The recent press on the 55/62 interchange deserves mention here, as it relates to the Coldwater Spring.
MnDOT begun plans for the interchange in September 1999. Significant concerns about flow of water was raised by Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition who then petitioned for watershed protection, and received it in May 2000.
From June 2000 through December 2001, MnDOT fought further study of the intersection, two watershed districts, and lawsuits questioning the road design despite multiple documented concerns over the promised preserved flow to Coldwater Spring. Instead MnDOT set up their own legal obstacle course to prevent further study, that would determine where the water for Coldwater Springs comes from. This failed as the watershed district won and proved with a dye test that some water comes from the 55/62 interchange area.
MnDOT eventually cancels the 55/62 interchange to escape a losing lawsuit now from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, and then claimed that an "urgent circumstance" suddenly exists (after the two year battle) and because of it they must build an $818,000 temporary bypass without a contract or bidding process, before winter sets in.
This in turn caused Kent Allin, a 21-year state employee who works for an Administration department who oversees MnDOT contracts to say; "The culture of MnDOT is to act the bully, throw one's weight around, villainize anybody who stands in your way and not worry about wasting tax dollars,".
"MnDOT . . . is trying to bully us into giving them exactly what they want, regardless of whether it is lawful or responsible to do so," he continued. "I believe we have been pushed to a point where we either assert our oversight role. . . . or tacitly admit that we are totally ineffectual in that role with respect to MnDOT."
Administration Commissioner David Fisher said
"The trunk highway 55/62 work was known well in advance and yet MnDOT did not notify its sister agencies or the general public," Fisher wrote. "Since [the deal] is valued at approximately $818,000, it is not an insignificant undertaking, and is of a type that both statute and good policy indicates should be let only after competitive bidding."
However on March 8, 2002, Fisher fired Allin, saying he had "exposed this administration to significant and unwarranted criticism."
Allin in return has hired a lawyer, Clifford Greene, who said, "From Mr. Allin's standpoint, he was fired because he did his job and he followed the law."
And this says nothing of the approximately $1 million dollars additional money paid by MnDOT for breach of contract for canceling the interchange in the first place.
MnDOT claims what they did was legal. In response to this and other issues in regards to reducing MnDOT oversight, MnDOT commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg said MnDOT has sought to streamline the contract approval process because "it takes too damned long to get a project developed and on the ground."
Tinklenberg refers to their contractors, some of which happen to be former high ranking MnDOT employees, as their "customers" and blames these "customers" for being the driving force behind the push to speed up contracts.
An independent auditor however, wrote in October 2000 that investigators identified criticisms of "non-compliance and poor management" related to MnDOT contracts.
The Minnesota legislative auditor said Friday that he will investigate allegations of improprieties in state transportation contract practices that surfaced in a March 15th 2002 Star Tribune article.
Meanwhile legislators and citizens are getting quite angry that MnDOT's "customers" are their hired help, not the citizen taxpayers.
Governor Ventura's Spokesman John Wodele said "There's no smoking gun there," and MnDOT lawyer Ann-Therese Schmid said "Nothing illegal took place here; nothing unethical took place here." "We were within state law. In hindsight, looking back at all the actions taken place, we would absolutely do the same thing."
Well, apparently MnDOT still wishes to battle, instead of simply raising the road out of the water table.
MnDOT has received a waiver for reviewing consultant contracts on every project in the state, because as Metro District Engineer Dick Stehr says, "every one of our highway projects is done to improve the safety to the traveling public."
Anyone still wondering why Highway 55 has turned into such a controversy over the years???Don't believe there's a smoking gun, or anything unethical?
Obviously Schmid never has looked at this website....