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Board limps into new year

Sun, Nov 19th, 2000
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Monday, November 20, 2000

In the first Fillmore County Board meeting following the now historic election of 2000, the stage was set for the way the board will do business from now until the New Year arrives.

Commissioner Boyum, who was narrowly defeated in his bid to enter his 29th year as a commissioner and now finds himself in the "lame duck" category, announced that he would only be at two more meetings of the board, unless the board chose to hold a special meeting before the end of the year. Boyum intends to take a vacation before the year is out.

Commissioner Robert Underbakke is still recovering at St. Marys Hospital from a stroke, and it is unknown when he will be back at the board table.

With only five regular meetings of the board remaining in this year (there is no meeting scheduled for the 5th of December), the sometimes tedious responsibility of managing county government may fall on only three board members, Commissioners Peterson, Bicknese and Bakke.

Nevertheless, with these pronouncements made early on at last week’s meeting, the board then got down to business with a light agenda which they executed in a quiet, but friendly mood.

DNR Land Exchange

The highlight of the meeting was a visit from Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forester John Kelly. Kelly came to the Board to explain the how and the why of a land exchange in Fillmore County between the DNR and RMJ Enterprises of Preston.

At the previous board meeting, the Commissioners had voted to stand opposed to the pending transfer that involves land in Norway and Preble townships.

Forester Kelly began with an explanation of the current DNR policy on land sales and the exchange process. According to Kelly, with the formation of the Richard Dorer State Forest in the 1960s, the DNR began accumulating its land holdings in Southeast Minnesota in a "willy-nilly" fashion, buying up parcels where landowners were willing to sell. The original plan was for the DNR to have 17,000 acres in Fillmore County.

However, in the late 1970s, after rising land prices and a shrinking DNR land purchase budget made continued acquisition more difficult, a plan was adopted to consolidate DNR holdings wherever possible, and the current transfer was a result of this plan. The 104 acres of land that the DNR would receive is in the Shattuck Springs area where they already own 60% of the land, and the 90-acre parcel that they would relinquish is an isolated tract.

As the main objection from the Board had been the exchange process itself, Kelly went on to explain why this was an exchange instead of a sale/purchase deal.

"The exchange process is political," began Kelly. "Any (DNR) land sales in the state are used to pay for Tetegouche State Park."

Referring to the lost land and lost dollars under the State’s policy, Kelly continued, "I don’t like to sell (local DNR land) because we lose land base."

In other words, if the local DNR office does an exchange there is no net-loss of land assets, versus a sale that requires the money be given up to pay for a park up north.

Already convinced that this policy was not a good one, Commissioner Boyum began the board comments with his opposition to the exchange.

"I’m totally against these exchanges because of the way it is done. If you do it this way it eliminates more people (from having an opportunity to buy the DNR land)," exclaimed Boyum.

"What happened at the public hearing (on this exchange)?" inquired Commissioner Helen Bicknese.

"No one showed up," responded Kelly.

"Do we want to re-think our decision of last week?" asked Chairman Gary Peterson.

"No," responded Boyum.

"Is there a motion to reconsider last week’s decision?" persisted Peterson.

At this point Commissioners Bakke and Bicknese moved to reconsider the previous week’s motion of opposition to the exchange. The motion carried with Boyum abstaining.

"It’s taxpayer land and everyone should have a chance to buy it. One company has had total control and I don’t agree with it," exclaimed Boyum.

Commissioner Boyum then made a motion to reaffirm the board’s opposition to the exchange. The motion was seconded by Bicknese but failed when she joined Bakke and Peterson in a 3 to 1 vote against Boyum.

The board’s action on this land exchange is really only symbolic and has no direct impact on whether a State exchange board approves it.

Feedlot Registration

County feedlot officer Mike Frauenkron and Zoning Administrator Norm Craig briefed the board on the status of the on-going feedlot registration program. To date, 627 farmers have registered out of an estimated 1200 feedlots in the county.

According to Craig, "people are light-hearted and inquisitive," about the registration process. "They are good people and do it out of patriotism," he added.

Farmers are able to apply without cost until December 31 of this year. After that date there will be a substantial registration fee. According to Frauenkron, there will be a feedlot registration informational meeting on December 7 at 10:00 A.M. at the Fillmore County Office Building, room 108. Representatives of the Soil and Water office, the Extension office, and the Zoning office will all be present to answer questions.

Frauenkron also added that there have not yet been any Amish farmers in to register. "There has been some interest from the Granger (Amish) community but not much from the Canton community," he explained.

Under the new State feedlot regulations, all operators of feedlots must register before December 31, 2001. The incentive to do so before the end of this year is the waiver of the fee.

Highway Business

The County Engineer, Steve Voigt, was back again this week to seek approval to purchase new hard drives for several highway department computers. With minimal discussion, the board approved the purchase.

Voigt also presented the board with a reorganization plan for his staff, which he hoped would include higher salaries for his engineering technicians as soon as possible.

The idea of reclassifying positions at this time met opposition from both Commissioners Bicknese and Bakke, and after a brief discussion it was decided to put Voigt’s report on the agenda for next week.

By Mike McGrath

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