Fillmore County Solar Project, LLC is one step closer to constructing a 45 MW Solar Farm in section 14 of Beaver Township. Commissioners unanimously approved the conditional use permit with nine conditions at their January 26 meeting.
The road to this point has been long and there are still more steps for the project before construction can begin. That is why one condition allows the CUP to remain valid as it pursues pre-construction approvals and financial commitments for the project interconnection along with building permits and commences construction within 36 months of the county’s approval of the CUP. The normal time period is 12 months.
A public hearing was held by the Planning Commission on January 14; commission members voted unanimously to recommend the CUP be approved with conditions.
The board first approved the Negative Declaration for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the solar farm and determined that the proposed project does not require the preparation of an EIS. The project to produce clean, renewable energy will be located on about 558 acres of undeveloped agricultural land. It will connect to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) transmission system. The Project is designed to comply with all requirements of the Zoning Ordinance (Section 740 of the county’s ordinance). An Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) was completed and certified by the county. Two letters were received from state agencies during the 30-day comment period on the completed EAW and were responded to by Fillmore County Solar Project, LLC. Zoning Administrator Cristal Adkins said there were no other comments during the comment period.
Other business in brief
• Sheriff John DeGeorge reviewed the Enterprise Lease program for squad cars. The county has been with the program for about three years. The program simplifies the process to manage the rotation of older to new squad cars. DeGeorge said the program does not save money on the up front cost of the vehicles, but does produce savings on the resale of the vehicles.
The ANCOM Motorola service contract was approved for 2021. The maintenance contract cost is $17,524.65 and the funding comes out of the 911 budget.
• Drew Hatzenbihler, Sanitation, reported that Winneshiek County Solid Waste Agency has agreed that the total tonnage from Fillmore County between December 1991 and July 2020 is 65,075.6 tons of waste. After 30 years the county will be paid back overage fees or billed for underpayment. County Administrator Bobbie Hillery said this will be noted in the county’s financial statement. The county no longer sends its waste to Winneshiek County. The tonnage figure was accepted by the board.
• Jessica Erickson, Public Health, updated the board on COVID. Numbers have increased; everyone needs to do their part to get the numbers down. Total vaccinations given through public health so far is 520; she expects to give 230 more by the end of the week. Commissioner Duane Bakke noted that the total number of people vaccinated in the county to this point is about 1,500. Governor Tim Walz has opened up nine vaccination locations to 65 and older. The closest site is in Rochester. Those eligible can sign up on Tuesdays; those selected at random will be contacted. Bakke encouraged people to sign up.
• A long discussion ensued over the county’s overtime policy, especially as it relates to employees in the highway department. A resolution was approved to test changes to the policy as it relates to engineering technicians for 12 months. At that time the test changes will be reviewed and it will be determined if changes will be made to the overtime policy.
Draft changes to mileage and travel policy were discussed. The major change in the first reading of the changes is the cutting of mileage reimbursement in half for on-site employees if they use their private vehicle for county business when a county vehicle is available.
• Todd Ragan, intermittent deputy, will be promoted to full-time deputy effective January 27.
• The resignation of Brianna Reed, support enforcement aide, effective January 28 was accepted with thanks after her one and a half years of service. A request to advertise internally for her replacement was approved.
• Four intermittent jailers (James Bakken, Jackson Rindels, Jordan Rudolph, and Autumn Collett) were hired effective February 1.
• Approval was given to remake the Technology/Land Records/GIS committee to include Hillery, representatives from Marco and Schneider Geospatial, representatives from the recorder and assessor offices, feedlot officer, auditor/treasurer, and commissioners Mitch Lentz and Marc Prestby.
• Mike Sample will fill the at-large seat on the Extension Committee.
• The extension of maintenance and support agreements for Tax and CAMA through 2023 was approved.
• Approval was given to move forward with the process of transitioning the Law Library room to an additional conference room.
• A bid from Marco to remove and properly dispose of old non-compliant computers and other technology equipment was approved.
• County Recorder David Kiehne presented his annual report for certification of compliance with recording requirements. Approval was given for the preliminary requests for use of allocated ($5,487) and unallocated ($8,400) accounts to pay budgeted annual software maintenance fees.
• The 2020-2021 Adult & Children’s Mobile Crisis Grant Cooperative Agreement was approved.
• Approval was given to advertise for a bridge replacement in Arendahl Township.
• Laura Christensen, District Administrator SWCD, received approval and signature on both the 2020 Wetland Conservation Act NRBG funds report ($8,778) and the 2020 Local Water Management NRBG funds report ($14,278). All funds have been expended.