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Commissioners’ Report: Courthouse project ready for winter

Fri, Oct 31st, 2003
Posted in Features

“Everything is water tight,” assured David Johnson, the courthouse construction manager. “We could have a downpour now and we’re ready.” This was a timely statement as rains and threats of snow have moved into the area this past week.

Johnson told the board the inside work was in good shape as the project continues. Windows on the north side should be in place the first week of November. Plumbing is slightly behind, but will catch up. The parking lot area is three weeks behind due to the brick delivery. The company had worked to blend the new brickwork with the existing structure’s color. Sidewalks will start to take shape within the next week.

Commissioner Duane Bakke brought up the discussion of a possible ramp at the building’s exit that faces the library. If implemented, how steep a grade could be used, and would the area be a potential catch for snow? A comparison was referenced to the Victory Café’s ramp, and that it didn’t appear that steep. Regulations have changed since its placement. Research would need to be done on the subject.

Dean Sand, CAM, passed out this month’s budget update for the remodeling project. $60,648.62 of the original $356,331.00 contingency fund has been tapped into. Sand believed this to be a very reasonable, safe amount, leaving the county with almost $300,000 left for Phase II of the project. Sand noted that this remodeling phase could produce costly surprises.

Three small change orders for about $1,600 each were approved. A letter of credit and a joint check agreement were also approved. The Board continued their discussion at the courthouse while touring the site.

Social Services

Social Services Director Tom Boyd updated the board on Medical Assistance changes in the county.

•Co-pays (what the individual is responsible for): Eyeglasses, MA: $3 and GAMC: $25. Office visits: MA & GAMC: $3. Brand name drugs: MA & GAMC: $3. Generic drugs, MA & GAMC: $1. Both groups have a $20 maximum per month on drug co-pays. A visit to the emergency room when it’s not an emergency: MA, $6 and GAMC $25. Restorative dental services: MA, no co-pay and GAMC, 50% co-pay. Inpatient hospital stay: MA &GAMC, no co-pay. •MA, GAMC and Minnesota-Care will only pay for dental services up to $500 per calendar year per person. Emergency dental services, dentures, and extractions done before dentures will not count in the $500.

•There are new programs for inpatient hospital and physician care regarding GAMC and Limited Benefit MinnesotaCare that cover co-pay schedules as well. You may call Social Services at 765-2175 or 1-800-657-3739 for additional information.

Boyd was very concerned about those individuals and families that are a “living on the edge” when they experience an illness, injury, or layoff. The rumor of fuel heating hikes is also a major potential problem for these people. Emergency Assistance used to be an open ended program. It has now been “capitated” with the state’s huge budget cuts. Past assistance allowed clients to come back for aid following a 12-month cycle. Clients will now have to wait an additional six months before re-applying for assistance.

Other Business

•Highway Engineer John Grindeland discussed the vacated Maintenance Specialist position in the Preston Shop due to Mike Gartner’s death. The department had elected to put any permanent decisions on hold until spring. Grindeland pointed out that there are no spare bodies if someone calls in sick, have an emergency, or want time off. However, due to budget restraints, the position will be left open this winter, as a testing ground.

If put in a bind during a major snow fall, Grindeland said the department could hold off on plowing the fairground parking lot, which handles about 40 cars for Rochester transits, as well as at the new county building. That would cause problems for 150 employees. Commissioner Bakke tossed in the idea that the fairground cars should be making use of the DNR lot at the trail’s head. No other action was taken.

•Kay Laging, Preston, was present during “Citizen Input” for clarification of terms “intervener” and “interpleader” used during a Heartland discussion that was open to the public at the Oct. 7th meeting. County Attorney Matt Opat directed that question. It was noted the county would not participate in either classification.

Laging also commented the minutes read the board would revisit the topic again when the board had a chance to review legal documentation regarding the issue.

Commissioner Helen Bicknese pointed out that the board had in fact, already completed this task. Their conclusion came in the form of requesting an Environmental Work Study at the Joint Board of Health’s last meeting held in Rushford. Houston and Fillmore Counties had all their board members in attendance at the time of the vote. Laging would pass this information along to those who have been calling her.

The subject of the ethanol plant’s five-year reviewal was briefly touched on. Laging had questions on the number of gallons of water that was being poured into the Watson Creek, which eventually ran into the South Branch. Commissioner Bakke said such information would be open to public records from the DNR.

•Commissioner Chuck Amunrud reported on the last D-F-O meeting which focused on financial input from Dodge, Fillmore, and Olmsted. The trio works together on its Corrections Program. Olmsted wanted a 6%, 6%, 8% ratio. Chairman Marc Prestby and Commissioner Bicknese believe Olmsted receives more benefits from the $2,000,000 program than do the smaller two counties. The three counties are trying to ward off cuts that would effect such programs as Victims Services.

•Approved the Sheriff’s proposed User Fees schedule including a $70 per day charge for out-of-county inmates. Commissioner Randy Dahl questioned the constitutional right of having to pay a $10 purchase gun permit fee. There is a $100 gun carry permit fee and a $75 renewal fee. The board did not feel that the fee was inappropriate.

•Approved the closing of the county’s demolition landfill effective Nov. 1, 2003. The reduced volume of material being brought in caused the site not to run cost effectively anymore. The public can bring their collections (must be sorted) to the sanitary landfill with the exception of asbestos. Any questions can be referred to Jon Martin, Solid Waste Administrator at 765-4704.

•Commissioner Bakke said the county farm’s renter had asked him about a fall tillage reimbursement if the farm was sold. The board noted that only a small percentage of the actual tillable might be sold. The renter would not be reimbursed.

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