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‘I’ve never seen this before’

Ice fully blocking culverts is causing expensive damage

By Anna Jauhola
A strange situation has developed in Poppleton Township northeast of Lancaster.
The Kittson County Commissioners heard Tuesday, April 19 that two concrete box culverts are completely blocked by ice. This forced water in the ditch to breach Township Road 68 and cause damage around the culverts. Dennis Anderson from the township contacted the county about the situation, which led the highway department to get involved.
“Because we inspect culverts and bridges for townships, we went out there,” said Keith Klegstad, assistant county engineer and bridge inspector. “It’s two 9-by-5-foot box culverts on State Ditch 84. … I’ve never seen this before. It is a 9-by-5 solid block of ice from end to end. It is not allowing any water through.”
On Tuesday, April 12, the state allowed for disaster declarations due to severe weather that swept through the area. The commissioners approved Resolution 22-14, a disaster declaration for a severe weather incident. With approval from the state, the township will receive 75 percent reimbursement for the costs of damage and repair.
Because the ice in the culverts is impeding the water’s flow, it has taken other routes, including through the embankment where it has washed out aggregate around the pipe and possibly underneath. Klegstad said there is cracking in the road between the two pipes, which is a direct sign of an impending road collapse once the frost thaws.
Klegstad said a half mile south on the ditch is a water control structure operated by the Two Rivers Watershed District, which is used to dump that water into the Two Rivers.
Poppleton Township officers closed the road on Thursday, April 14 placing barricades at either end. However, due to the severity, Klegstad informed the state bridge office, which recommended they place type 3 barricades with flashing lights. These barricades are much more difficult to move and provide more safety for the general public.
Klegstad said the township road sees local traffic, specifically from cattle farmers, but is not a mail or bus route.
While there isn’t an estimated cost for repairs, or a specific plan, Klegstad indicated it will be significant.
“The rip rap in the side between the pipe is gone. It’s sunk. The embankment material is washed away,” he said.
He added there is a similar set of culverts in St. Joseph Township to the north and this freezing issue did not occur.
“We don’t know if that (Two Rivers Watershed) control structure a half mile downstream backed up water into (the culvert) and it froze. Or, we’ve had hellacious winds from one direction and then the next, it could be plugged with snow,” Klegstad said. “It’s quite odd because it did not freeze up that way.”
In other business, the commission:
• Approved hiring Amey Swenson as accounting clerk II at the highway department, filling the position left by Kris Thorlacius. Swenson is making a lateral move from the tax services office to the highway department, and will stay at the same pay and grade, which is currently in union negotiations. Once those are finalized, the anticipated pay will be $22.06 per hour. She will tentatively begin in that position the beginning of May.
• Approved hiring Jason Christian as the motor grader operator to fill the position vacated by Dana Olson, who is now the maintenance foreman. This is a lateral move for Christian and he will remain at the same pay, which is $25.17. His start date was officially Tuesday, April 19.
• Approved advertising for a new motor grader position.
• Approved the low bid for county-wide restriping from SIr Lines-A-Lot of Edina, Minn., for $64,680.95. This is over budget by about $9,000, but County Engineer Andrea Weleski said, “This is going to be normal on all our bids. Across the board, this is what we’re seeing on all our contracts, which is unfortunate.”
• Approved bids from River in a Valley Farms for roadside mowing in five of the seven county-mowed areas. This was the only bidder for the job and the cost is $58,535. The county budgeted $78,400 for mowing this summer, so the low bid is because no one bid to mow the northwest and west central areas. Weleski said the highway department summer help will likely be able to handle mowing those sections as they are a single cut.
• Approved equipment rental contracts, which are numbers submitted for various items from a number of area contractors and used only when the county may need them, Weleski said. Commissioner Nathan Kraulik abstained from the vote as his company, Kraulik Excavating, was one of the contractors on the list.
• Approved Kittson County as the fiscal agent for the Kittson County Trailblazers Snowmobile Club, specifically for grooming trails.
• Approved finalizing the change in the county’s tobacco ordinance, which had to be open for public comment for 30 days. No one commented, and the change in legal age to purchase tobacco products was changed from 18 to 21.
• Approved Assessor Heather Bruley’s request for a tax abatement for 2022 for a relative homestead that should have been extended. The abatement will reduce taxes on the property from $962 to $487.
• Reappointed Wayne Jacobson as the county veterans services officer for another four years.
• Approved moving the tax forfeited land auction to Thursday, April 28 at 11 a.m. It was originally scheduled for Wednesday, April 13, but was canceled due to inclement weather.
The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday May 3 at 9 a.m.

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