At the Fillmore County Board meeting held on February 22, it was decided by consensus to go forward with contract negotiations for the county jail.
Three architectural firms had been interviewed February 17. Each firm was given about two hours to deliver their presentation and to answer questions. The committee composed of two commissioners, the sheriff, county administrator, and jail administrator, voted unanimously to go with BKV Group.
County Administrator Bobbie Hillery said all three firms were excellent. BKV Group provided a mocked-up visual of what the board has been considering. Sheriff John DeGeorge said BKV Group had paid attention to what the committee wanted. The visual plan was the deciding factor.
BKV Group will come before the full board on March 8 to begin contract negotiations.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Erik Hildebrand, Department of Natural Resources, updated the board on efforts to keep CWD in the deer population in check. He noted the deer harvest was down 6% in 2021 from 2020, but 4% higher than the 10-year average. Sales of licenses were also down 2% in 2021. Surveillance of CWD occurred in six areas of the state in 2021.
There were 27 new detections in the southeast CWD management zone. Infections are continuing in the same areas. CWD management efforts will continue indefinitely. The Preston/Lanesboro area is a core area, with 10 positives in 2021. Management efforts have kept the prevalence at 1% or less. This is compared to Wisconsin, where prevalence nears 50%.
Dumpsters have been available in management and control zones for carcasses. About 258 tons of deer waste was removed, reducing the spread of disease when carcasses are left on the landscape. The deer feeding ban has been expanded to 44 counties to minimize the spread of the disease. Agency culling runs from February 14 to the first week of April. All deer are tested for CWD. Deer are processed in Spring Valley; positive deer are removed from the processing facility. All venison goes to a participating landowner or to the public. Anyone can sign up to share in the harvest at www.dnr.state.mn.us/cwd/share-harvest.html. This is on a first come first serve basis for those who sign up. There is no cost.
A resolution was adopted allowing access to field numbers 8 and 9 of county land for the purpose of disease control from February 22 to April 8.
Review of 2020 Financial Audit
Miranda Wendlandt, CliftonLarsonAllen, Inc., gave the county an unmodified/clean opinion on the 2020 financial statements. They are fairly consistent with the prior year. Hillery remarked that the creation of the finance department has aided in fixing past compliance issues. She went on to discuss the county’s corrective plan; “We are on the right track.”
The Minnesota Office of the State Auditor recommends a minimum of five months of expenditures in governmental fund balances. In 2020 the county had 2.71 months in governmental fund balances. Wendlandt reviewed the county’s various fund balances. She noted expenditures have been in excess of revenues for the past five years in the Human Services Fund. It is then necessary to essentially borrow from the General Fund.
Property taxes provide about 36% of the total revenues coming into the county. Hillery commented that for the last three years it has been excellent working with CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen).
Other business in brief
• A Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Rochester was approved for Text to 911 services. Sheriff DeGeorge explained the county’s phone system doesn’t allow for texts. It would be very expensive to update the phone system for texts. Rochester receives text 911 calls and acts as the dispatcher to pass them on to Fillmore County. This is especially helpful for the hearing impaired.
• The fact that sirens didn’t sound during the tornado weather on December 15 was discussed. Preston sirens didn’t sound because the city’s power was already out. Lanesboro relies on the sheriff’s office to set their sirens off. DeGeorge said there was no clear request. There needs to be a clear request from a fire fighter and a confirmation that the request was received. It came down to a communication issue. There has been a meeting with Lanesboro; they intend to build-in the ability to set the sirens off themselves. Commissioner Duane Bakke said cities should have a backup in case of a power outage. Chairman Mitch Lentz suggested the county emergency manager recommend what the city could do, but not go so far as to require it. DeGeorge added that it is our responsibility to coordinate things and to let the cities know what they can and should do.
• The 2022/2023 Interagency Cooperative Agreement for Child Support Administration between the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Fillmore County Child Support was approved. Kevin Olson, Social Services, reported Fillmore County Child Support is consistently one of the top three in the state.
• The installation of a new AC cooling unit for the courthouse server room was approved. The unit will cost $8,940 from Winona Heating & Ventilating, Inc. The current AC unit installed in 2004 has failed.
Two proposals had been submitted for air duct cleaning in the courthouse and the office building. The low quote from Schwickert’s Tecta America, LLC was approved in the amount of $67,200 for both buildings.
• Prosecutor agreements with the cities of Canton and Mabel were approved.
• The hire of a part-time custodian effective February 28 was approved.
• The advertisement for a replacement highway maintenance worker was approved. There is a vacancy in the Spring Valley shop.
• Heath Mensink will be promoted from an intermittent jailer to full-time status, effective April 1.
• The advertisement for a replacement full-time office support specialist, senior was approved.
• The appointment of Mary Schwarz for District 4 representative on the EDA board was approved.
• The county has subsidized each ambulance in the county for 2022 with $4,500. The City of Preston requested that the county continue the Ambulance Subsidy Contract for both Preston and Lanesboro as it has done over the years. Lanesboro Ambulance has merged into Preston Ambulance Service. The board decided to continue the subsidy for both cities for this year. It will be looked at again next year.
• The City of Canton requested that the county board place conditions on a parcel that will be on public auction on March 1. County Attorney Brett Corson will respond to the request. The county isn’t in the position to put conditions on the sale. The non-payment of property taxes has resulted in the forfeiture of the parcel.