WASECA — The Waseca County Board has opted to seek outside legal counsel in its ongoing quest to wrench more funds from the state for repairs to old Highway 14.
The board took the action Thursday on the eve of today’s state-designated deadline calling for the board’s decision on the state’s $13.7 million offer.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has said that if no decision was reached by today, state statute allows for MnDOT funding to be cut entirely for a 19-mile stretch of 14 between Janesville and Owatonna.
Waseca County Administrator Laura Elvebak said the board has asked for and received repeated deadline extensions during the negotiations as both sides try to come to an agreement on the extent of repairs needed.
“There’s been movement both ways throughout the process,” she said. “We’re looking for a different pavement solution than they’ve included in their agreement.”
Old Highway 14 was formerly maintained by MnDOT. But with the construction of a new Highway 14 maintenance on the old stretch has reverted to the county.
At issue are “turnback” funds — money the state turns back to local governmental bodies when the state ceases maintenance on a roadway. _MnDOT initially offered $12 million to Waseca County. That offer was upped to $13.2 million, then to the current $13.7 million.
MnDOT officials have said that the repairs they recommend for the battered and bumpy highway are adequate for the types and amounts of traffic it will absorb.
County officials disagree, maintaining that the stretch between Janesville and Waseca in particular takes a beating from truck traffic and requires a thicker overlay than MnDOT has recommended.
Elvebak said the county has no specific dollar-request figure in mind. That would be determinate on the extent of eventual repairs.