By Gretta Becay
From the unrelenting storms to the long-awaited groundbreaking for the widening of Highway 14 from Owatonna to Dodge Center, 2019 was a year of challenge and success for Dodge County.
Dodge County Commissioner John Allen reflected on the year during the final meeting for the commissioners on Dec. 26.
He praised staff members, department heads and the commissioners for their work in facing and conquering the difficulties in their paths this year.
“We work well together,” he said. “We’re a good team.”
One of the successes for the year was the completion of the county’s comprehensive plan which will guide county officials through the dynamic population growth spilling into the county from both Owatonna and Rochester.
“We still must maintain our rural character,” said Allen.
A lot of work went into that plan, he said, and the final product is something to be proud of.
He also talked about the heavy snow and rain that plagued farmers, township officials, and every employee in each town and the county that had to deal with the resulting flooding and road washouts on an ongoing basis.
Routine maintenance and repair on the county’s roads and bridges continued throughout the year, even with the extra labor needed because of the storms that soaked the county.
“Township officials and county staff handled it well,” he said, as the county continues to recover from the extreme weather conditions.
He praised county staff members who constantly make needed repairs to buildings owned by the county including structures at the Fair Grounds and in Wasioja at the Civil War Memorial.
Another challenge facing the county in the new year is the moratorium placed on new solar farms. County staff members and the members of the Planning Commission will be working on that at the beginning of the year, he said. He felt confident the necessary ordinance changes would be in place in a timely manner.
A highlight of the year was the groundbreaking ceremony held Nov. 1 for the expansion of Highway 14 between Owatonna and Dodge Center hosted by the state Department of Transportation. Funding from the state and federal governments for the project finally came through.
“Too many lives have been lost on that stretch of two-lane highway,” Allen said.
“It’s been a bottleneck to commerce and commuters, and the completed highway will open up that portion of the county.”All in all, it was a challenging but great year, he said, “because of the outstanding work our staff members, elected officials, and volunteers do every day to keep the County running smoothly, even through tough times.”