Rep. Greg Davids and Senator Jeremy Miller were at the February 6 county board meeting to hear the county’s legislative priorities for the 2018 legislative session.
County Coordinator Bobbie Vickerman thanked legislators for 2017 legislation that stabilized and added funding for county program aid. Fillmore County’s CPA increased by $90,000.
The county noted its opposition to any legislation that would be unsustainable in the long term. Any new or revised programs need to have long term funding provided for them, so the financial burden doesn’t fall on the counties.
Commissioner Duane Bakke said there probably have been more land acquisitions in the last six months than over the last six years. Commissioner Randy Dahl insisted the county needs to have a say in these land acquisitions. He believes more game wardens are needed. Also, DNR land needs to be managed; “box elders aren’t prairie restoration.” Dahl granted that tourism, hunting and fishing are important. He noted that the DNR is the largest land owner in Fillmore County, but with so few managing that land. Gordon Johnson, City of Rushford Village, said the DNR owns 2,215 acres, or over 10% of the land in the city. Cities do not get PILT dollars (payment in lieu of taxes).
County Engineer Ron Gregg maintained bridges are very important in the county (57 structures on replacement priority list totaling over $13 million). He asked for robust bridge bonding. The county supports long term sustainable funding for roads and bridges. He asked that last year’s sales tax for auto parts be dedicated for highway use. Regarding overweight vehicle permits, Bakke noted the interstate system does not allow over weight vehicles, so they use state and county roads. The county supports retention of permitting authority by individual county jurisdictions.
Kevin Olson, Social Services, listed issues that need attention and funding, including improvement of the eligibility technology system, crisis bed availability, mental health system improvements, and CHIP funding. The federal government approved a short-term extension of CHIP funding in December. Bakke said the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) supports field tests on technology programs before they are rolled out.
Jessica Erickson, public health, asked for a long overdue increase in public health funding and the maintenance of state funding that promotes healthy communities and healthy behaviors. She insisted prevention saves money in the long run.
Sheriff Tom Kaase asked for more funding for security and safety for our courts. Fillmore County will spend $220,000 for court security equipment in 2017 and 2018. He said there is a need for funding for additional staff training for those who deal with mental health and chemical abuse issues in the jail.
Attorney Brett Corson asked for an exception to the medical privilege in Minnesota statute in order to obtain blood tests where death or serious bodily injury is involved. He wants to “balance privacy with the need for public safety.” He asked that the State Public Defender’s Office pay for investigators, experts, etc. out of their own budget rather than ordering the county to pay. Corson stressed the need for more adult and juvenile mental health/behavioral health facilities. The lack of these facilities costs counties and the state more money and delays treatment. He recommended that persons committed three or more times be committed for a period of no less than three years to insure continued compliance with medications. Again, he was looking for a balance of civil rights and public safety.
Other issues presented as legislative priorities included broadband development, dedicated funding for county based watershed plans, dedicated funding for election equipment upgrades, e-waste recycling and waste reduction, state agency support and reimbursement related to private septic systems, and veterans home funding for Fillmore County.
Senator Miller expects there will be a discussion to dedicate funds for transportation. Last year he felt there was a good tax relief package and the bonding bill provided full funding for the Lanesboro Dam.
Rep. Davids said the first bill this session will be to fund the legislature. He considered the 2017 tax bill a great bill for counties. He expects a bonding bill of $800 to $850 million in 2018. This is not a budget year; the budget is set. Davids said he supported the recent federal tax law. Related to that law, he said if we do nothing, you get nothing, which he says is not an option. Davids is advocating for a bipartisan effort to reform the Minnesota tax code.
Other business in brief
• Drew Hatzenbihler, solid waste administrator, said there were no real changes to the contract between Winona County and Fillmore County for the Operation of a Household Hazardous Waste Management Program. It was renewed for five years.
Approval was given for the purchase of a steel belt conveyor and installation costs from KVA Engineering, Inc. at a cost of $75,790. Quality Construction provided an estimate to bolt a large bin down and cut a hole in the building at an estimated cost between $455 and $800.
A request for efficient lighting for recycling and resource recovery buildings was approved. Morem Electric, Inc. will provide and install the new LED fixtures at an estimated total cost of $5,750. Morem Electric will furnish and install electrical equipment for the conveyor at an estimated cost of $9,850.
Approval was given for the purchase of a new scale system for the wheel loader from Titan Machinery at a cost of $10,980. This will allow semi trailers to be filled within the 20 ton limit.
• Approval was given of the Fillmore County 2017 County Feedlot Officer Annual report and authorized signature. Feedlot officer Mike Frauenkron noted a reduced number of feedlots will result in a reduction of funding in 2019.
• Right of way plats for the reconstruction of CSAH 1 between Spring Valley city limits north to the county line were adopted. Gregg noted all right of ways have been paid for.
• Approval was given to continue LexisNexis subscription for online research. Attorney Corson said this is our legal research engine.
Assistant attorney Marla Stanton and Captain John DeGeorge have been doing community outreach to local schools on Internet safety. The programs are for kids, teachers, and parents. They go out to educate as to what is illegal and wrong with sexting and bullying. They hope to go to all schools by the end of the year.
• Jessica Erickson presented an annual review of waiver and home care services. Services involve skilled nursing, home health aid services, and homemaker services. The number of clients served has been trending downward over the last several years. Vickerman noted reimbursement is not coming close to covering the cost of service. More levy dollars are needed each year to make up the difference. Dahl expects by 2019 $100,000 will have to be levied to cover the difference. The Social Services committee will discuss options and come back with a recommendation.
• The SHI International Corp invoice in the amount of $41,039 for yearly renewal was approved. Vickerman said the goal is to have one computer device per individual to reduce this expense by reducing duplicate work stations to reduce the number of licenses needed.
• Vickerman reported that installation of courthouse security equipment is expected to be completed by April 1.