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Five on board; five “seconds”


Fri, Apr 27th, 2001
Posted in

Monday, April 30, 2001

For the past three months, the County Board has basically been a four-member board. Former Commissioner Gary Peterson announced his resignation in late January, and he attended few meetings between then and his exit in mid March.

But the people of Commissioner District Three had their say on April 17, and elected Mr. Harry Root to represent them in the windowless chambers of the Fillmore County Commissioners’ Board Room. That service began last Tuesday when Judge Robert Benson administered the oath of office to Mr. Root.

Commissioner Root may have thought that Coordinator Karen Brown purposely kept the agenda light for his first day on the job, but, as a witness to the last few meetings, he already knew that most of the recent meetings of the Board have been rather light.

After repeating the oath of office and receiving a supportive hug from his wife, Commissioner Root took his place at the table between veteran Commissioner Duane Bakke on his right and greenhorn Commissioner Randy Dahl on his left.

"I’m going to do my best to fulfill my duties as Third District Commissioner," Root announced. "I’m going to do my best to represent the people of my district."

With the formalities completed, the new Board of five began the work of managing county government.
On Committees, Commissions, etc.

One of the first items on the administrative agenda was a discussion on the commissioner assignments to committees, boards and commissions.

While the salary of a commissioner may be set on the schedule of a mere four meetings of the Board each month, what Commissioner Root soon learned is that he has also been assigned to 17 different committees, boards, commissions and/or task forces. Some of his areas of "committee expertise" will include corrections, resource conservation, and county personnel.

Commissioner Root may find that his committee assignments are really not excessive: six-year commissioner veteran and Board Chair Helen Bicknese serves on 24 different committees, commissions, etc., in the fulfillment of her duties representing the constituents of the Second District.

Negotiating with Law Enforcement


Undoubtedly, the most significant policy issue on last Tuesday’s agenda was the final negotiations with the union representing the staff of the Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff, serving as an elected official, is not represented by a union. However, Local #85 Law Enforcement represents all other employees.

With Business Agent Dan Vannelli representing the law enforcement workers, the final negotiations centered on wage increases, wage differentials between different positions, and length of the contract.

The County had offered the workers a three-year contract with annual 4% wage increases each year as opposed to the union’s 5% request for each year of a two-year contract. The Union countered with 5%, 4%, 4% successive increases, but gave in to the county’s final counter-offer of 4.5%, 4%, and 4% respectfully, for each of the next three years.

On another wage issue, the union was seeking a 75¢ per hour shift differential for 2001 and $1.00 for 2002. The County countered with 50¢ in 2001, 60¢ in 2002, and 75¢ in 2003. The Union accepted.

The tentative contract agreement now goes to a vote of the members for ratification.

The Rest of the Meeting


Through a series of brief appointments with the Board, new Commissioner Root was able to meet several of the county’s department heads.

The Assistant Highway Engineer, Thomas Miles, represented the Highway office at this week’s business, requesting approval to advertise bids for the County Road 11 project near Fountain. Bids will be accepted until May 21. The Board also awarded the low bids for dust control to Thermogas of Chatfield and to A & J Peterburg Agency of Decorah.

The director of the Veterans Office, Larry Hunt, presented the Board with a check for $15,000 from the Mabel Legion. The money was donated from the Legion’s gambling revenues to be used in the purchase of a new 12-passenger van for the Veteran’s and Emergency Management office. The commissioners accepted the money and awarded the low bid for the van to Sugarloaf Ford.

Commissioner Root also met Jon Martin of Solid Waste and Sandra Benson of the Recycling office as they presented the Board with draft changes to Section 12 of the Solid Waste Ordinance. By consensus, the commissioners approved the changes, which allows the ordinance to be readied for its public hearing on the 15th of May.

Five “seconds”


There’s nothing like getting your feet wet, but avoiding deep water on your first dip in an unfamiliar pond can make good sense. Or so it may seem to citizen Harry Root who, on his first day on the job as Commissioner Root, was asked to make decisions on a variety of county issues. Rising to the task, Root made five "seconds" to motions. Perhaps he will get the chance to make his first "move" at the next meeting.

By Mike McGrath

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