Township seeks public input on County Road 124

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 11/10/99.

Paynesville Township wants public input into a proposal to take over County Road 124. To this end, they will be holding a public hearing on Monday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m., at the township office, which is on the south end of the Paynesville Civic Arena.

The township board already has negotiated a price with the county for transferring this road to township ownership, but before an agreement is finalized township residents will have a chance for input about the project.

The county commissioners have already given their tentative approval to the agreement.

"The ball is in our court," said Don Pietsch, a township supervisor. "It's up to us to decide if we want the county to turn that road over to us."

The impetus for the township taking ownership of the road is the proposed pedestrian trail around Lake Koronis. County Road 124, which runs along the northeast shore of Lake Koronis, is expected to be the first segment of the trail. According to the county schedule, the road was to be overlayed in 2002. The county had been exploring ways to widen the road to include a trail before that.

The county and township differed over the placement of the eight-foot trail. Mitch Anderson, Stearns County Highway Engineer, said the county policy is to pave four-foot shoulders on busy roads (with a car count of at least 1,000 per day) or on roads designated as part of a trail.

The township preferred to have an eight-foot path on one side, preferably with some separation from the actual road, though that may prove difficult. Township supervisor Warren Nehring said the trail would be more usable on one side and safer, which is a primary reason for the trail in the first place. It most likely will be located on the side of the road opposite to the lake.

"With this trade," explained Anderson, "they can do what they want."

The tentative agreement calls for the township to receive a lump sum payment of $392,000. These funds would cover the cost of the overlay--budgeted at $216,000 in 2002, according to Anderson--and the widening of the road, as well as two years of maintenance.

"They did a good job of maintaining this road," said Nehring. He felt the township would need to keep the maintenance at the same level for township residents in the future.

Anderson added that County Road 124--which diverges from Highway 55, follows the lake for 2.4 miles, and then converges with Highway 55 again-- primarily serves the local residents. It doesn't have a county function as through-traffic would tend to use the state highway, he said.

Unless an issue is raised with the township's proposed acquisition of the trail at the public hearing, the tentative agreement will be used to draw up a formal one. That agreement could be approved by both the township board and the county commissioners by the first of the year.

That would give the township time to prepare construction plans for the road for next spring and summer. Nehring expects the township will be able to do the construction project for less than the county, which would save more of the funds for maintenance. The township and the Koronis Lake Association have pledged $10,000 apiece to the trail project already, which could be used for County Road 124.

The city of Paynesville has also pledged $10,000 to the trail, when it is connected to the city.

From the information they have from the county, township chairman Johnnie Olson said the road and the trail will fit in the road right of way. He said a few construction easements may be needed to build the trail.

One trouble spot is along Kruger's Pond, where the plan for the road is still under discussion. Olson said the township is discussing wetland concerns with both the county and the Department of Natural Resources.

Nehring, who will be donating dirt for the project, said the trail was a progressive project. Olson and Nehring said the inclusion of a trail along County Road 124 would be a good start to the trail project around the lake and hopefully would give momentum to the rest of the project.

Paul Osborne, who is leading the Paynesville Area Jaycees trail efforts, agreed it would be good to get construction under way. He said the next part of the trail project would be to connect the trail along County Road 124 to the city of Paynesville, which still hinges on how to cross Highway 55.

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