At their last meeting, the Fillmore County Board directed County Administrator Bobbie Hillery to trim early numbers for the proposed 2021 budget from an increase of 6.53% to an increase of around 3%. The budget proposed this day, September 1, with additional suggested cuts shows a levy increase of 2.94%. Commissioner Mitch Lentz participated via WebEx.
The reductions total about $402,000. About one-third of the savings are due to a lower than projected increase in insurance costs. Other savings were achieved through the use of reserves, employee changes including one less position in sanitation and a half-time auditor/treasurer position, and GIS software.
Sanitation transfer station attendant Nicholas Meldahl submitted a long statement to the board explaining that he understood the county is facing economical hardships like everyone else, but asked that they reconsider their decision to reduce the sanitation department from a three-man full-time staff to a two-man full-time staff. Speaking to the board he asked them to review other options if possible. He suggested that one single employee and the department head, when the department head has to leave for meetings, will reduce it to a one-man operation. He warned of a backlog of work and maintenance, plus safety concerns.
Hillery noted that the reduction of one position was discussed this last spring. Sanitation has had a big decrease in revenue, due to less haulers coming in. Terry Schultz, Maintenance, has agreed to use some of his staff when needed to fill in. The Solid Waste Committee recommended the elimination of one sanitation position. A motion to eliminate one position as recommended by the committee was approved, effective September 1.
The board will need to approve a preliminary budget at their September 22 meeting. The amount of state funding is still an unknown, as the state is dealing with a significant deficit due to the pandemic.
Hillery said the county’s 2019 audit is projected to be completed on September 20.
NextEra Energy Resources: Timberwolf Wind
Tom Vonbische spoke to the board during the citizens input section of the meeting, representing NextEra Energy. NextEra is the world’s number one generator of wind and solar energy and has assets in 37 states. It has invested in Minnesota since 2000. There are three operational wind farms in the state.
Timberwolf Wind, LLC, during today’s meeting, was granted its second conditional use permit to construct a meteorological tower on the property owned by John and Jacqueline Ryan, section 30, Harmony Township. The first tower recently approved was in Bristol Township. Vonbische said an application for a third tower will be coming. The towers are used to validate/confirm wind resources for a potential wind farm.
Vonbische reported that they have recently began discussions with landowners. Outreach will begin this fall in Beaver, York, Bristol, Harmony, Carimona, Forestville, and Bloomfield Townships.
Vonbische said this is a very early stage. He was looking to get a feel for the board’s opinions on wind and renewable energy. Commissioner Duane Bakke said the county’s ordinance is the mechanism for permitting. Many individuals have solar in the county. Any decisions will be made on facts and a review.
Vonbische explained they want the board’s support. The state will need to issue the permit. The county will have a say over anything more restrictive than the state. He added that Minnesota is one of the most restrictive states in its regulation of wind energy.
Other business in brief
• The conditional use permit for the meteorological tower mentioned above was approved as recommended by the Planning Commission.
Powder River Development Services, LLC applied for a conditional use permit to construct a communications tower on property owned by Ron and Tina Sand, section 35, Norway Township. First Net equipment will be installed on the tower. The CUP was approved as recommended by the Planning Commission.
The board approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance, section 604.03(13). State Highway 56 was added to (13) which allows existing buildings, not previously permitted as a dwelling, sited adjacent to specific U.S. and State Highway corridors to be used for non-agricultural commercial or industrial uses.
An amendment to Section 5, SSTS Standards, 501.2(f) Alternative Local Standards was approved as presented. State code allows homeowner installation of subsurface sewage treatment systems. This amendment makes the ordinance more restrictive than the state. “A gray water system may not be installed by the landowner if the system involves the use of a pump. Pressurized systems, pre-treatment systems, at-grades or mounds cannot be constructed by anyone other than a licensed installer.”
• The retirement of Julie Loven, Public Health nurse, was approved with thanks for her 26 years of service, effective November 30.
Approval was given to advertise for her replacement, for a lead Public Health nurse.
A request to adjust the FTE for Sydney Gilbert, PHN, from 1.0 to 0.8 from January 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021, was approved as requested by the director of nursing.
• A resolution was approved to extend the Declaration of a State of Emergency – COVID-19 through October 6.
• Three applications for CARES Act funding for local small business relief had already come in. This day is the first day the grant applications for up to $10,000 for eligible businesses are being accepted. The grants are to be used for costs incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications are available on the Fillmore County website or a hard copy can be picked up at the administration office in the courthouse. More information can be found on the Fillmore County Journal website. Questions can be directed to Fillmore County EDA director Chris Hahn at email@example.com or to County Administrator Bobbie Hillery at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (507) 765-4560.
Grants will also soon be available for non-profits. Hillery will give more information at the September 8 board meeting.