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Bats, roundabouts and a 7.7% levy increase were topics at the Douglas County board meeting

The preliminary budget was set at $32,782,107.

EP County Government 2
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DOUGLAS COUNTY — Bats have reportedly been invading the courthouse once again. It’s been an issue off and on over the past several years.

Rodney Naab, facilities director with the Douglas County Maintenance Department, told Douglas County commissioners at the Tuesday, Sept. 20, meeting that the courthouse was sealed, but there were areas that were missed.

“It’s been an ongoing battle,” he said.

A new approach approved by the commissioners is putting “bat doors” in the attic. Naab said this allows bats to exit, but then they won’t be able to return.

The approval was for a company, Plunkett’s Pest Control/Varment Guard out of Fridley, to provide wildlife exclusion service at a cost of $16,014.

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Courthouse tower
Bats have once again become a problem at the Douglas County Courthouse.
Echo Press file photo

The price, according to the proposal, includes bat exclusion work on the entire courthouse structure, with the exception of the north, east and northwest lower sections (new building). It includes gable vents, caulking and bat door installation. Once the bats exit through the door, they cannot re-enter due to placement and design of the doors, according to the work proposal.

In addition, once bats have exited, the door will be removed and gaps will be permanently sealed.

Minnesota is home to eight species of bats, one of which – the northern long-eared bat – is protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. Two others – the little brown bat and the tri-colored bat – are being considered for protection, according to an article on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s website about bats and bridges .

Naab said, however, that bats can be disposed of if they pose a safety hazard in a building or office.

The intent from the county, however, is not to kill them, but to get them out of the courthouse and then make it so they can’t come back in.

In addition to approving the wildlife exclusion service, the commissioners approved a quote from Creeper Crawler Pest Control LLC from Alexandria for some cleaning, disinfecting and disposal of waste from the bats. The cost will be $13,780.

Purchase of property

Commissioners approved the purchase of a 32.79 acre piece of property southwest of Alexandria near County Road 21 at a cost of $200,655.

The property, according to Tim Erickson, Douglas County Public Works director and county engineer, will be used for material storage. Erickson said the county has some room but not enough.

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“It’s space we don’t have out of town,” he said.

The site will be used to store things like gravel, asphalt chunks from road repairs and tree debris. The chunks of asphalt will then be able to be ground up and used again. That is the same with tree debris, said Erickson. The material can be put into a wood chipper and the wood chips can be used for projects around the county.

Erickson also said that the property, which is part of the “Hvezda Quarry,” is already permitted for what the county will be using it for, but that there will be some changes in zoning.

“It’s a very good piece of property for us,” he said.

EricksonTim20.jpg
Tim Erickson

A new proposed roundabout

An engineering contract with Widseth, at a cost of $128,000, was approved. It is for the reconstruction of the intersection at County Roads 46 and County Road 82. This is the intersection at McKay Avenue, which is between Discovery Middle School and Brother’s Market, going east out of Alexandria.

The county is looking at putting a roundabout at that intersection. Widseth will provide civil engineering plans and specifications for the intersection and will assume a roundabout design, according to the request for engineering services. The project would be designed as a Minnesota Department of Transportation /County State Aid project. It will be submitted to the State Geometrics Office for approval, according to the request.

The cost of the contract came in considerably less than expected, Erickson told the commissioners.

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He said the roundabout could possibly be built in 2024. Vicki Doehling, the county’s auditor/treasurer and elections administration, asked about moving the project to 2025 because 2024 is a big election year and a nearby church is a polling place. Erickson said that it could definitely be moved to 2025.

County Board chairperson Tim Kalina said he had concerns about the roundabout at that intersection because the Central Lakes Trail is right by it. He was wondering about how traffic would flow with users of the trail and motorists.

Erickson said it would actually be safer than what it is now for users of the trail, who try to cross County Road 46/McKay Avenue.

Preliminary levy set

At the request of Jill Frisell, Douglas County finance director, the commissioners set the 2023 preliminary levy at $32,782,107 – an increase of 7.7% from 2022.

Frisell said there are “a lot of unknowns at this point,” which is why the levy was set high.

“Once we set it, we can’t go up, only down,” she said. “We have a lot of work yet to be done.”

The budget hearing will take place on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom.

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Celeste Edenloff is the special projects lead and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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