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Beltrami County Board: Road conditions are major citizen concern

By Molly Miron, Special to the Pioneer

The public hearing on the Capital Improvement Plan for transportation drew a crowd to the Beltrami County Board meeting Tuesday.

The commissioners unanimously approved $750,000 in county funds to work on six road and bridge projects, along with other routine maintenance in 2013. The remainder of the $8,050,000 in repairs will come out of federal, state and tribal input.

County Engineer Bruce Hasbargen also presented the projects listed in the five-year roads plan. However, County Commissioner Jim Lucachick moved and Commissioner Richard Anderson seconded a proposal to postpone action pending further study on the projects Hasbargen listed for years 2014-2017. Commissioners unanimously approved the motion.

Hasbargen reported that the amount to accomplish all the projects in need of completion on Beltrami County’s 400 miles of paved roads and 350-400 miles of gravel roads would total about $80 million.

Several residents spoke in favor of raising taxes and bonding while interest rates are low to get all the work completed sooner rather than stretched out over a period of years.

John Bailey, who lives in Alaska Township, noted that County Road 5, which he said he drives seven days a week between Bemidji and his home near Balm Lake, is so rough it damages the front ends of his trucks, requiring premature replacements. County Road 5 was paved in 1976, he said, and is overdue for rebuilding, action that he said would carry both “political consensus and economic consensus.”

John Gilbertson of Puposky agreed with Bailey, but asked for more attention to rural roads rather than concentrating on areas near Bemidji.

Larry Tolman of Solway, Lammers Township chairman and 32-year veteran firefighter, described the accelerated wear on the Solway fire trucks.

Hasbargen cited the variety of techniques available for road maintenance and the cost per mile of each:

-- $5,000 for patching.

-- $25,000 for chip sealing.

-- $100,000 for a thin overlay.

-- $250,000 for a thick overlay.

-- $750,000 for reconstruction.

However, he said, the Mission Road rebuild cost more like $1 million per mile.

Hasbargen said the criteria for prioritizing which roads are repaired first include average daily traffic, the condition of existing pavement, annual maintenance costs and safety concerns.

Projects slated for 2013 are as follows:

-- 2.6 miles of resurfacing of Lake Avenue from First Street to Elliot Road.

-- 6 miles of bituminous overlay on Grange Road from State Highway 89 to County Road 15.

-- 1.5 miles of milling and bituminous overlay on Anne Street from U.S. Highway 71 to County Road 21.

-- 2.2 miles of grading and bituminous surfacing, the second phase of Mission Road rebuilding from County Road 8 to Porcupine Road. This is a joint project with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

-- .8 miles of bituminous overlay on Glidden Road from County Road 21 to U.S. Highway 71.

-- Turtle River bridge replacement.

-- General seal coating and countywide graveling and stabilization.

Lucachick said Beltrami County’s last 10 years were marked by a building campaign. He said the next 10 years should be dedicated to improving roads.