Time extension granted for wildlife pond project

By Greg Hunt

A wildlife pond project started in 2009 in North Branch Township came close to having its conditional use permit revoked, but the Isanti County Board allowed a 60-day extension to see if it can be wrapped up this year.

The conditional use permit for the project on LeRoy Mell’s land was the focal point for a public hearing at the Oct. 19 county board meeting. As Asst. County Attorney Tom Wedes pointed out, this project caused “a high frustration level” to the IC Planning Commission since several completion deadlines were missed since the CUP’s issuance in May 2009. Frustration was also felt by two neighbors since a drainage ditch was plugged this past spring, causing water to nearly overflow on the road to their properties.

IC Zoning Administrator Tim Anderson said he saw improvements to the project when he made an Oct. 17 inspection, including a swale cut through the dirt dike which will allow better water drainage along the dead-end road. Two neighbors and North Branch Township Supervisor Gary Lindstrom spoke at the public hearing about their frustrations with the project.

Also speaking was Mell’s brother-in-law Bill Graham who said Mell’s latest setback was suffering a heart attack which limited his ability to work on the project late summer and into fall. Graham said he has recently worked with a bulldozer on the dirt berm along the road and will continue to assist Mell this autumn.

“LeRoy’s a decent guy, and he’s tried his best to create a wildlife pond in that area,” spoke Graham.

The county board approved the 60-day stay of revocation on the CUP. The berm along the township road must by completely removed and spread on the property’s high ground. More requirements are for grass seeding to be completed along the pond slopes. Anderson said the Fisheries Division of the DNR will be building a dam next year which will fill the wildlife pond.

Right-of-Way payments approved for Co. Rd. 9 project

Co. Rd. 9 in southeastern Isanti County will be undergoing a widening project in 2012 from Co. Rd. 45 east to Co. Rd. 18. The board approved Highway Engineer Richard Heilman’s request for a total of $97,900 to property owners for right-of-way payments for the project which is backed by federal funding.

Heilman noted that three of the 57 properties along the project strip will be going through eminent domain procedures.

Toward Zero Death report

Bob Bollenbeck and Robert Voss of the East Central Regional Development Commission gave an update report to the board on the “Toward Zero Death” traffic safety program at the Oct. 19 meeting. TZD activities this year centered on the “Seat Belts and Speed” initiative to reinforce safety belt usage through law enforcement.

The two stated there is a strong TZD support base in Isanti County, and Kanabec County came on board this year. The initial focus for the program was on the Hwys. 65 and 95 corridors, but now the plan focusses on the entire Isanti County.

Springvale Park upgrades public hearing

As mandated for Legacy Amendment applicants, a public hearing was held at the board meeting to approve Park Director Barry Wendorf’s Parks & Trails Fund grant application for improvements to Springvale Park. Wendorf designed a $200,000 upgrade plan for 2012 for Springvale which includes extending the paved trail 1 mile, constructing an interpretative shelter and adding a disc golf course.

If the project is selected by the Legacy Commission, $178,000 of the costs could be covered by a Legacy grant, with the extra $22,000 coming out of the IC Park Department’s special project and park reserve funds.

Springvale is the largest Isanti County park at 211 acres, explained Wendorf. Located west of Cambridge on Hwy. 95, it could qualify as a regional park since it draws visitors from several towns within a 20 mile radius.

• Next County Board meeting: Wednesday, Nov. 2 (9 a.m.).