April 24 news

WORTHINGTON – The Worthington City Council this morning awarded bids for tree and branch removal and debris management during a meeting continued from late last week. Ceres Environmental bid $603,375 for tree and branch removal, which includes hazardous hanging limbs and stump removal for 50,000 cubic yards of debris. Ceres’ bid was significantly lower than a second bid by TAG Grinding Service, coming in more than $300,000 less.

Nobles County Landfill was awarded the bid for site and debris management of the estimated 50,000 cubic yards of trees and branches. Their bid of $350,000, at a combined cost for management and burning of $7 per unit, compared favorably to the $800,000 bid by Larson Crane Service.

After a meeting with FEMA and Homeland Security Tuesday, city leaders have learned contracting with private firms, rather than using city staff, is covered more extensively under a proposed presidential disaster declaration. Temporary workers will be hired to monitor the loads of debris, as per FEMA requirements, to keep track of debris amounts.

The council also passed a motion stating that as of May 31, weather permitting, all residents must have debris on the curb for hauling. If a homeowner hires a commercial contractor to trim or remove trees, that contractor is responsible for hauling away the debris.

Now that a bid for tree removal has been awarded, Public Works Director Jim Eulberg will sit down with Ceres project manager David Preus and design a ‘game plan’ for the monumental project.

WORTHINGTON – FEMA and Homeland Security met Tuesday with officials from cities and townships in Nobles County to talk about damage assessment to public infrastructure following the April snow and ice storms. According to Homeland Security Public Assistance Officer Bill Hirte there are several steps that need to be taken before reimbursement monies can be sent out. The state threshold of $7.26 million must be met, and the amount in Nobles County must be approximately $70,000. Hirte said there should be no problem meeting either threshold.

Once a preliminary damage assessment is conducted and figures compiled, Homeland Security gathers information regarding the impact to the community and incorporates it into a report with a letter for the governor to sign, then it is reviewed at another location before being sent on to the president for a disaster declaration. Hirte said staff from his office and FEMA will visit individually with each eligible applicant.

Turnaround time on the process is a bit unclear, but Hirte said in a perfect world it could be no more than 30 days until reimbursement is provided once the president signs the declaration.
Ellsworth is estimating $1.2 million in damages, while the city of Adrian came up with a total of approximately $210,000. Brewster is looking at about $55,000.

Similar meetings took place in Rock and Jackson County Tuesday. Meetings are scheduled in Murray County and Cottonwood County this morning so information is shared with all of the counties involved in the proposed declaration.

WORTHINGTON – Nobles County Attorney Kathy Kusz introduced new assistant attorney Adam Johnson Tuesday during the Board of Commissioners meeting. Johnson has a strong background in child protection and juvenile cases, and will be a great asset to the attorney’s office and county, Kusz said.

The commissioners heard annual updates from Jan Voit of the Heron Lake Watershed District and Ed Lenz and Paul Langseth of the Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District. Both agencies described current activities and spoke of upcoming projects. HLWD is planning to build five rain gardens in Fulda this summer and looking into a flood control project in Seward Township, which Voit said would be the biggest project they had ever done.

Asked about the availability of SWCD trees after the destruction caused by the April ice storm, Lenz said they do have trees, but only at a height of three to four feet, which would get snapped off or mowed in Worthington’s boulevards. The group is trying to obtain additional trees, Lenz said, but the issue was more about watering, since young transplanted trees need one to three gallons of water each day. Even with all of the local ice, rain and snow, Worthington is still under a watering restriction due to drought.

The Commissioners approved five conditional use permits and one personnel policy, tabling a second policy for further discussion after more information is gathered. A request from Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water to complete an advance crossover refund of bonds issued in 2006 was also tabled.

SLAYTON — Just weeks after physician’s assistant Dan Woldt was reinstated following two months of administrative leave, the Murray County Medical Center Board has approved his resignation. Chairman Bob Moline Tuesday read a prepared statement noting that the Board Personnel Committee had a conference call with its legal counsel after they had received a letter from Woldt’s attorney. The letter asked that Woldt be released from a 90-day notice period, effective immediately.

A motion was made by board member Lynne Johnson to entertain discussion from the public during the meeting, but that motion died for lack of a second. The board approved the waiver of the 90-day period with no discussion.

WORTHINGTON — In the aftermath of the ice and snow storm in early April, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the University of Minnesota Extension will host two public meetings to discuss how to identify hazard trees in your landscape. After the initial storm cleanup, it is important that homeowners assess potentially hazardous trees.

The meetings will be from 1:30 to 3 p.m. May 1 at the Regional Extension Center, 1527 Prairie Drive, Worthington, and from 5:30 to 7 p.m. May 1 at the Luverne Elementary Commons off of Dodge Street in Luverne. For more information contact Gary Wyatt at (507) 389-6748.

SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa - A smell believed to be that of natural gas resulted in the evacuation Tuesday afternoon of the Spirit Lake High School.

High School Principal Kevin Range said a construction worker reported the smell around 2:25 p.m., and the building was evacuated per protocol. He says Black Hills Energy was contacted. Range says personnel with Black Hills Energy confirmed no traces of gas anywhere in the location and gave an all clear. He says staff and students who had been sent to the Middle School gym were allowed to return about 10 minutes later.

Range and Superintendent Dr. David Smith noted the quick response by Black Hills Energy and thanked students and staff for their cooperation and what they say was a very orderly evacuation.

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