With summer road construction in full swing, Houston County commissioners approved a pair of state bridge bonding grants and bids for two additional projects on July 17.

The grants will go toward bridge replacements on CSAH 4 and 249. They are for $38,123 and $39,592, respectively.

County engineer Brian Pogodzinski said that when combined with other state aid funds, "close to the full amount" will probably be covered, leaving little for the county to pay off.

Both of those bridges plus a third on Swede Bottom Road are federal projects, Pogodzinski said.

Five contractors offered to replace the Swede Bottom structure, but one bid was thrown out for being late.

Minnowa Construction got the contract after sending in the lowest bid at $433,933, 8.7 percent under the engineer's estimate.

Another bidding war was won by Mathy Construction, which offered to pave five sections on CSAH 9 and 26 with new asphalt for $1,440,677. That bid was 9 percent below the engineering estimate, Pogodzinski said.

"This will primarily be paid for with state aid funds," he added, telling commissioners that the work should be done in September and will tie in with Fillmore County pavement projects.

Storm knocks out equipment

"There wasn't a thing in my office that didn't 'pop'," finance director Carol Lapham said of a storm that hit Caledonia on the morning of July 13.

Several computers were damaged along with a copy machine, a telephone, some phone system components and a "wireless bridge" that connects the Historic Courthouse with the Highway Department building by the fairgrounds. The equipment was insured, she added.

"I don't know if it was related to the storm or not... but a control board module went out that affected the second floor (Historic Courthouse) air conditioning," Human Resources/ buildings maintenance director Tess Kruger reported. Repairs for that will run approximately $3,000.

Privacy fence approved

Kruger asked commissioners to approve a privacy fence for the east end of the Justice Center parking lot, and they did.

Low bidder, American Fence Company, will put up an 8 ft. tall by 144 ft. long fence for $4,870 to block light pollution from neighbors.

Kruger said that headlights from vehicles at the round-the-clock facility had resulted in complaints.

Morgue discussion forthcoming

Kruger informed the board that more information on morgue services should be available "within a week."

Commissioners were told on April 24 that the eight-county consortium, which they participate in for medical and forensic autopsies at Regina Medical Center, may have to move to a larger space soon.

Hennepin County was preparing a proposal at that time for the group to move medical examiner services to Minneapolis and become employees of Hennepin County.

Kruger told commissioners that another option would be to send the county's medical autopsies to Mayo Clinic, while forensic examinations would go to Minneapolis.

"I will be contacting them (Mayo) today," she reported. The board will need to determine whether or not they want to continue with the current joint powers agreement next year or not, Kruger said.

Houston County currently pays $2.65 per capita per year for the service. Estimates of consortium costs for 2013 run from $2.58 to $2.75, she stated.

Redesign decision next week

Commissioners talked over recent developments in the Human Services Redesign Project, but did not vote on whether or not to continue in a multi-county group studying SDA (service delivery authority) options.

Commissioner Tom Bjerke was not in attendance and the week before had asked the group not to vote on the issue until he could weigh in.

Chairman Jack Miller said Houston County should vote on July 24 whether or not to stay in the group.

Voting to continue at this point does not commit the county to an SDA, he added.

"It's become a very complicated issue... There's really no rush to go into an SDA at this point. You don't have to affiliate with anyone if you can meet (Minnesota Department of Human Services) performance standards."

An SDA, he added, would require a population of 55,000.

Miller reported that Houston County would be the last to vote on further participation. Of the 12 original counties, only five (Dodge, Steele, Waseca, Mower and Freeborn) have voted to continue with the large group.

Fillmore, Winona, Goodhue and Wabasha are considering smaller SDAs. Olmsted has shown a preference to go it alone, while Rice County has decided on no further participation in the redesign group.