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County Board hears winter road maintenance plan

The Lake County Board of Commissioners got an update on winter highway maintenance from highway engineer Krysten Foster during its meeting Tuesday in Two Harbors.

In addition to challenges posed by last December's fire at the highway department garage on Highway 2 in Two Harbors, the department will begin the season down a couple of plow drivers. This means the department will be using plow trucks only to clear roads to start the winter, instead of a combination of graders followed by a plow truck that will also salt the roads.

"Fortunately, you have a committed crew and I'm confident in the department's ability to manage storms under (maintenance superintendent) Neil (Udenberg's) leadership especially during these first few months," Foster said. "I'm optimistic that we'll adapt, especially by mid-winter, by working together, as we always do, but we are going to be starting the first two to three months without graders on the road most of the time. So it may take a little bit longer and we're asking for everybody's patience until we're back at 100 percent and we have a plan in place to get there."

Foster also spoke to the board about her work with North Shore Area Partners and some older Isabella residents about getting their driveways plowed this winter. Residents had contacted the county last winter about using county equipment and employees to plow some of the more remote driveways in the area. The county stopped plowing private driveways about nine years ago because a private company was willing to do the work and the county didn't want to compete with a local business owner for work.

"Commissioner (Rick) Goutermont and Commissioner (Peter) Walsh opened the door to a cooperative program facilitated by North Shore Area Partners for those residents," Foster said. "Last week we met with a group of Isabella residents, we all set down around a table and said we're here to help you help each other by working together. They developed a pilot program for this winter, they came up with their own performance standards and an application form."

North Shore Area Partners has application forms available in its office, 99 Edison Blvd., Silver Bay.

Also at the meeting, county administrator Matt Huddleston told the board the 3D scan of the highway department building damaged in the Dec. 14, 2016 fire was completed and the results of the scan should be back by Friday. The scan was paid for Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust and Huddleston believes it could reveal even further structural damage caused by the fire.

Huddleston also spoke to the board about having an open house Oct. 24 to get public feedback on potentially building a new highway facility in Two Harbors.There is already a board meeting scheduled for Oct. 24 in Two Harbors and during the regular meeting, Huddleston hoped the county's architect could present to the board the plan for the new building, while Huddleston and Foster would talk to the board about the deficiencies of the existing facility, even before it was ravaged by fire.

After the board meeting, the board hopes to hold an open house in the Law Enforcement Center in Two Harbors where the plans would be presented and members of the public could voice their opinions. No time was set, but the board hoped to hold the open house in the early evening hours.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle in August 2015. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and previously worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. He is the beat writer for the Lake County Board of Commissioners, Lake Superior School District board of education and high school sports in Lake County. 

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