Tuesday’s Yellow Medicine County Board meeting attracted more spectators than usual due to a hearing scheduled to discuss a controversial ditch project. County Ditch 36 is located in the northern part of Hazel Run Township, just west of Granite Falls. The ditch, which was originally built between 1953 and 1954 is an open ditch, and provides drainage for several adjacent properties.

Engineer Bill Helget of Bolton & Menk presented his proposals to the Board. He found that the capacity of the ditch downstream was below what is normally recommended for watersheds of that size. According to his survey, the open branch of the ditch carried roughly a quarter inch of water per day per tile, whereas the recommended capacity for that branch should be around a half inch.

Helget also informed the commissioners that there were no known ecological dangers to the project, and local residents could expect temporary noise and erosion, but nothing very serious. The total cost for the project is over $300,000, significantly higher than the estimated economic benefit (around $244,774, according to Helget). Benefits of the project include greater hydraulic flow downstream of the ditch, which in turn would produce larger yields.

The hearing was only preliminary, and was designed to determine whether or not the project was structurally feasible. Commissioners did not make any determination on the economic viability of the project, something that will be decided on during the final hearing. After considerable debate and a failed motion, the Board voted to advance the project to the next step. Commissioner John Berends abstained from the vote because of financial connections with one of the project participants.

In other news:

The County Board approved the hiring of Jordan Haack as a full-time Correctional Officer/Dispatcher. His starting salary will be grade 12, step 1, and his start date is scheduled for July 9.

A prosecution agreement with the City of Echo was also approved by the Board. According to the agreement, Yellow Medicine will agree to prosecute petty misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses, including criminal and traffic state law violations that occur within the jurisdiction of the municipality of Echo. Echo agreed to pay the County $100 per hour for all attorney services.

The Board agreed to a financial services contract with UBE, a global financial services company. Under the agreement, UBS will manage County financial assets and will provide investment advice and consultation. During the previous Board meeting earlier this month, representatives from UBS spoke with commissioners about the proposed agreement. Several commissioners had concerns about language in the agreement, so the final decision was delayed. The proposal was ultimately passed unanimously by the Board.

Head of Maintenance Rick Wandersee presented bids for new carpeting in the Family Services Center. He said the bids were slightly higher than expected, but recommended two bids from Aus Floors & More. The first bid is in the amount of $15,591.24 to purchase and install carpeting on the first floor of the building. The second is for the purchase of second floor carpeting only, and is quoted at $10,694.65. Wandersee said he would install the carpeting himself on the second floor to avoid staff disruptions and cut down on costs.