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County Board approves applying for Dakota Trail grant on 3-2 vote

The McLeod County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to proceed with an application for $3.6 million in Legacy funding for improvements to the Dakota Trail.
The issue had been tabled from its Aug. 16 meeting, when concerns were raised about a 20-year commitment to maintain the trail.
Commissioners Doug Krueger and Ron Shimanski both voted against the resolution for the application for funding, while commissioners Sheldon Nies, Joe Nagel and Paul Wright voted in favor.
Krueger reiterated his position from the last meeting — that while he is not opposed to applying for grant funding, he did have trouble with committing the county to funding for 20 years of maintenance.
Shimanski indicated that he had concern about maintaining the trail after that 20-year period as well as during that period. He noted that Legacy funding will expire in 2034. Part of the application is for funding to pave the trail.
“Eventually, that surface will need some rehabilitation, and may need to be repaved,” said Shimanski. And there may not be money available at that point.
Shimanski said he also is concerned about unanticipated costs, and asked about liability insurance. McLeod County Parks Director Al Koglin said the trail would be covered under the county’s insurance with the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust (MCIT).
“My concern here is that there are still some undisclosed costs that may come up,” said Shimanski.
As for the maintenance, Koglin said the cities of Hutchinson and Lester Prairie had indicated that they would take care of maintenance of the portions of the trail within their city limits. That would pare down the county’s miles of trail to maintain to 14 from 18.
Koglin admitted that it was difficult to get a handle on actual maintenance costs because most trails are owned and maintained by the DNR, not by the county. Based on costs experienced by Carver County, Koglin had estimated at the last meeting that maintenance could cost between $14,000 to $18,000 per year. That cost would be cut down if Hutchinson and Lester Prairie take over four miles of maintenance.
And he now estimates that the cost will be about $452 mile per year, down from the $750 to $1,000 per mile estimated at the last meeting. But Koglin said that getting a firm number on maintenance “is really hard to do.”
Krueger said that the unknown cost for maintenance is one of his concerns.
“Nobody has convinced me to sign an open-ended contract,” said Krueger. “We still have 20 years of unknown. I wouldn’t be representing my constituency well if I signed on to something when I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Commissioner Paul Wright said the main issue for him was trying to capture dollars that were generated in the county and bring them back to the county. The Legacy fund is funded through a portion of the state sales tax.
Wright said the county provides maintenance for its other property, whether it’s fixing roads or replacing air conditioners at the fairgrounds.
“I’m not a trail user at all, but I do recognize the issue of trails and how they do help the state,” said Wright. His interest, he said, was “pulling our money back here” for the benefit of McLeod County. If McLeod County doesn’t take advantage of the grant opportunity, he said, the money will go elsewhere.

For more, see the Aug. 31 print edition of The Chronicle.