Jennifer Lee believes it’s only a matter of time before someone is injured -- or killed -- by a motorist on old Crow Wing County Road 115.
The Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted at its April 23 meeting to include County Road 115 -- also known as Ojibwa and Nashway roads -- in the county’s five-year highway improvement plan.
“I’m here to talk about County Road 115, and the request to get it pushed up on the replacement plan … so my purpose today is to invite you to an informational walk on Saturday, July 27th … (starting from) our house,” Lee told the board during open forum at its Tuesday, July 9, meeting.
The scope of the county road improvement project, which has a long and contentious history, is from County Road 115’s south junction with Highway 371 to its the north junction with Highway 371.
“This last weekend was a rough weekend with the Fourth of July and the amount of traffic. The road is failing -- no doubt about it,” Lee said of County Road 115, which encircles Round Lake for about 5 miles.
The County Road 115 corridor is a rural minor collector that connects to Highway 371 on the north and south side of Round Lake and to County Road 127, another rural minor collector, which connects to County Highway 3, a major north-south route classified as a “minor arterial.”
“Even this morning driving here I saw a semi driving down the road -- large trucks … and we are a cut-through for a lot of other roadways,” Lee said Tuesday.
County Engineer Tim Bray had said the land around County Road 115 is a point of interest or attraction, especially for seasonal motorists touring the area.
Residents brought a petition and arguments in support of retaining the scenic road to the county board in 2015. They referenced the road's beauty, towering white and Norway pines and
its safety record, saying there has never been a fatality nor a pedestrian involved in a crash.
“We are seeing a lot of boats and RV vehicles, also, that are extremely large, so for walkers it’s very dangerous. It’s a safety hazard -- and even for bikers,” said Lee, an Ojibwa Road resident.
Some area residents had initially wondered why the roadway could not be overlaid and left as is, but project officials contend a simple resurfacing to improve the smoothness of the road would be a “poor investment” and only addresses part of the challenges the county road faces.
Last summer, WSB & Associates of Baxter shared more details about the proposal at an open house in Brainerd that seemed to change residents’ minds. Property owners had objected to the project at a previous open house in Nisswa that was intended to clear the air about the plan.
“I’ve been walking, and I’ve been cut so close that it’s unbelievable. It’s very scary, and over the Fourth of July, I saw families of four out walking abreast,” Lee said. “Even walking two abreast, there’s nowhere to go.”
Poor drainage, issues with the subsurface under the pavement, inadequate sight lines and concerns for pedestrian travel safety -- versus property values possibly decreasing and uprooting existing structures and trees -- were discussed at the contentious Nisswa open house.
“Currently, County Road 115 -- the first phase, which is from County Road 127 on the south side to 371, is scheduled and promised in the 2023 construction schedule,” County Engineer Tim Bray replied to a question by Commissioner Bill Brekken.
Bray said the estimated project cost will be $4.2 million, and it will take more than a year to complete and will be broken into multiple stages.
County Road 115 was not designed for the amount and size of the traffic it sees today when it was originally constructed, according to officials from the county and WSB.
“We will try to the very best of our ability to move it up. … There are limitations on how far we can move it,” County Administrator Tim Houle told Lee.
“If we move that up, something else may get bumped, and that’s a concern for those residents who have previously been promised something. … It’s a minimum of three to four years just to get the design work done, right of way acquired, public information meetings.”
The primary funding for the proposed project will be the county local option sales tax and local property tax dollars, but Lake Edward Township and Nisswa will likely have some cost-participation obligations.
“I know that there are only so many dollars and so much time,” Lee replied to Houle. “At the same point, I see there will be an accident. We’re biding our time.”
The purpose of the proposed County Road 115 improvement project is “to provide a high quality public roadway corridor that is environmentally responsible, safer for all users and maintains the scenic character of the area.”
“When I see a semi or I see vehicles that do not stop, do not slow down, do not move over, it’s very scary, and as a resident, I want to be able to enjoy my lake. That’s why we bought up here,” Lee said.
In other business, the county board:
Approved the hiring of Lance Fondie, highway department maintenance specialist; Cherokee DeLeon, sheriff’s office correctional officer; and Katherine Glasby, sheriff’s office 911 communications officer.
Approved the promotion of Kelly Berens, community services child support specialist, and Mali Moss, community services social worker.
Accepted the departure of Lucas Herzog, sheriff’s office correctional officer, and Chance Steward, land services, environmental services specialist-in-training.
Scheduled a public hearing, pursuant to state statute, for 9:05 a.m. July 23 to consider updating the 2019 geographic information system fee schedule
Accepted a donation in the amount of $500 from Crow Wing Power Co. for the county mounted patrol.
Approved the 2019 temporary on-sale liquor license application of the Brainerd Jaycees for the temporary on-sale of liquor at the Brainerd International Raceway, Unorganized Territory, on Aug. 15-18.
Authorized entering into an agreement amendment between the county and the state of Minnesota for housing the Minnesota Department of Corrections offenders, and the amendment increases the per day per offender rate by $2.50 for a new daily rate of $57.50 and for a new reimbursement of up to $50 per offender for jail staff to arrange and purchase available transportation for released offenders.
Approve sending the final draft of the Pine River Watershed One Watershed One Plan to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources Regional Committee.
Authorized the board chair to sign a letter of support for Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program Inc. to apply for the Minnesota Support Services Competitive Grant to provide trial work experience for persons with disabilities on Social Security Administration disability benefits, including both youths and adults.
Amended the county land use map from “rural residential 20” to “rural residential 10” involving about 10 acres in Roosevelt Township because of the petition of Shirley L. Murray and Virginia Knudson.
Approved the petition for the preliminary and final plat of Hartley Forest Addition, consisting of two residential lots and a common lot for residential use in Unorganized - First Assessment District, that was requested by Robert Thieling and Paul Herkenhoff.