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Budget cuts impact role of public defenders


Fri, Jul 11th, 2008
Posted in Government

PRESTON - Judge Robert Benson discussed the state cut back of funding for the Public Defender Office with the Fillmore County Board at their July 8 meeting. Benson explained that public defenders will no longer provide service for parents with Child in Need of Help or Protection (CHIPS) cases or in cases for termination of parental rights. He added that 69 attorneys have been laid off with state funding cut backs.

CHIPS is a program under Minnesota Statute Chapter 260C. CHIPS "identifies cases where the State's Social Service office becomes involved in family matters where allegations exist related to juvenile delinquency, truancy, child neglect, or child abuse." The social service department conducts an investigation.

Benson was especially concerned about termination of parental rights cases where he felt parents should have adequate representation because of the finality of these cases. In CHIPS cases the potential harm to parents is not as great. He noted that public defenders are not required by statute to represent parents, but are required to represent the child in these cases.

Judge Benson maintained that parents must meet financial guidelines and be truly indigent to qualify for an attorney appointed by him. He said that by statute he is required to appoint an attorney for those not financially able to hire their own. The question is who pays the court appointed attorney if the state doesn't. He informed the board that the standard rate for the attorney is $100/hour. If the judge appoints an attorney for the parents in these cases, the bill will be sent to the county board for payment. Commissioner Marc Prestby commented that this is just another unfunded mandate. The state has been picking up the costs of these court appointments for the last fifteen years or so. The Public Defenders Office is funded separately from the court.

At least one county has made a stand that they will not pay for these appointments, in an attempt to make a statement to the state legislators and the governor. Benson suggested that if attorneys are not getting paid, they will refuse the appointments. He added that it is helpful that Social Service Director Thomas Boyd and his staff are good at bringing cases to a resolution without needing attorneys.

Chairman Randy Dahl expects that the state can't compel the county boards to pay for the court appointed attorneys this fiscal year, but may require them to next year with the new budg .....
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Harmony looks into lift station problems

Fri, Jul 11th, 2008
Posted in Government

Harmony residents have some concerns about what is going on with the north lift station that seemed to be the cause of the sewer issues during the heavy rains on June 7-8. During that storm Harmony received more than eight inches of rain, and many p ..... 
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Lanesboro Museum asks city for help

Fri, Jul 11th, 2008
Posted in Government

LANESBORO - Speaking for the Lanesboro Historical Museum in Lanesboro, Jim Ostrem approached the city council with a request at the regular meeting July 7.

First, Ostrem invited the council to come to the museum for a free guided tour so th ..... 
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Septic system inspection required before sale

Thu, Jul 3rd, 2008
Posted in Government

PRESTON - Zoning Administrator Norman Craig discussed with the county board the enforcement of the Point of Sale Ordinance at the board's July 1 meeting. He noted that the ordinance has been on the books for about a year. It says that "before a pers ..... 
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Spring Valley proceeds with flood buyout

Thu, Jul 3rd, 2008
Posted in Government

SPRING VALLEY - The Spring Valley City Council held a special meeting on Monday, June 30, 2008, to discuss issues regarding violations of the junk ordinance and buyout of flood plain property.

City Administrator Deb Zimmer told the council t ..... 
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Harmony Administrator updates council on flood matters

Fri, Jun 27th, 2008
Posted in Government

The day of the Harmony City Council meeting on June 24, City Administrator Jerome Illg met with Senator Sharon Ropes to talk about water damage in the community due to recent flooding. They toured some of the homes that have had damage due to floodi ..... 
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Spring Valley keeps Parking Ordinance

Fri, Jun 27th, 2008
Posted in Government

The Spring Valley City Council held a Public Hearing at their June 23rd meeting on Monday and encouraged people to come forward that had concerns about the current Parking Ordinance. That ordinance restricts parking on Broadway in the business distr ..... 
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Rushford flood loans reach $17 million

Fri, Jun 27th, 2008
Posted in Government

RUSHFORD - It was a big moment, but definitely understated.

At the previous Rushford city council meeting, the business loan spreadsheet of projected flood recovery loans said that the fund was one half million dollars "in the hole."

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Legislators meet with County Board

Fri, Jun 27th, 2008
Posted in Government

PRESTON - Representative Ken Tschumper and Senator Sharon Ropes discussed state legislative accomplishments and disappointments with the county board at their June 24 meeting. Tschumper maintained that with the Transportation Bill passed in February ..... 
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