The Fillmore County Board extended its Emergency Declaration due to COVID-19 through November 3 during its October 6 meeting. The declaration allows the holding of virtual meetings per state of Minnesota guidelines and some workers to work from home during the pandemic. It also captures funding for continuing operations during this emergency period.
Approval was given for $547,077 of CARES grant dollars to go to schools as requested by Chatfield, Fillmore Central, Kingsland, Lanesboro, Mabel-Canton, Rushford-Peterson, and St. John’s schools. Much of the funding will be used for technology upgrades.
A total of $642,143 was approved for business grants. The grants will be a maximum of $10,000. Seventy businesses have been deemed eligible for the grants. They will now be asked to provide documentation to prove costs and losses related to COVID. They will be awarded the amount which they can document as a loss or cost due to the pandemic.
Approval was given for the purchase of a immunization trailer at a total cost of $33,900. This total includes a generator and graphics. The trailer itself will be purchased from Ironside Trailer Sales of Harmony for $29,700.
The purchase of 47 headset phones for Public Health and Social Services from Marco, including professional services was approved at a cost of just over $19,000. This purchase qualifies under CARES for mobile workers. Approval was given for the purchase of 24 laptops and up to 20 monitors with CARES dollars from Marco at a total cost of $35,126. Mobile workers can use these in the field when necessary.
For vaccine storage and immunizations the board approved the purchase of a -40 degree Centigrade, light weight freezer at a cost of $4,980. A freezer panel purchase was also approved at a cost of $699. The purchase of a Cool Cube portable refrigerator at a cost of $2,199 was approved.
Audio conferencing (Microsoft Teams) for up to 17 users for virtual meetings was approved for Public Health at a cost of $1,750.
Kevin Olson, Social Services, requested increased funding for Hiawatha Valley Prescriber Support Services in the amount of $7,743 and an increase in emergency general assistance funding in the amount of $5,000. Both increases were approved.
Finally, the county reached out to small cities that didn’t receive CARES dollars. Whalan requested $1,799 for COVID-related expenses. The request was approved.
County Administrator Bobbie Hillery described the increased work that is being required with this year’s general election. The purchase of four desk top printers and toner (total cost about $480) was approved to reduce numerous trips to one printer. A lot of citizens are coming in for early voting. The board supported the shifting of some internal staff to help and the hire of additional temporary staff using funds that have been budgeted for that purpose.
Uses of more CARES dollars will be discussed and acted on in future meetings.
Highway Engineer Ron Gregg requested and received approval for the purchase of a 2,000 gallon dual wall fuel tank for the Canton Shop at a cost of $6,388. His second request for the purchase of a 2020, 11-foot road groomer with hydraulic pump kit at a total cost of $17,550 met with more questions. Commissioners did not seem to question the effectiveness of the equipment which is pulled behind a one-ton pick-up. They questioned whether the maintenance staff had adequate time to make use of the added equipment. Brent Kohn said this piece of equipment can cover four times the road surface compared to that covered by a road grader in the same amount of time. The road groomer is used to smooth out wash-board areas. Commissioner Mitch Lentz insisted it will not be utilized; we are always far behind with the resources we have. The purchase was approved with Lentz voting no.
Approval was given to advertise for bridge replacement projects that have already been designed for 2021. The bridge projects include one on CSAH 23 in Amherst Township, one on CSAH 6 in Chatfield Township, and one on 102 in Sumner Township. Commissioner Randy Dahl emphasized that as of yet the state legislature has not passed a bonding bill this year. Highway does a good job of getting these projects out, but there is a lack of money. Property taxes won’t fix this.
Pam Schroeder noted there has been an increased demand for airport storage. Approval was given for work order number 1 for the design of the eight-bay T-hanger at the airport. The county’s cost share is 5%, or $2,950. The design work is eligible for federal (90%) and state funding (5%). Approval was also given for work order number 2 for the design and relocation of the Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS) at the county airport.
Other business in brief
• The hire of Kyle Chiglo was approved as the replacement maintenance specialist effective November 2.
• Erik Hildebrand, Minnesota DNR Wildlife Health Program, updated the board on Chronic Wasting Disease in Fillmore County. The brain disease in deer, elk, moose, and reindeer is caused by a mutated mis-shapen protein and is spread mostly through saliva, feces and urine. The management and control zone is the same as last year. CWD persists in Fillmore County, where it was first discovered in 2016. Two new areas of disease are in Winona and Houston Counties. The core area is the eight by eight square mile area (Preston-Lanesboro) where over half of the positives have come from.
Dumpsters and quartering stations are available for hunters; locations can be found on the Minnesota DNR’s CWD website. To date, there have been 88 positives in wild deer, of which 86 were found in southeast Minnesota where there has been persistent disease. Stations will be provided for hunters to provide samples. There are restrictions to movement of carcasses. Approved methods of disposal of positive deer include lined landfill, alkaline digestion, and incineration. Hunters are encouraged to get their deer tested and hunters are encouraged to keep hunting.
• A conditional use permit was approved for Jonathan and Kathryn Schroeder for an engineered pond for recreational purposes, section 18 Pilot Mound Township. There was no opposition at the Planning Commission’s public hearing.
• A conditional use permit was approved for Steuart Custom Manufacturing to use the former Artesian Fresh building, section 31 Beaver Township, to package hand sanitizer. There was no opposition at the Planning Commission’s public hearing.
• A conditional use permit was approved for Craig and Julene Stortz for a five-site campground on their property, section 15 Canton Township. Stortz owns the campers and has the ability to move them out of the area if necessary. The area is not a delineated flood plain. There are two conditions: emergency evacuation plan and the submission of a layout plan for the five sites. Both conditions have been met.
• A field access permit was approved for Kent and Vickey Duxbury, section 12 Fillmore Township. An access permit for Reuben and Lydia Zook (to widen an existing access), section 25 Preston Township was approved.