied at the airport in the current location.

State projects in the county

Mark Anderson, project engineer with MnDOT, presented information about state highway construction projects scheduled for 2013 within the Houston County area.

Projects include:

• Mill and resurface Highway 26 from the Iowa border to Highway 16;

• Reno Springs roadside parking is a preservation project tied to the La Crescent state entry marker restoration and the La Crescent overlook preservation projects;

• Mill and resurface Highway 44 from Highway 52 to Spring Grove and replace five box culverts.

At the same time, the city of Spring Grove will be doing a reconstruction project on Hwy. 44, which runs through the city.

In 2012, construction cost in Houston County amounted to $8,882,525. In 2013, the amount is expected to be $11,723,687.

The large four-year project on I-90 will replace the Dresbach Bridge over the Mississippi River at a cost estimate of $187,543,070. The estimated 2013 cost in Houston County is $40 million.

The new crossing will consist of two separate bridges parallel and upstream from the existing bridge. The interchange configuration will provide full movement with no signals between I-90 and Highway 61, as well as access to the Travel Information Center and boat launches.

Environmental Services report

Rick Frank, county environmental services director, reported that 2012 revenues of $408,851 and expenses of $486,978, show the program operated at $78,127 to the red.

The recycling program has been totally supported by the fee of $2.50 per household per month.

In 2013, with the increase of household waste brought to drop sites, the fee was raised 50 cents to $3, which townships pay based on its number of households.

"It's been a trying year for the office with flags flying all over the place," Frank stated.

Regarding the frac sand, he reported, "A moratorium was put into place a year ago to slow the process down to take a look at all the issues on the table. Two ordinances - industrial and construction - are being drafted to address and protect what we have. In the permitting process, we have road use agreements with townships to make sure all your issues are addressed."

In other news

Tom Dybing, county assessor, reminded landowners that May 1 is the final date to convert woods and waste property from Green Acres to Rural Preserve.

"We are sending out letters if you haven't yet taken care of the conversion. It's painless, just a change in name only (for the program)," he stated.

Dick Walter, county surveyor, reported that a cooperative resurvey of the state line will be an on/off project that could take a year.

It involves the southern edges of Jefferson, Winnebago and Wilmington townships in Minnesota and the northern edge of Allamakee County in Iowa.

"It's been 161 years since the original survey," he stated, adding, "This is the basis for your property corners."

Officers elected

The HCTOA board is made up of representatives from four quadrants, with two people from each quadrant and one at large. Board members re-elected were:

• For the northwest (representing Money Creek, Houston, Sheldon and Yucatan townships) - Richard Nelson and Burdette Unnasch.

• For the northeast (representing Mound Prairie, La Crescent, Hokah, Union and Brownsville townships) - Richard Markos and Marian Lynch.

• For the southeast (representing Mayville, Winnebago, Crooked Creek and Jefferson townships) - Arlyn Pohlman and Eugene Tessmer.

• For the southwest (representing Black Hammer, Caledonia, Spring Grove and Wilmington townships) - Julie Amundson was re-elected, while Mike Patterson was elected to fill the vacancy of Richard Gulbranson, who decided not to continue serving on the board.

• Board member at large - incumbent Kermit McRae prevailed over John Beckman, who was nominated from the floor.