County Commissioners approve two petitions for ditch use

A public hearing was held during the March 21 Stevens County Commissioners meeting to allow for public input on petitions from landowners wishing to connect to two county ditches. 

Landowners who are in a watershed area of a particular ditch system but are not benefiting from the system or in other words not paying ditch benefits, because they were removed or never added for various reasons, have to petition to be allowed to drain in the ditch system.  Once the petition is approved, they are able to drain and they will be charged a one time outlet fee and any future ditch assessments. Unless there is an improvement project or a redetermination of benefits, the ditch assessments are annual maintenance assessments.

As part of the process, once a landowner’s petition to outlet into the ditch system is received, a public hearing is held with the County Commissioners to address any concerns from other landowners. That public hearing for the petitions to outlet into Ditch 15 and Ditch 1 was held at the meeting on March 21.

The petitioners were Kelly Zimmerman asking to outlet into County Ditch 1 and Kimberly Fischer/Trust and Rouane Fischer petitioning to outlet into County Ditch 15. For each of these petitions, no one was present to protest the  drainage. 

County Ditch Inspector Scott Erickson gave the commissioners maps and information about the proposed drainage into each of these ditches.  The Zimmerman property would have 28 benefitting acres with an outlet fee of $420.  The Fischer properties would have 16.4 and 14.8 acres with an outlet fee of $246 and $360, respectively.

The commissioners approved all of the petitions and then closed the public hearing.

Earlier in the public comment portion of the regular meeting, Supt. Shane Monson of Morris Area School and Deann Recker, Morris Area Transportation Director, wanted to share their appreciation for all of the Stevens County Snow Plow Drivers and Bryan Tolifson for helping to make good decisions involving the safety of the students and staff. 

Jon Maras, Assistant County Engineer, told the county commissioners that there was finally some good news at the highway department. The bids recently opened for summer highway work came in much closer than predicted and about at the same level as last year. With the way prices have been going up, it was good to see them level out.

The low bidder was Central Specialties for the summer projects. The county will also be advertising for bids for bituminous paving to be done this summer. 

Another piece of good news was that the county plow drivers would possibly get their first weekend off on March 24-26. They have been working every weekend since March 3. 

As part of the Opioid Settlement, the county will need to set up a task force to enter into settlement agreements related to civil litigation over the effects of opioid use and abuse. The Task Force will include the Horizon Public Health Director, Human Services Director, Stevens County Administrator, Stevens County Probation director, Stevens County Sheriff, Stevens County Veterans Service Director and one Stevens County Commissioner. Stevens County Attorney Aaron Jordan was included on the list but asked to be removed due to a possible conflict of interest. The county will have a total of $540,000 in expected funds. 

County Commissioner Bob Kopitzke, District 1, gave a report on the progress at the daycare pods construction site. He stated that the siding and insulation is done. The sheetrocking would be starting within the week. The parking lot work will begin as weather permits.