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Bicknese looks at 2001

Sat, Jan 13th, 2001
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Monday, January 15, 2001

Second District Fillmore County Commissioner Helen Bicknese is the new chair of the Board of Commissioners for the year 2001. Commissioner Bicknese sat down with Journal Editor John Torgrimson to discuss some of the issues the county will face in the upcoming year. The following is a summary of their interview.

As the chair of the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners, what do you see as the main issues facing the county board this year?

Bicknese: I think that some of the main things well be looking at are Dodge-Fillmore-Olmsted Corrections (DFO) and Solid Waste. In Solid Waste the question is, are we going to be eliminating composting? If so, how is that going to work? We have an attorney that is looking at some of these issues and working with the Solid Waste Committee. DFO funding is getting very short. We will have to get additional funding from the legislature if DFO is to survive. Otherwise it is possible that each county will have to go it alone in conjunction with the Department of Corrections. It will be a critical year financially for corrections.

Talking about Solid Waste, Request for Proposals were due September 1, 2000, with contracts possibly commencing January 1, 2001. The county only received one proposal from Waste Management. What do you see is the timeframe on this?

Bicknese: The Solid Waste Committee is looking through it all with an attorney. We have some outstanding obligations that have to be considered - loans that need to be paid off and contracts with the Winneshiek County Landfill that have to be met. Solid Waste is one of the challenges facing the county board this year.

The Fillmore County Facilities committee started in August. Since issuing their recommendations on the courthouse, it is my understanding that the committee is on hold, waiting for the county board to catch up. Will the board move ahead on courthouse and other facility issues this year?

Bicknese: I think something will come forth. We are in the process of going ahead with the elevator in the courthouse this should be installed by September. I dont know how long it will take to make a final decision on courthouse needs in the long-term. We will have to look at funding. I cant speak for the whole board, and with two new members coming on, I am not sure if they will want to keep the courthouse here or relocate. The committee is also looking at other facilities, including shops, which was an issue a couple of years ago.

Two townships have put in place moratoriums on development because of problems with how zoning is being carried out in the county; a few years ago, the Planning Commission came out with a motion that would limit non-farm development on Ag land to one non-farm home per 160 acres they have not acted on this; metro outgrowth from Rochester is impacting northern townships Do you see the county board playing more of a leadership role on this issue? Bicknese: I am not sure of a leadership role. I think were always looking at these issues. Feedlot registration, for example, is presently going ahead. The last I heard there were 1400 feedlots in the county. The Feedlot Officer has been working on this as a priority. Zoning is an important issue for our county. I think it might be a good idea for the board to meet with the Planning Commission and leaders from cities and townships for a day-long meeting on zoning issues in the future.

The county recently completed a comensation study, yet the Nursing and Highway departments are having a difficult time keeping people. What does the county need to do to stay competitive in getting and retaining workers?

Bicknese: Some of these issues will be reviewed again on July 1. Were losing Engineering Techs to the higher paying agencies. Its unfortunate. It would cost a lot more to hire consultants. With nursing, the problem is simply that we are so too close to Rochester.

Any other thoughts you might have about the coming year?

Bicknese: Another issue we will need to address this year is a mandated accounting and auditing system called GASB (Government Accounting Standard Board). We were advised that we will need to implement this in the next year. This will help us analyze our current accounting and financial records to see where changes need to be made and adopt policies to deal with these additional reporting requirements. We will need to change some of our procedures to do this.

Also, out-of-home placements, where children are sent away for treatment, are really rising. In 1999 the county spent over $500,000 on these types of placements and in 2000, the amount was over $800,000. We need to have a dialogue with our legislators about getting state funding for this. The Association of Minnesota Counties is also working on this issue.

I would also like to see the board set aside a block of time for citizen input. This would be occasionally, maybe quarterly. Our school district has a district patron time where people can give input. Sometimes there are people that speak; other times there is no one. Id like to try this.

John Torgrimson

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