At the November 23 meeting of the Fillmore County Board, a discussion continued on options for the best use of the American Rescue Plan Act funds received by the county. County Administrator Bobbie Hillery reviewed five of these options including broadband, employment options, administration office improvements, HVAC improvements in three county buildings, and automatic bathroom doors in two buildings.
At this point the county board has only decided on how to use $425,000 of the $4.2 million. Funding will pay for the hire of a social worker and case aide (one year each) and an RN (three years). ARPA funds have to be used for a COVID need.
Some department heads have suggested additional employees to help due to COVID absences or additional work-loads due to COVID. The office improvements and automatic bathroom doors will be minor expenses compared to HVAC or broadband.
HVAC estimates for the courthouse, office building, and the jail total almost $1.2 million. The estimate for HVAC for the old jail is very near the estimate for HVAC for a new jail.
Requested county investments from MediaCom and Harmony Telephone Company range from $50,000 from MediaCom to $2 million or $3.5 million from Harmony Telephone Company.
Other possible uses of the funding discussed included technical equipment for a new jail and replacement of mobile and portable radios in the sheriff’s department.
No action was taken this day.
ATV Ordinance public hearing
Sheriff John DeGeorge, attorney Bret Corson, and members of the board answered questions about the proposed ATV ordinance. Bernie Hammell asked about township roads. DeGeorge explained the ordinance only applies to county roads. State statute allows recreational use of ATVs on township roads. Commissioner Marc Prestby asked what happens when a township puts a moratorium on ATV use on its roads. Corson said it would fall on the township to enforce a moratorium on its roads.
Steve Hartwick suggested the words “reasonable and proper” for speed regulation seem “squishy.” DeGeorge noted the statuary speed limit on gravel roads is 55 mph. Hartwick asked about possible damage from organized rides on a property owner’s driveway where it meets the shoulder. He asked if riders were allowed open containers. Corson advised law enforcement to ticket anyone with an open container on the roadway.
DeGeorge explained the purpose of the ordinance is to clean things up. The county is the only authority to allow ATVs on county roads. This ordinance doesn’t have any bearing on Ag use which is more permissive. Commissioner Mitch Lentz said it will allow ATVs to get out of the ditch and onto the road. DeGeorge said there have been few issues with ATV use. When there is an issue, it involves alcohol or reckless driving.
Corson said we should be willing to revisit the ordinance if it needs amending; make changes if needed. DeGeorge added the ordinance and activity will be monitored to see if any issues need to be corrected.
The board will consider whether or not to approve the ATV ordinance at the December 14 meeting.
Other business in brief
• Jerry Cleveland, Spring Valley, made a statement about a future county jail during the Citizens Input portion of the meeting. He began saying a new jail will be a good thing. He proposed the board consider a monolithic dome for the jail. TSP Architects in Rochester designed the Grand Meadow School domes. He listed advantages to a dome including it being less costly, able to survive adverse weather events, energy efficient, and requiring less maintenance.
• The next step for the jail was discussed. DeGeorge said he would get a list of architects. The board would like to model it after the Howard County Jail. It would have to meet Minnesota Department of Corrections requirements. The board was considering the current location, using the old jail building, if possible, for offices or storage. The jail design will likely have a central dispatch/control area surrounded by cells.
• The Tax Forfeited Property listing was approved with the minimum sale price set by the commissioner from the district in which each property is located. Twelve properties are on the list. An auction of the forfeited properties will be held on March 1, 2022 at 1 p.m.
• Approval was given to apply for a 2021 Voting Equipment Grant VEGA-3. This grant requires a 50% match. About $80,000 has been budgeted for voting equipment next year.
• Agreements with the State of Minnesota, Department of Natural Resources, for financial and technical assistance were approved for 2021-2022 snowmobile season. Agreements were with the Bluff Valley Riders, Mabel-Canton Trail Busters, Hiawatha I & II and Tri-County Trailblazers.
• A request to advertise for the surface reconditioning on CSAH 3 from Highway 63 to Mower County line was approved. A request to advertise for the surface reconditioning on CSAH 39 from Highway 16 to CSAH 1 was approved. A request to advertise for the 2022 chip seal program on CSAHs 12,17,18,23,25,40 and 14 was approved. All of these are included in the county’s five year plan.
• A request to advertise a request for proposals for a contracted County Land Surveyor was approved.
• County Engineer Ron Gregg presented two quotes for the purchase of a pickup. The purchase was scheduled for 2022, but it may be hard to get one later. This purchase will be using 2022 budgeted money. The pickup will be used in the engineering division of the highway department. The low quote was approved (with standard size fuel tank) for a 2022 F-150 4×4 Super Cab with a 6.5-foot box. The cost will be just over $32,000.
• Ashley Johnson was hired as a Public Health case aide, effective December 13.
• A request to promote Jarad Carolan from within to county surveyor’s assistant, effective November 26 was approved.
• A request to advertise for engineer in training was approved.
• Jacob James was hired as an intermittent employee as recommended by the county engineer.
• An access permit for Aaron Martinez, section 26 of Holt Township, to CR 108 for a new building site was approved.
• An access permit for John M. Hochstetler, section 36 of York Township, to CR 30 to widen an existing driveway was approved.