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Commissioners’ Report: Driver’s License Department -Where should it go?

Fri, Dec 5th, 2003
Posted in Features

When discussing ways to save money and still maintain efficient departments, the county board has been looking into the possibility of letting the Driver License Department move out of the courthouse to the private sector.

Joanne Martin, state Driver License Department addressed issues involved in making such a decision at Tuesday’s meeting. She also talked about conditions governing the temporary move of the camera used in the licensing process. The move is necessary because of the courthouse-remodeling project. It was not good news.

Much to the dismay of the board, Martin stated the temporary housing would cost somewhere between $400-$500 just to move the camera--each time. The state does have its standards "to maintain integrity", therefore an accepted specialist must complete the actual moving, and the provisional site must be approved by the state. In actuality, it wasn’t such a shock to have the state throw yet another twist at the county—they’ve been getting used to it since the beginning of the state’s huge budget cuts. The board appeared more insulted than surprised.

Commissioner Duane Bakke stated that if the county was going to move the department out of county offices, a decision needed to be made so taxpayers didn’t pay a second moving charge. The department completed approximately 3,000 transactions last year, said Martin, making about a $1,000 a month. Philip Burkholder had noted in previous meetings that the licensing is pretty much a wash in regard to income versus expenses.

To lease such equipment to an independent partner would run about $2,000 a month. Kurt Reicks, from the license plate bureau in Preston, was also present during the discussion. Martin said Reicks would be looking at keeping the $3.50 filing fee for each transaction if the county appointed him as the trustee of the driver license department.

Contracts for camera equipment is bid on every four to five years. Fillmore’s contract is due for rebidding in March. The county can opt out and appoint another party to the work, but this must also be approved by the state.

New technology and additional rules are another issue in determining the final outcome of the department’s placement. By going on-line to complete applications, the state hopes to eliminate errors that surface. It will also speed up the time it takes to receive a new license, cutting delivery days in half.

The board elected to hold off on a final decision until its next meeting on December. 16.

Forestville horse trails looking to expand

Mark White, Forestville State Park, informed board members that the park is looking to construct a return loop from the Big Springs horse trail that now ends at the cave’s entrance a few miles from the horse encampment area.

"Horse riders have been asking for a return loop for some time," said White. A proposed 40-acre purchase, one of three pieces of land needed to make the loop a reality, has become available. White described the acreage as very "rugged".

The piece butts up to a large section of land that is open to public hunting by the park. White informed the commissioners that there haven’t been enough applicants for the open hunting area. The park allows up to 110 applicants a season with each person permitted to take up to five deer. This year’s season saw only 85 hunters. Applications are taken during the first week of September.

White warned the board it will take several years to complete the loop, but this acquisition would be a major step in the right direction.

County approves

private auditing firm

It was suppose to be a good thing for counties to be able to hire their own private auditor to complete the yearly, state mandated audit process. In the past, the state has completed the 87 county audits. Now, in order to save more money, the state has stepped down from that responsibility—except when it chooses to conduct one on its own.

In response to this newest development, Fillmore County received an invitation from Waseca County several weeks ago to participate in a joint audit service. The intent was to secure a qualified private firm that would save counties money, as the same basic procedures would be followed through in each county to complete audits. After interviewing firms, Virchow Krause & Co. of the Twin Cities came in as the lowest qualified firm at $40,280 for Fillmore County. (Each charge varies based on actual county work).

By combing with Jackson, Waseca, and Renville, 15% will be taken off the initial charge, bringing Fillmore’s costs down to the $34,000 mark.

The 2002 state audit was $26,000, but did not include the paperwork surrounding the new 2003 mandated computer system.

The bid was approved by all accept Commissioner Bakke. It was noted that the League of MN Cities had pushed for private auditing, though Fillmore County wasn’t a part of this.

Other business

•Jerrold Tesmer, MN Extension and Sharon Serfling, Fillmore County Department of Health, presented a brief report regarding the current nutrition education program system and WIC. Fillmore and Houston counties have been working with a different program in comparison to the other 85 counties. The state is requiring that Fillmore and Houston change over to be uniform with the rest. No decisions were made and will be placed on the next board meeting’s agenda.

Tesmer also touched base on the contract with the university regarding extension services and a part time technical ag advisor. This too, was postponed until the next meeting.

•Approved the purchase of a total data collector at $5,895, for the Highway Dept. It is a handheld computer that downloads to main frame from onsite projects.

•Approved wetland preservation proposal for Rick Hansen, Sec. 32 Harmony Twp. Jeremy Maul of SWCD brought in the application.

• Approved lease with Donald Dale Pitenpol to construct a hangar at the airport.

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