Commissioners Dewey Severson, Eric Johnson, Robert Burns, Teresa Walter, and Greg Myhre were all in attendance at the September 7 meeting of the Houston County Commission. Chairman Burns called the meeting to order at 9 a.m. and led board members and attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance. Commissioners approved the meeting agenda, minutes from the August 24 regular meeting, the September 1 emergency board meeting, and the consent agenda. There were no public comments. The meeting adjourned at 11:28 a.m.
The commission approved hiring Charles Ingram as a probationary Maintenance Specialist, effective September 13, 2021. Ingram will be housed in the Houston Shop as there is only one employee presently stationed there. Janet Becker’s work assignment went from 32 hours/week to up to 40 hours per week as needed on a temporary basis for approximately 12 weeks starting the week of October 25, 2021, after which Becker will return to 32 hours per week.
The commission went into closed session at 9:30 a.m. pursuant to Minn. Stat. 13D.05 Subd. 1 (d) attorney-client privilege regarding the existing lawsuit with Mound Prairie Township. They returned from closed session at 9:43 a.m. Commissioners discussed the global settlement and adopted all the terms in the agreement.
At 10 a.m., commissioners again went into closed session pursuant to Minn. Stat. §13D.03, Subd. 1, (b) to discuss labor negotiations, including negotiation strategies or developments or discussion and review of labor negotiation proposals, conducted pursuant to sections 179A.01 to 179A.25. They returned to the regular session at 10:53 a.m. No decisions were made.
Commissioners accepted the low bid for SAP 028-599-098/ SAP 028-599-0100 to Van Gundy Excavating LLC in the amount of $294,951.00. This project is to replace two bridges on Rooster Valley Road in Blackhammer Township.
Commissioners unanimously approved the Airport Grant FAA AIP No. 3-27-0016-09-21, SP A2803-33 pertaining to the Culvert Lining Project and authorized the county engineer to sign-off on the agreement for reimbursement. It was noted, “Funding for the project will be $70,200 in Federal funds and $7,801.00 CRSSA, so there will be no local dollars for the project.” Brian Pogodzinski, county engineer, shared, “The lining project was completed a couple of weeks ago.” Pogodzinski confirmed that he had inspected it when it was completed.
“Good news!” shared Allison Wagner, EDA. The county received a $20,000 grant for the Keep Company Co-Working Space, a shared workspace housed in the La Crescent Chamber of Commerce building. The chamber will manage the day-to-day operations, and the county is the fiscal agent. Businesses will be able to rent office equipment utilize the office space once a week. Clients should be able to walk in and use office space if there is space available. Wagner explained, “We want people to try out the area.” A technical professional will also be scheduled to meet with clients.
There is also a large table to hold group meetings. Commission Johnson thanked Wagner for a job well done, with Commissioner Walter sharing that she likes the project.
Commissioners authorized County Attorney Samuel Jandt, to sign the settlement agreement for $316.12, District Court File No. 62- CV-19-876. This has been ongoing since 2018.
Chairman Burns announced, “The Wildcat lottery is Wednesday, September 8, at 7 p.m. in the County Board Room.”
At the last Houston County Economic Development Authority (EDA) meeting, it was noted that businesses were paying off their revolving loans earlier. As a result, EDA is looking at ways to get the money out into the business community. To learn more about the county’s revolving loans, visit houstoncountymn.com/start-a-business/ for lending requirements and applications. Currently, there is $500,000 in EDA Revolving Loan funds to lend to businesses. A reminder that it is a low-interest loan.
The American Rescue Plan is on the commissioners’ minds as the initial list of projects must be submitted by mid-October. The first step is to create a preliminary list that can be adjusted as the county precedes through the process. The county is scheduled to receive $3.6 million. Possible projects include lost revenue experienced by the highway department, parking lot, east side steps of the courthouse, watersheds, information technology (IT), a new skid loader, comprehensive use plan, daycare needs, broadband, Semcac, sustainable housing, emergency medical services (EMS) including the sheriff’s posse, job training, or stormwater. Commissioner Johnson recommends, “In my opinion, keep it simple.”
The next meeting of the Houston County Commission is Tuesday, September 14, at 9 a.m. in County Board Room 222 in the Historic Courthouse, Caledonia, or via the county conference call line at (312) 626-6700 and entering meeting ID: 994-7297-7175 and password 368422.