The Rice County Board of Commissioners today voted 3-2 to reject bids for the County Road 76 reconstruction project between County Road 8 and County Road 1.  Rice County Highway Engineer Dennis Luebbe made the recommendation because the project includes the acquisition of additional road right of way by easement.

The acquisition required a court hearing according to state law.  Due to COVID-19 a court hearing date was indefinitely postponed.  Commissioner Galen Malecha voiced his displeasure saying, "I'm greatly disappointed that we couldn't have been creative with this contract in coming up with some kind of a legal document in agreement with the contractor.  You know it's not very often that we get a local contractor for road projects."

Commissioner Jeff Docken shared this road project has generated the most phone calls he's received in his years as a commissioner with people frustrated on a number of different fronts, "The fact that we can't get a court date and the fact some people won't settle. I had a call yesterday from a guy who said hey if those guys don't want the road project in their neighborhood why don't you bring it to ours because the right of way isn't going to cost you anything if you bring it over here.  People are getting frustrated with everything as far as that goes. The only problem i see with rejecting the bids is there is no finite time line here."

County Attorney John Fossum replied to Commissioner Malecha's insistence that the attorney's office should have come up with a creative solution, "We cannot complete the contract.  If you can't do it in a reasonable time period.  I appreciate the commissioner's idea that there could be some sort of magical solution to this but there just isn't.  There's a irresolvable conflict between property owners and the county.  The way to resolve that is we have a trial which we cannot do this year."

Malecha replied, "Right, but again I think we could've come up with a creative solution."

Luebbe says, "Nobody wants this to happen but it's just the case of circumstances getting in the way of a great project.  We'll be back I'm sure.  I'm crossing my fingers that in twelve months we'll be under construction and hopefully all the local subs will still have been awarded a portion of this project and perhaps even a local contractor commissioner.  It is unfortunate."

Commissioners Malecha and Jake Gillen cast the dissenting votes to the motion to reject the bids.

Rice County Road Marking on Millersburg Blvd. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld