The commissioners covered a lot of ground at an extended September 5 board meeting. The process of reviewing each departmental budget continued.
Public Health, Human Services, the various budgets related to the Sheriff’s office, and others were looked at in some detail. The total 2018 budget increase proposed by Jessica Erickson, director of nursing, in her department was over $100,000. She said her department was looking into how to increase funding/revenue sources.
Kevin Olson, Social Services manager, proposed a $265,288 budget increase over 2017. Nearly $200,000 of the increase is related to salary and insurance increases. About $41,000 of the increase is related to placement and guardianship. There is also $22,000 in lost waiver revenue.
Chairman Randy Dahl noted the state has cut the rate of reimbursement 18% on mandated services at a time when the state has been enjoying a surplus. This is a cost shift to local property taxes. Commissioner Duane Bakke pointed out that the state would counter, saying that they provided an increase in County Program Aid (CPA).
The county received $604,428 in CPA in 2017 and will receive $698,998 in 2018. The county has one bond which requires a debt retirement payment of $215,000 and a $46,306 interest payment in 2018. The 2010 bond is scheduled to be paid off in 2024. The preliminary budget and levy as of September 5 for 2018 shows a 7.12% increase or $710,321. This amounts to $512.31 per capita. A 1% increase represents about $100,000. The preliminary budget and levy will be considered for approval before the end of September. The final numbers to be certified in December can be lower, but not higher.
Amish Civil Litigation
County Attorney Brett Corson updated commissioners on legal issues with a segment of the Amish community that still use straight pipes to drain untreated waste water onto the ground surface, instead of into a holding tank with a drain field. County zoning ordinance allows Amish families to use a gray water system which is not a full septic system. These systems are inspected after they are installed. With this system they need to have a compliant outhouse, an outdoor bathroom constructed to certain standards.
Zoning Administrator Cristal Adkins said there are about 15 families they are working with that are still non-compliant. She notes they expect there are still more families besides those that are also non-compliant. Corson said one case is set for trial in about three weeks. This case is brought by the county, not MPCA. There are other cases that do involve the MPCA. Corson added they would like to see involvement from the state in all cases.
Recently, it has been discovered that in a couple of cases five gallon buckets are used in the outhouse and spread with no treatment.
Bakke expressed disappointment that some Amish aren’t conforming to the lesser standards allowed for the Amish community. The MPCA has allowed the deadline to be extended, which allows this segment of the Amish community to believe this will continue. Dahl suggested that if they are allowed to remain non-compliant, it will make it harder to enforce other zoning ordinances.
Corson called it a public health issue. He stated that this is a small segment that we are dealing with; there is a possibility we can get this resolved.
Both Corson and Adkins expressed their respect for the Amish religious beliefs and culture.
Other business in brief
• EDA Director Stephanie Hatzenbihler reviewed 2016/2017. The Fillmore County Broadband Alliance was established, after which Border to Border Grant applications were submitted. AcenTek in rural Lanesboro received the fourth largest grant in the amount of about $1.8 million last year. The Broadband Development Fund was established, a revolving loan fund for partnership with regional providers who want to invest in broadband infrastructure in Fillmore County.
AcenTek is the first to use the $75,000 revolving loan this year as part of a Border to Border Grant.
Hatzenbihler is working to strengthen relationships with community EDAs within the county.
• A resolution was adopted in support of endorsing a Border to Border Grant application of AcenTek in Rushford Village/rural Rushford. If the grant is awarded the county will make available $75,000 in support of the application. This is a resubmission of an application that was not funded last year. Cris Gastner, CEDA, said the state needs to continue the Broadband program, because without the state funds it will not pencil out for providers to build broadband infrastructure.
• Patrol Sergeant Derek Fuglestad explained the Toward Zero Death agreement with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The county with Preston and Chatfield police departments will receive $7,400 for traffic safety enforcement from October 1 to September 30, 2018.
• The Employment Status policy and holiday policy were each approved as amended.
• Logan Brand was hired as replacement full-time deputy effective September 8.
• Kurt Njos was hired as full-time social worker effective September 8. He will work in the mental health area.
• A request to retire from Social Worker Barb Zoelle-Johnson was accepted with much thanks for 30 years of service, effective April 30, 2018. A request to hire a replacement social worker from a list of candidates effective April 1 was approved. The month overlap is allowed for cross training to provide continuity of service while filling the Johnson position. Bakke voted no, questioning the need for two people doing the same job for a time.
• The possibility of doing a complete compensation study in 2018 was discussed. County Coordinator Bobbie Vickerman said there is $35,000 in the budget to do the study which will include job descriptions. It will take six to nine months to complete. The Personnel committee preferred the study over an annual review of job descriptions.
• County Engineer Ron Gregg recommended and received approval of numerous final payments to contractors, saying he was satisfied with all of the work done under these contracts.
A 2001 Ford Explorer and FEMA trailer will be advertised for sale on sealed bids.
A Hanger Lease Agreement at the Fillmore County Airport was approved with tenant Brent Kohn.