Houston County Commissioners elected District 5 Commissioner Greg Myhre as the board’s 2022 chairman. District 1 Commissioner Dewey Severson is the new vice-chair.
The Caledonia Argus is the county’s official newspaper for 2022. The rates range from $7-$9 per column inch, the same as last year.
Commissioners unanimously approved the $185,977 one-year contract with Southeastern Libraries Cooperating (SELCO). According to the contract, the county will collect funds on lands not otherwise taxed for library services to support library services in the county. Caledonia Public Library, Hokah Public Library, Houston Public Library, La Crescent Public Library, and the Spring Grove Public Library shall provide library service to the county’s residents at no additional fee beyond those imposed on all library users. Library services include but are not limited to: on-site use of all library materials and equipment, on-site and remote access to online resources, checkout privileges, walk-in privileges at Minnesota public libraries, interlibrary loan service, access to children’s services, on-site reference service, ease of return, and programs for all ages.
In regular first meeting of the year business, commissioners authorize Eitzen State Bank (ESB) Banking Powers and granted account powers for the Bank of the West for 2022. The commission must also set the minimum salary for elected at the beginning of the year. The minimum salary of $5,000 was approved for the county attorney, county recorder, county auditor/treasurer, county sheriff, and county commissioner.
Resolution No. 22-05 outlining the budgeted appropriations to various agencies was approved: SE Minnesota Initiative Fund $3,750, SEMAA $2,000, SELCO $185,977, Emergency Medical Service $10,000, SEMCAC Senior & Caregiver Advocacy $1,500, SEMCAC Senior Nutrition $2,000, SEMCAC Transportation Program (Donation Rides) $1,500, Historical Society $37,500, Historical Society Matching Funds (Maximum) $5,000, Southern MN Tourism/Historic Bluff Country $952, Agricultural Society $20,000, Agricultural Society Prior Year Financials Additional $4,000, RRSWCD $129,000, SE MN EMS $5,000; total $408,179.
Commissioners declared Houston County a state of emergency for conditions resulting from the severe storms, heavy winds, and tornado event of December 15, 2021. Mark Olson, Emergency Management Director, mentioned that he had received calls from MiEnergy and MnDOT. Olson expects the numbers to rise but wants to get the ball rolling. Olson was asked if he had heard from any of the townships. He stated that he had not as the townships have not reached the $35,000 threshold.
Commissioners approved revising Cynthia Cresswell-Hatleli’s hourly rate from $36.50 to $26.47/hour effective January 16, 2022. It was noted that commissioners increased her hourly rate one year ago when she was temporarily reassigned. Cresswell-Hatleli provided training to the new staff of appraisers, with many having less than three years’ experience.
The proposed COVID and Mask Policy presented by Tess Kruger, Personnel, and John Pugleasa, Public Health & Human Services, was removed from the list of action items as there are unanswered questions. Kruger shared that the Supreme Court is scheduled to decide on January 7, 2022, and the deadline to have a policy in place is January 10, 2022. The next commission meeting is January 11, 2022, and long as the county is exercising good faith the county would not be cited for non-compliance.
Kruger stated that she heard from one union, and they would like to see the county pay for COVID tests and the masks. Typically, the county has paid for OSHA requirements that pertains to safety. Kruger used the example of the orange safety vests used by the highway department. The vests are purchased for employees.
Commissioner Burns stated that he feels that American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds should be used to pay for the masks and testing.
According to Pugleasa, employees’ privacy was a consideration when developing the proposed policy. If only employees that have not been vaccinated are required to wear a mask, everyone would know that they had not been vaccinated; therefore, the policy states that all employees would be required to wear a mask.
The personnel department would be required to collect the data and keep it in a secure location separate from employees’ medical records.
Committee assignments were reviewed and updated with few changes. Commissioner Dewey Severson replaces Commissioner Burns on the finance committee and Commissioner Myhre replaces Commissioner Walter on the negotiating committee. Commissioner Burns replaces Commissioner Johnson on the Bluff Country Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and Commissioner Walter is the SCHSAC 2022 alternative. Commissioner Burns replaces Commissioner Myhre on the SEMCA board.
The next meeting of the Houston County Commission is Tuesday, January 11, at 9 a.m. in the County Commission Board Room 222 located on the second floor in the Historic County Courthouse, Caledonia, or via the county conference call line (312) 626-6700. Enter meeting ID: 994-7297-7175 and password 368422. The public is invited to attend.