Commissioners Dewey Severson, Eric Johnson, Robert Burns, Teresa Walter, and Greg Myhre were all present via Zoom at the March 23 regular meeting of the Houston County Commission. Chairman Burns called the meeting to order at 9a.m.
Public Health is hosting a 300 first dose community clinic on Thursday, March 25, at the Four Seasons in Caledonia. The county has moved into the 1B priority category, residents under 65 years of age with one or two health conditions. As the department moves to this population, it becomes more complex to determine eligibility. Houston County is still in the top 10 of the state’s counties in the number of people vaccinated. Residents are reminded to follow the CDC guidelines even if they have received the vaccine. It is imperative to follow the guidelines until the county reaches herd immunity.
Gypsy moth treatment
Kimberly Thielen Cremers, Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), attended the commission meeting to explain MDA’s upcoming treatment to stop the movement of the gypsy moth into Houston County. The gypsy moth is the most destructive right behind emerald ash borer. The gypsy moth does not kill trees, but because it defoliates trees, which stresses the trees, it makes it possible for other bugs to come in and kill the trees. The gypsy moth is moving into Minnesota from Wisconsin at an average of 1-1 ½ miles a year.
According to the MDA website, three Houston County areas, Jefferson, Mound Prairie, and Brownsville, will be treated. The website explains MDA will be using SPLAT GM-O, a pheromone-based product to confuse adult moths and prevent them from reproducing.
Cremers explained that MDA will mail out two postcards to residents in the identified areas before the beginning of the project, and email or text notification will be sent out when the project begins. If residents have questions, they are to call 1 (888) 545-6684 or email their questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you reside in any of these three areas, go to the MDA website and sign up for text or email notifications for this area.
The department is taking public comments until April 18.
Root River Soil and Water Conservation District
Dave Walter, District Manager, Root River Soil and Water Conservation District (RRSWCD), presented their Annual Report to the Commission. The District is overseen by five elected supervisors and has five employees. RRSWCD runs an estimated 200 programs through the office each year. The office is not funded by levy money, but instead, projects are funded by state and federal grants and county appropriations. Walter mentioned, “Currently, there are 147 projects on the books, 40 are shovel ready, 54 equipped ready to go, and 40 in drafts.”
Residents can download the 2020 annual report from the county’s website, www.co.houston.mn.us/departments/soil-and-water/.
Human Resources Director Theresa Arrick-Kruger asked the board to accept the resignation of James Gardner, environmental services specialist, effective March 16, 2021, and approve initiating a competitive search for a probationary environmental services specialist. Kruger also asked the board to support extending the paid leave for coronavirus through May 31, 2021, granting employees up to 80 hours of sick leave. The board approved. Commissioner Walter thanked Gardner for his service.
The board approved the purchase of approximately 19.2 acres from Tim Bichel to add to the Root River Wildlife Management area. The property is located along the river in the flood plain. Funding for the property comes from the rim credit, and the state is the property owner. The county will receive land payment in place of taxes.
Commissioners awarded the low bid for SAP 028-599-099 to Icon Constructors, LLC in the amount of $926,798.00. This project is for a replacement on Freeburg Rother Ridge Road in Crooked Creek Township. The county received three bids. The low bid came in 14% above the estimate due to an outdated request for bids and higher costs. Freeburg is applying $20,000 toward the project.
The commissioners approved a five-year Master Agreement contract with Bolten and Menk. No action is needed on Work Order #1 for the environmental review.
Pogodzinski asked the commissioners to approve hiring an appraiser for the airport for $2,500. Approved.
Commissioners approved the 2021-2023 Labor Agreement between Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc. Local #60 (Non-Licensed Jailers/Dispatchers Unit) and County of Houston and the 2021-2023 Labor Agreement Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) and the County of Houston. 2.5% increase retro to January 1 no discussion 2022-2023 pending labor study.
Commissioners approved entering a contract with G-Cubed services for septic inspection services on a temporary as-needed basis until the environmental services specialist position is filled.
The board approved Resolution 21-22 Transfer of Real Property in Houston County to the City of Caledonia. The property in question is 119 S Kingston in Caledonia.
The Houston County Commission’s next meeting is Tuesday, April 6, 2021, at 9 a.m. The public is invited to dial-in. Contact Donna Trehus, (507) 725-5803 to be included in remote meetings.