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Saturday, December 3rd, 2016
Volume ∞ Issue ∞

Board listens again to Heartland opponents

Fri, Sep 26th, 2003
Posted in Features

"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." Benjamin Franklin

Concerned citizens took their case for an Environmental Impact Study for the proposed Heartlands tire burning plant to the County Board once again on Tuesday."We stand before you asking that you, the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners consider becoming "Interpleaders or Interveners" on behalf of the citizens of Fillmore county, in the upcoming appeal that Southeastern Minnesotans for Environmental Protection (SEMEP) filed against the MPCA," stated E. Frances Sauer, a Preston resident. She was one of many who were given a three-minute time limit during the Citizen Input schedule of the meeting to express their concerns over the proposed plant.When opponents to the Heartland project spoke with commissioners a month ago, county board members expressed thoughts that it was "too late" to play any part in the conflict. They felt the group should have come before them sooner. David Williams, an organic farmer/lawyer in Preble Township said he "feels like the board is the only one that can interplead against the lawsuit. Hes not asking the board to oppose the project, but make a formal request for an EIS. Williams is concerned over the possible decertification of his organic farm due to pollutants from the plant."The combustion of tires releases dioxins into the atmosphere, stated Preston resident Kathy Attwoods report. She wished the board to consider the aesthetic vision of a 210 high stack puffing out smoke in an economically tourist and agricultural based community. There are more energy efficient ways to recycle tires, stated Attwood. She said combustion can only recover a portion of the energy contained in a tire. Attwood also questioned the financial stability of the plant based on numbers given by Bob Maust, the developer. According to Attwood, those numbers project the plant to run at approximately a $3 million loss per year. Is the taxpayer expected to bail out the plant? she asked.Bill Comrad, an area resident, was concerned over a 20-year old test regarding air currents and how pollutants will fall. He spoke about the closing of the Pittsburgh steel plant of which he was a witness to. Yes, it was a tragic economic loss, but the airs quality improved so much after that event, he said. Commissioner Duane Bakke pointed out the board would need to seek legal advice. County Attorney Mat Opat reminded him that their office is already overwhelmed with work and doesnt have the expertise for this subject.Commissioners Chuck Amunrud and Helen Bicknese wanted to know what an "interpleader" is, and would the county have to assume costs if they chose to take action. The board in general questioned once again the logic of jumping in at such a late date. Chairman March Prestby said the issue could be put on the agenda when the board meets in two weeks. The citizens group pointed out that two weeks would not be soon enough. How about a special meeting? This idea did not go over well with the board. As the group left the meeting, Lanesboro resident Peggy Hanson, dropped a note to Commissioner Bakke suggesting the board look at a possible tool called an "Amicus curiae", a Latin term that means Friend of the Court. This gives an interested group a chance to participate without becoming a party in the lawsuit. Hanson said this has been used in appeals when more information or issues surface. The board took no more action. Social Services and Public HealthTom Boyd, Director of Social Services, gave a brief report covering the states direct cost shifts to the county. The cost of care for individuals in Regional Treatment centers has gone from 10 to 20%, which equals about $10,000. Group Residential Housing nursing facilities has climbed 20%, or $6,000 out of the countys pocket. Facilities like Fillmore Place, which is home to 11 or 12 residents at a time, will now have 10% of their total budget covered by the county, another $81,000. Individuals under 65 in nursing homes will now be funded 10% or $21,000 as well. "These are services being provided to individuals that cannot be stopped, sited Boyd in his report. He highly recommended the county levy the maximum level the state will allow as he is concerned about being hit hard again next year.Approval was given for the County Biennial Service Agreement that outlines services for MFIP recipients as well as Social Services to children and families. In response to the countys budget cuts regarding the elimination of employees whose positions are no longer supported by grant funds, Public Health will be losing one of its members. It was a downcast Sharon Serfling, Public Health, that announced the grant positions termination. The board understood her dismay and the difficult circumstances the cut placed her in. This season flu shots will cost $15 per person. The five-dollar increase is due to increased costs of the vaccine, syringes and staff time. Flu shots will be available to the public from October 17 through November 18. County employees vaccinations will be given from October 20-24, from 9am-3pm, free of charge as in the past.Courthouse remodeling update Architect David Kane, and Construction Manager Dean Sand and Project Supervisor David Johnson gave their monthly update on construction. Sand reviewed the monthly balances of the project. The Contingency Balance is at $298,000, and the General Conditions Balance is under budget. There were three small change orders, approved by the board that tallied $2,588. "We are way ahead of the game," stated Sand.Johnson gave an update on the projects various areas: The roof will be started on this week; demolition in the old courtroom has started; the concrete crew for the sidewalks is two-three weeks down the road yet; and brickwork is two weeks behind due to problems in getting the material. The brickwork is suppose to match up with the existing structure.The question of if there are any penalties for contracts not being completed in a timely fashioned was discussed. Sand explained the bonds held on the individual contracts can be pulled for insufficient work completion.Coordinator Karen Brown reviewed assignments for temporary office locations. The Attorneys Office will move into their new space. Corrections will also be utilizing space there for a while. A temporary wall will be put in place to separate the two parties. The Auditor-Treasurer will move downstairs next to the ASA 400; and Zoning will be housed in the Extension Office.Commissioner Chuck Amunrud said hed like Zoning to remain at the Extension Office, since there will be a revamping of that department due to state cuts. Chairman Marc Prestby felt it would be more efficient for the public if Zoning was returned to the courthouse once renovation was completed. He felt Zoning business ties into the remaining departments at the courthouse well and would be handier for the public in general. This will be reviewed at a later date. Auditor/Treasurers Office The possibility of moving the Driver License Division out to the private sector was revisited as Philip Burkholder requested the board to reconsider filling the vacant Accounting Technician position. The issue was put on hold until more information could be gathered. A local, private party has shown interest in operating the department. Such a change must be approved by the state.Burkholder explained the income versus the operating costs is pretty much a wash. If the move were made, hed still want to fill the vacant position and had listed more than a dozen reasons for his request. This person would be responsible for passports, vital statistics, as well as overflow from other areas of the office. More deadlines and state rules continue to press office time. Commissioner Amunrud pointed out that when the Auditor and Treasurers Offices were combined, one position was already eliminated. For now, the Drivers License Division will remain in the courthouse. A .8 position, four days per week rather than a full time replacement was approved.More County Board on Page 16

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