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Dunn County winter road maintenance $333,000 in the hole

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Highway Department’s winter maintenance budget already has a $333,000 deficit — and winter has not even started yet.

The deficit is because of the long winter last year, including the snowstorm in early May that dumped more than a foot of snow on West Central Wisconsin.

In addition to the extra winter road maintenance, the highway department experienced a one-month delay this spring on the construction season, reported Jesse Rintala, highway commissioner, at the Dunn County Board’s November 12 meeting.

Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax, asked how the highway department was going to make up the deficit in the winter maintenance budget.

The highway department has cut back $849,000 on construction and maintenance this year, Rintala said.

A staff position that has been open for the past year also has not been filled, he said.

“I anticipate we will be in good shape at the end of the year,” Rintala said.

The total winter maintenance budget for 2012 was nearly $940,000.

Jim Anderson, county board supervisor from Menomonie, asked about the county’s policy for mowing ditches.

Many counties are cutting back on mowing because of the expense, but if the ditches are not mowed, noxious weeds and invasive plants will not be controlled very well, he said.

County crews mow along county highways two times per year, Rintala said.

The Dunn County Highway Department also is working with the land conservation office to identify invasive species and noxious weeds in order to manage and control those types of plants, he said.

The state pays for mowing along state highways one time per year, Rintala said.

Exceptions would be medians along state Highways 12/29 and traffic triangles where tall growth could be a problem, he said.

In general, “the state pays for a single pass one time per year,” Rintala said.