Building upgrade fund weighed

BLUE EARTH – Faribault County commissioners received an update on the Faribault County Development Corporation on Tuesday.

The corporation’s director has been gathering information on a commercial rehabilitation grant/loan program that helps businesses make structural upgrades to their buildings.

“There are many buildings out there in need of a roof, and roofs are expensive,” Linsey Warmka said.

Warmka noted the program is not for cosmetic upgrades. The list of eligible repairs includes roofs and electrical systems; elimination of asbestos and mold; signage and awnings; exterior lighting; tuck- pointing; and landscaping.

Commissioners noted a number of buildings are not being used because of structural problems that make them uninhabitable, but the business owners don’t have the money to fix them, or the buildings are owned by absentee landlords who don’t want to invest any more money in them.

Commissioners would rather see the buildings fixed and utilized, rather than have to deal with the buildings as vacant or abandoned.

Warmka said the county’s Economic Development Authority wants to see whether commissioners are in favor of a program with a partial grant in it before the EDA moves forward.

Commissioners said they would like to see the idea fleshed out, but they are in favor of it so far.

In other business, commissioners:

o Approved a Minnesota Department of Transportation plan to repair drainage ditches when the state works on Highway 109.

Scott Morgan, district engineer with the department, explained which ditches near Highway 109 between Easton and Wells will be repaired, and how. In some cases, the state will upgrade materials and enlarge the pipes.

Morgan said the project will begin in the spring.

o Hired Jason Schroeder, Kaleena Wiens, and Shaun Olson as part-time dispatchers/jailers.

o Heard a report from County Engineer John McDonald, who said fresh bids are in for a project involving the outlet at Walnut Lake. The low bid is $405,000, or 9.3 percent over the engineer’s estimate.

McDonald said the state asked that the county not award the bid at this time because it needs time to make up the difference in funding.