By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

County taxpayers save with cheap oil

Road work bids come in below estimates as a result of lower oil costs


Mike Tardy, Carlton County highway engineer, reported to the Carlton County Board of Commissioners that the October bid letting for County State Aid Highway 6 from Barnum west to Highway 73 just north of Kettle River was 46 percent below estimates for the mill and overlay work.

Northland from Duluth was the successful bidder at $1,332,000 with two other firms close in a very competitive bidding cycle. The cost of bituminous for road construction closely follows the market cost per barrel of crude oil. Recently, the cost of a barrel of oil dropped from record highs to $65-plus which has also dropped the price of gasoline.

Tardy explained, "There are several factors for this good news. Due to the low price of a barrel of oil, an estimate of $65 per yard of bituminous came in a $41.50 per yard. Early bid letting gives contractors an opportunity to lock in the cost of oil needed for the asphalt well in advance of construction and during a time when prices are lower. Early bidding gives contractors more flexibility in their construction season calendar as they dovetail this project with other possible work."

He continued, "This is a good sign for our coming summer roadwork program. Funds are limited ­— even in a period of economic growth. Construction dollars stretch during a period of low oil prices. The county highway department has done their part to streamline services and save money. Our current department budget has come in with a savings of 5 percent from our anticipated expenditures."

Elk in Carlton County?

In other news, the Fond du Lac Band is exploring the possibility of reintroducing elk on Fond du Lac tribal lands and the Nemadji State Forest. Elk, moose, caribou, and woodland buffalo were plentiful before European settlement in the area. Meat hunting for the Midwestern city population in the 1800s destroyed these herds to extinction.

Moose have recovered somewhat. The last caribou was shot in 1936 near Lake of the Woods. Elk have been reintroduced in northwestern Minnesota and cause problems for farmers in the area. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a small regulated hunt on that herd each fall.

Mike Schrage, biologist for the Fond du Lac Band, explained in a presentation to the county board, "One of the environmental goals of the FDL Band is to restore the elk herd to northeastern Minnesota. The Native term for elk is literally translated 'prairie moose.' A diverse eco-system is a strong eco-system. Elk are very adaptable and would flourish in the area. We have a strong logging program in the area which provides young forest growth — a key to a sustainable elk herd."

Lessards-Sams Legacy funds would be ideal, according to Schrage, for the proposed $1 million study of the impact of a reintroduction of elk to the area. The DNR has shown no interest in this program. The Fond du Lac Band is asking for Carlton County's support for this study.

Other business

Dean Larson gave a presentation of the new Pictometry program being introduced as a tool for Carlton County government. High resolution imaging like that used for national security issues is not being used in this program. A plane will fly over the county and take a series of pictures of the buildings, forests, farms and fields of the county. The computer program will do the rest. The best time to do this is in late April before the leaves come on the trees.

Using the county's computer network, this information, according to Larson, will be invaluable for planning, zoning, law enforcement and public safety issues.

Chairman Dick Brenner reflected, "I am all for using these tools to help county government provide services and protection for our people. I am always cautious to not let this go too far so that 'Big Brother' is always looking over our shoulder."


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