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Commissioners Report: Courtroom moved to Chatfield temporarily

Fri, Aug 8th, 2003
Posted in Features

The Chatfield Municipal Building and the Thurber Community Center will become the temporary site for Fillmore Countys courtroom as construction moves forward at the courthouse. Judge Robert Benson, Court Administrator Jim Attwood, and Joel Young, Chatfield City Clerk, met with county board members to discuss the proposal.

"Im extremely appreciative of the offer," stated Judge Benson as he described the large amount of room the site would provide for court hearings and jury trials.

The contract stipulates that the main city council room will be the courtroom with the council table being altered slightly to "provide line of sight for the jurors, attorneys, witnesses and litigants. The Fillmore Room will become the jury room and /or client meeting room. The Olmsted Room and Chosen Valley Community Television Room will be used as Judges chambers, court reporters office, client meeting room, clerks office and also as chambers for hearing matters outside of the presence of a jury when a trial is in process. The hallway along the Olmsted and Fillmore rooms will be used as a bailiffs station. Ground level restrooms will also be used.

The county is only being billed $50 per day for actual time used, rather than a blocked time frame. The contract will run from August 5, 2003 until January 31, 2004. This also includes the cost of any utilities, cost to have city employees set up and take down chairs and tables as necessary. The county is also responsible for costs specific to their needs as the site is prepared for court activity and later, for any cleanup once the contract has ended.

"Were excited about working with the city, county and state, expressed Young about the proposal. The opportunity also gives school children a closer look at the judicial system noted the city clerk.

Commissioner Helen Bicknese felt the project provides an excellent benefit for the county and city to work together. She also passed on a newspaper article that referred to glazed windows at a cheaper cost from an Owatonna business than what the board had been quoted for the construction project. The article suggested a charge of $2,000 per window rather than the $11,000 for three windows in the courthouse bid. The subject will be checked out further.

Electronic Voting

Department Head Philip Burkholder and Finance Officer Shirl Boelter presented information on the use of an electronic counter, and a voting machine geared toward the handicapped. State mandates are working the items into the system by 2006. The voting machine cost approximately $2,500. Grants are being researched for purchase.

An electronic counter is $4,500. Boelter explained that because of individuals crossing over party lines when voting and normal human error, a number of votes are always lost and not counted. When voting, the machine would actually be able to tell the voter when there is an error and request a redo.

One machine can cover up to four precincts and there are 37 in Fillmore County. Depending on location of voting polls, the actual number of units needed can be gauged. Burkholder would like the county to actually own and maintain the units with voting regions paying a rental fee. Boelter noted the actual counting time for election judges is cut down dramatically and also protects those individuals from legal repercussions do to human error.

The board felt it was necessary to bring in all the voting area representatives and have an informational meeting. Feedback from the group would determine the countys next move.

Burkholder gave a brief rundown of his 2004 budget. He noted that 97% of the mortgage fees go back to the state, leaving 3%, or about $22,000, coming back to the county.

The state has given counties the option to complete their auditing by private CPA businesses. The problem with this is that the state auditor has the right to come in and do a spot check at the expense of the county. Burkholder is leaning toward letting the state continue to come in and complete the work.

Sheriffs Department Budget

Sheriff Jim Connolly and Jail Administrator Tom Smith reviewed their 2004 budget.

Sheriffs budget will closely follow last years figures with only adjustments made for insurance hikes, cost of living raises, and step increases. The latter claims several thousand dollars, as there are a number of officers who are due for step increases.

Sheriff Connolly noted the rotation schedule of replacing patrol cars has helped keep the budget in line. The department has also saved several thousands per car when purchasing Chevy Impalas instead of Crown Victorias. Those cars later sold are sent to a private business that cleans up the vehicles and takes off the departments lettering. The cars are then sold for $5,000-$6,000 apiece. The board was very pleased with this.

Spring Valley and the Harmony/Mabel/Canton contracts are considered a wash explained Connolly. The cities are charged exactly what it costs the department to send out officers.

Dollar amounts for speeding have raised dramatically. This money can be used on drug and alcohol related issues. Tickets passed out within city limits go to the city.

D.A.R.E. runs on a $10,000 budget through the Root River system. $2,500 of this is spent on T-shirts, etc for the students. The rest is used for the officers salary. Lanesboro, Kingsland, Fillmore Central and Rushford have been in the program.

Smith explained the county is experiencing more costs with boarding prisoners, in particular with medical treatments. If a prisoner doesnt qualify for aid, the county must pick up the tab for dental and other medications. He said there has been a noticeable increase due to jailed meth users whose teeth require treatment.

The board was concerned over re-occurring late charges on a credit card from the department. Sheriff Connolly explained that part of the problem was waiting for receipts coming in to verify charges. The board directed him to send slips on to the courthouse regardless of the receipts obtained and to inquire about possibly changing the due date for payment.

Commissioner Randy Dahl requested information on the procedure of notifying fire and ambulance teams about detours due to closed bridges/roads. Sheriff Connolly said most calls come through their dispatch. Whoever normally closes a road or bridge usually notifies the Sheriffs Department. This information is passed on to fire and ambulance directors

Extension Budget

Jerry Tesmer, U of M Extension, discussed the proposed 2004 budget. This has been a sore issue with recent state and university cuts and mandates.

"4-H isnt mandatory, everyone has had to make cuts. Volunteers will have to pickup the slack", said Commissioner Dahl. He has been particularly upset by what he refers to the universitys "tactics", playing on the feelings of sensitive areas like 4-H.

The option of having a summer intern was quickly snuffed out by the board as it saved over $4,000. The option of sharing a Technical Advisor at .25 FTE with other counties appealed to the group. A full time 4-H Coordinator and a full time support staff position were also preliminarily approved.

"Be careful that while you are supporting the program, you dont gut it," cautioned Tesmer. There will be some support from the regional office that will be housed in Rochester. Exactly what that will be hasnt been determined yet.


Three Conditional Use Permits (CUP) were granted to Pederson Bros. of Harmony to operate quarries on the Frank property in Bristol Twp., Big Springs Quarry in Harmony Twp., and property owned by company in Fillmore Twp. Neighbors of the Frank Quarry requested a less powerful blasting strategy as large rock have landed in their pasture where cattle are maintained. Request was granted. There is also a serious concern over the dust control or lack thereof when any quarry is hauling. Commissioner Bicknese wants to see water trucks out before hauling begins-not during the work.

Roger Sanford, York Twp. was present to discuss his CUP request to establish and operate a quarry on his property. The DNR requested denial due to a questionable location of a cave system that may run through Sanfords property. The board suggested Sanford withdraw his request until further information could be obtained. This was done.

A resolution to amend the Zoning Ordinance regarding fencing around rock quarries and sand pits that pose a threat to the public was tabled due to insufficient information. Types of fencing, who is responsible for completing the work and maintaining it, as well as monitoring its condition, must be clarified

Approved adoption to private airport strips resolution regarding concern over towers and tall objects that pose a possible danger to aircraft. This relates also to the growing interest of wind towers as well. Detailed report available at courthouse.

The large group assembly resolution has been amended to protect the county against unregulated events such as a large biker rally. A six-page copy of the resolution is available.

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