Road Improvement for SE Rochester
The long anticipated improvement to County Road 101 in SE Rochester will begin in Spring 2022. This road used by many people on the south side of my district is the most traveled gravel road in the county.
County 101 between County Road 1 (by Gamehaven Boy Scout Camp) and St. Bridget’s Road (by Loews at Shops on Maine) will be totally reconstructed. The reconstruction will include roundabouts at the east end of 101 and will enter St. Bridgets Road on 48th Street. The road will be wider to allow for shoulders, the hills will be reduced and box culverts will be installed; this phase should be complete by October 2022. This phase of reconstruction costs about $7,000,000. In 2023 the road will be completed with a concrete surface to bring it up to a 10 ton standard. I supported the priority of reconstructing this road.
Zero Carbon Energy
The County’s six-acre Solar Field is complete and producing electricity. Olmsted County contracted with Cenergy Power to install the solar panels and equipment. The electricity will be sold to People’s Power Coop. The solar field was built on land that had been polluted by a previous land owner who abandoned the property. I voted for the effort to reclaim the polluted site for solar energy. The project will produce about 2 megawatt hours per year; which is about enough energy for 200 homes. The solar field is located in Haverhill Township. The construction began December 7, 2020.
There are 88 soil and water conservation districts in Minnesota. Soil and Water Districts across the country were started after the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. Olmsted County’s Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) was formed in 1947. The SWCD is one of less known divisions of Olmsted County but plays an important role in working with private landowners and farmers to preserve soil, improve soil health, protect the groundwater and protect the drinking water quality. I support the SWCD’s programs and efforts to reduce nitrates in the ground water and preserve our topsoil.
Preliminary Levy Set
State Law requires counties to set the proposed tax levy by September 30. The county set the levy at a 4.9% increase from 2021. (In 2021 the tax levy was set at 0% increase from 2020). The actual levy will be set at the December meeting after the Truth in Taxation meeting which is set for December 2nd at 7:00 PM. The public can comment on the proposed tax levy at that time.
In 2021 the property tax total for Olmsted County was $107,552,790. The proposed property tax will total about $112,822,877. This does not mean that individual homeowner property taxes will increase 4.9%. I voted with the majority to set the preliminary property tax levy.
The Housing and Redevelopment Administration also set a proposed tax levy. The HRA uses the tax funds to increase and improve the housing for the homeless and for very low-income families. The HRA preliminary levy was set at .0815% of the estimated county market value (excluding Stewartville who has its own HRA). This will amount to $3,934,341 million which is about $156,000 more or a 4.15% increase from 2021. I voted with the majority to increase the funding to provide housing for our homeless and low-income residents.
ECHO – Empowering Connection and Housing Outreach
Olmsted County has started a process to rapidly connect homeless with housing opportunities. This team will have their offices at the same location as the warming shelter so that an immediate connection can be made with the homeless. ECHO will began operation on the first of October. I have supported this county effort to increase the services and response time for the homeless.
Refinancing and Saving Money
Olmsted County will refinance two bonds that will save $318,000 over the life of the bonds ($28,000) per year. The bond interest payments will be lower and will be paid off in 2033.
I supported the refinancing of these bonds. The County also paid off early a bond that was used to improve the Waste to Energy facility; the cost saving was $95,000.
Board Expresses Dissatisfaction with MnDOT – Minnesota Department of Transportation
The Board heard a presentation from MnDOT. The Board expressed its dismay that MnDOT still has not included Olmsted’s critical highway improvement requests on their road improvement plan. I joined other Board members in reminding the MnDOT that Olmsted County is the fourth fastest growing county in Minnesota and that Olmsted is an economic engine for the State. We have critical needs to keep commerce moving and improving the safety on our roadways. The interchange at County 44 and Highway 14 will be a legislative priority for the County. I support this legislative priority.