The annual Jail Inspection Report was reviewed at the county board’s August 6 meeting. The report is issued by the Minnesota Department of Corrections. The Fillmore County Jail, which is the second oldest in the state, was limited to a 90-day facility in February 2017.
Sheriff John DeGeorge and Jail Administrator James Fenske felt there was nothing in the report that was unexpected. Fenske called it a very good report overall. The jail was 100% in compliance with mandatory requirements and 90% in compliance with essential requirements.
Old sinks and toilets have been replaced with stainless steel fixtures. Deterioration of the building was cited in the report. The structure lacks adequate program space (educational, vocational, and recreational). Correction will require expansion or remodeling of the facility. There is no indoor recreation area.
Fenske admitted there is a lot that is not functional and they plan to address issues as they come up. They will continue to improve to meet current standards.
The building’s layout does not allow them to separate inmates based on classification, which limits the number of inmates it can house.
Commissioner Mitch Lentz asked what our plan is for the jail in the future. DeGeorge said we do a pretty good job maintaining the facility we have. But, this building is not a long term option because of the way it is built.
Commissioner Randy Dahl said the jail’s future has been discussed for 18 years. We need a new facility, but it has to be appropriate for the county. DeGeorge commented that we have the advantage of looking back over the years and population numbers in the jail which are cyclical. He noted we can learn from mistakes other counties our size have made. If you build a big jail, you have to staff it.
Dahl added that the current bond the county is making payments on will be paid off in a few years.
Approval was given for the renewal of the MN Annual County Boat and Water Safety Grant agreement. The agreement runs from January 2019 through June 2020. The grant amount is $2,097.
A second state of emergency has been declared this summer for a flooding event that occurred July 18 and 19. There again was significant public property damage. Don Kullot, emergency management director, said the city of Rushford Village had more than $100,000 in damages. Unfortunately, this is becoming more common. A preliminary damage assessment will be done. Kullot expects to go out and do another damage survey after yesterday’s heavy rain in some areas of the county.
Dahl suggested that due to more frequent rain events we should consider blacktopping hard surface road shoulders. Most shoulders along hard surface roads are gravel. Kullot said we are only putting it back to what it was.
The Finance Department was created by the county board at their July 23 meeting with a unanimous vote. Attorney Ann Goering, Ratwik, Roszak, and Maloney, P.A., opined that the county board has the authority to create a Finance Department and the position of finance director. The county board has the power to designate duties for that position.
County Attorney Brett Corson said he is the one that makes legal recommendations to the board, insisting there should be further discussions. He disagreed with Goering, saying you have to have a process and follow the law. He wanted to discuss the statute and those duties designated by statute to the auditor/treasurer and those duties that can be assigned to a finance director.
County Coordinator Bobbie Vickerman noted that the job description developed for finance director is the same as in two area counties. They have been operating with a finance director for years. She said there always is a back and forth between the finance department and the auditor/treasurer; it is called checks and balances. There should always be more than one person checking work. We have not had checks and balances and transparency for the constituents’ dollars.
Two items on the agenda (classification of finance director position and salary set for finance director) were postponed to the next meeting until Corson has the opportunity to discuss his differences of opinion with attorney Goering and resolve those issues. Chairman Duane Bakke said the board will do what it legally can do.
Lori Affeldt has been working as finance director since August 1. Her pay will be adjusted retroactively when these issues are resolved and her salary is set.
Other business in brief
•The public hearing for the updated Floodplain Ordinance and FEMA maps was held. Zoning Administrator Cristal Adkins said she used the model ordinance provided by the DNR and discussed new definitions. The definitions provided by the DNR were not altered.
The change in the ordinance will limit expansion of some of our campgrounds. The DNR considers picnic tables that are not secured to the ground a structure, requiring them to be moved out of the floodplain. Adkins said the county’s ordinance does not allow any new dwellings in the floodplain.
Bonita Underbakke was concerned that the FEMA maps are based on the past, not the future (suggesting future flooding events could be on a significantly larger scale). No other comments came from the public.
The updated Floodplain Ordinance and FEMA maps were approved.
•Two access permits for field drives were approved. One for Dale Payne, Section 13 Beaver Township and one for Kenneth and Janet Flugum, Section 17 Beaver Township. An access permit for a property drive was approved for Nathen Yutzy, Section 34 Bristol Township (an old access will be removed).
•Budget season has begun. Solid Waste, Building Maintenance, and Zoning budgets were reviewed. Salary increases used for budget purposes are 2.5%. Health insurance is estimated to increase by 18%. Terry Schultz said his big item for 2020 will be the cost of a new roof on the county office building (looking at either shingles or steel).
•Approval was given for an agreement (Evidence Based Home Visiting Expansion Grant) with Rice County Community Health Services. The grant is for seven counties and goes through Rice County which distributes grant funds to the other counties. It is a 3-year agreement.
•The final payment to Milestone Materials for the 2019 rock contract in the amount of $1,980.89 was approved.
•Brianna Reed was hired as Support Enforcement Aide effective August 12.
•A Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Third Judicial District’s Veterans Treatment Court will be held in the courthouse parking lot at 1:30 p.m. on September 20. Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea is expected to be present. This is POW/MIA Recognition Day.
•Vickerman stated they are in the process of finalizing the audit. It will be reviewed at the next Finance Committee meeting.
•The hire of Sandy Solberg as a temporary employee in the Recorder’s Office at $20 per hour, not to exceed 20 hours per week, up to December 31, and for abstracting only was considered. County Recorder David Kiehne said the demand for abstracting has increased due to two businesses selling out. Solberg has the knowledge to step right in. Dahl reprimanded Kiehne for not going through the process to get a new hire. Lentz said going outside the process can not happen again. The hire was approved with the above stipulations and retroactive pay; Dahl voted no.