County board hears from residents on flooding concerns

The Lyon County Board heard an update Tuesday morning on efforts being made to toward regional watersheds and ongoing flood-control issues.

Lars Johansson, president of the non-profit Shetek Area Lakes Association, said he wanted to speak to the Board of Commissioners in order to form a coalition between counties, so they could solve the issues together. “It also spans into Lyon County. We’ve had people from Balaton being up in arms and I don’t blame them,” he said.

“There’s a graveyard that’s caving into the lake. We have oceans all over.” The citizen advocacy group was organized in response to massive flooding in 2018, and now has about 400 members. “We’ve been successful enough to convince legislators that we need to do something more than just talk. And that’s the reason why I’m here today,” Johansson said.

“The counties need to get together and start to do a plan of what to do with all these things.” Jim Wichmann, who lives on the west side of Lake Yankton in Balaton, has seen flooding damage increase in severity each year.

“I tell you, I witnessed a mudslide on Highway 14.This happened twice now. Three more feet and your north lane of Highway 14 will be in the lake,” he said.

“The lake has done damage to the Lakeside Cemetery. Approximately 30 to 40 feet slid in, getting close to graves and markers. If we don’t stop and think about what’s going to happen next year, it’s going to be severe.” Karen Larson of Rock Lake Township brought up the significant bearing the water issues have had on agriculture in the area.

“The impact of the water coming through the whole ditch systems not only affects Lake Yankton, Lake Shetek, but it also affects farm grounds. It affects some pasture ground where the farmer cannot keep his cattle out there and feed his cattle, because of all the flooding,” she said, adding that slowing the water through those ditches would provide some relief. Commissioner Gary Crowley agreed, but said the solutions to the problems will require substantial undertakings. 

“I think the whole process with the water issues … we’ve got to figure out a way to hold the water back, control it coming down. And to do that, you’ve got to start on the top, not the bottom,” Crowley said.

“And you know, there’s all kinds of efforts to do that particular thing. Even county-wide … but they’re a lot of small projects. With something like that we need a big project. That’s why we’ve got to get folks above us that’ve got the checkbook to take on some of those projects.”

“If we can work as a team, that is what we need to do. We are not here to ask for money today. We’re not coming from a political standpoint,” Johansson said. “We are looking at preventing in the future or minimizing damages in the future.”

Side-by-side for Sheriff’s Office Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve the purchase of a 2020 Polaris Ranger 500 two-passenger UTV for the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office. The decision was not unanimous and was made after much debate about its necessity and associated costs.

The side-by-side will be purchased from a portion of an Off-Highway Vehicle Safety Enforcement Grant, funded by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Sheriff Eric Wallen said. The grant assists state departments in off-highway enforcement activities, including staff training, ATV safety classes, and field enforcement activity. Wallen provided quotes on five different machines from two local vendors, which ranged in price from $5,000 to $13,000. The cheapest option was a single-passenger ATV, but Wallen said he was hoping to get something that would prove more useful for the department. “The simple question is ‘Will an ATV work for us?’ Bare bones, yes. We will get by with it,” he said.

“I think a side-by-side is much more beneficial to us just for the options it provides, with the ability to haul equipment and personnel into any type of situation.” “Well then you need to be prepared to buy a trailer, because that’s what the next request is going to be. You need to transport, right?” said Commissioner Steve Ritter. “But with the 4-wheeler you could put it in the back of a pick-up with ramps. And the Sheriff’s department to my knowledge has a number of pick-ups that would work.”

Wallen said the department would have access to trailers but could look at purchasing one for the department during the next grant cycle. Other commissioners wanted to make sure there would still be leftover allocated grant dollars for education purposes.

“We sent two deputies to instructor training so that they can teach the (Department of Natural Resources) course so that our youth can get their ATV certificate or license to be able operate the ATVs, so that we can teach that class. That’s part of the education piece,” Wallen said. That includes an online class in addition to a 6- to 8-hour field day, which focuses on safety, and how to properly ride and obey laws. Wallen said he hopes to hold the course every year. The Board then approved a new transport vehicle for the Lyon County Jail, to replace a 2016 Dodge Journey with high mileage that’s rusting and requires repair, Wallen said.

He first met with the capital committee on Jan. 21 about the proposal. The Durango is to be used in conjunction with the department’s other transport vehicle, a 2014 Dodge Van. “We also had a conversation on (the 2014 van). As not to bring that forward for a couple more years as long as (the department) got this newer vehicle,” Commissioner Steve Ritter said. “And Rick (Anderson) and I thought that was fair and the Sheriff did. At the time we agreed to that.” The 2020 Dodge Durango will be purchased for more than $18,000, after taxes, title and license fees, and a trade-in value from the Dodge Journey.

Wallen also asked the board to consider moving a previously approved out-of-state travel request from April to September, as the National Sheriff’s Institute leadership conference was recently rescheduled. The new request was approved without discussion.

In other action Tuesday morning, the board:

• Approved an amended agreement with the City of Marshall Wastewater Treatment Plant that will be in effect until Feb. 1, 2025.

• Approved the appointment of Kevin Muelebroeck to the Lyon County Planning & Zoning board for a three-year term.

• Approved the appointment of Michael Murray to the Lyon County library board for a three-year term.

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