On February 2, 2021, Chairperson Robert Burns called the Houston County Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting to order at 9 a.m.
Commissioners present included Dewey Severson, Eric Johnson, Robert Burns, Teresa Walter, and Greg Myhre.
Commissioners approved the February 2, 2021, meeting agenda and the meeting minutes from January 26, 2021, regular meeting session.
Commissioners approved Consent Agenda with Commissioner Robert Burns abstaining.
At 9:54 a.m., a motion to go into closed session was approved. Attorney Jason Kuboushek, Iverson Reuvers, summarized the closed meeting pursuant to attorney-client privilege. The commissioners discussed a possible settlement with avenues for settlement with no motions made. At 10:29 a.m., a motion to reconvene the regular meeting was approved.
Houston County Public Health held its first large scale community vaccine clinic on Friday, January 29, at the Four Seasons Community Center in Caledonia. The clinic lasted until they ran out of vaccine. One hundred people received the vaccine. The plan is to hold the next clinic the first week of February, depending on whether they receive a vaccine shipment. Public Health is mindful of the 72-hour deadline to get the vaccine out the door.
According to Houston County Public Health Director John Pugleasa, “The most we have received in one shipment is 100 doses. The shipments are now coming directly to Houston County.”
A reminder that there is no Pfizer vaccine in Houston County. Houston County receives the Moderna vaccine.
Public Health does not have the staff to manually schedule appointments for the vaccines. Residents are encouraged to use the screening and interest form uploaded on the Houston County Public Health website. Residents are encouraged to include an email address so someone can contact them. If the resident does not have an email address, Public Health encourages residents to include an email address even if it is a family member or friend’s email address. Residents will be notified when it is their turn.
Pugleasa and Public Health Supervisor Heather Myhre confirmed that it is okay to be on other lists and the county’s list. Residents are encouraged to get on as many lists as possible. When the county calls, let them know you have already received the vaccine, and you will be removed from their list. The community is reminded that whoever you get your first shot from, make sure to get your second shot from the same place.
The second round of vaccines began at the end of January. There is a window of time between the two shots, and the county aims at 28 days.
Commissioners wondered if the residents of the county’s group homes are receiving the vaccine. The commissioners were assured that group homes are on the county’s list, priority 1A3 and that the county is working with them.
Commissioners approved the engineering agreement presented by Brian Pogodzinski, county engineer, with Bolton & Menk for the water main loop design and inspection. The total is $24,950. The county is responsible for 2/3 of the total cost.
The board approved a request from Carol Lapham, County Finance Director, to increase the SELCO 2021 appropriation budget to $165,97 as reflected in the signed contract approved by the board last July. The request explained that this is a $47 increase over the approved budget amount, as reflected in Resolution 21-94 approved on January 5, 2021.
Houston County EDA
2020 Annual Report
Houston County EDA Director Allison Wagner presented the 2020 Annual Report. The year started on a positive note and could have quickly changed in March when COVID-19 appeared on the horizon with unprecedented challenges. Businesses in Houston County remained positive. Wagner stressed that, “Our businesses proved to be resilient, innovative, and adaptive.” She emphasized that, “Houston County businesses looked out for each other.”
EDA administered the 2020 Houston County CARES Business Relief Grant. Wagner thanked the county for providing over half of their CARES funds for the grant program. EDA received 255 grant applications, and 245 eligible applications received $1,187,166.36 in grant funds. Commissioners thanked EDA for a job well done.
EDA will launch the Houston County State Business Relief Grant on Friday, February 5. Wagner confirmed, “The deadline is Friday, February 19 at 4:30 p.m. or sooner if the funds run out before the deadline.”
The group administered one EDA loan totaling $30,000 to 7 Rivers Properties LLC for Kaddy’s Kafe, La Crescent.
As of the end of the year, EDA had 13 active loans through their revolving loan fund program, a low-interest loan. Currently, they have $457,771.05 on hand available to lend.
Other projects sponsored in 2020 included a COVID-19 webinar. EDA also partnered with Public Health to offer free webinars for businesses regarding COVID-19 safety and workplace guidelines. EDA held a career fair in February at the La Crescent Area Event Center. Thirty businesses participated. Offered were virtual tours in celebration of the statewide Manufacturing Week, creating the opportunity for 60 plus regional students to tour regional companies online.
In collaboration with CEDA, a free webinar series was hosted ,presenting practical information for farmers throughout the region. The webinars were recorded, so farmers who could not attend were able to watch at their leisure. Wagner mentioned that she heard from some of the participants that they are going back and watching them again.
EDA continues to work with the Bluff Country Collaborative (BCC), a partnership among Houston County EDA, Fillmore County EDA, area schools, over 50 businesses, Workforce Development Inc., Perkins Consortium, and SE Service Cooperative.
The next regular meeting of the Houston County Commissioners is Tuesday, February 9, 2021, at 9 a.m. The public is invited to dial zin. Contact Donna Trehus at (507) 725-5803 to be included in remote meetings.