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County continues budget hearings

Sun, Sep 10th, 2000
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Monday, August 21, 2000

Highway Engineer, Steven Voigt, is hopeful that he will have half a million dollars of unused highway funds this year to apply to his 2001 budget. This, in addition to advance payments of $2 million from 2002 county state aid funds, would give the county a $12 million road and bridge budget in 2001. It would also leave a million dollars in highway funds in reserve, something that Voigt is concerned about.

Voigt presented these issues to the county board last Tuesday, as part of their discussions about the 2001 Highway Department budget.

Voigt's budget is the most ambitious highway budget in recent memory and will require $1 million in local levy. But as commissioner Donald Boyum said, quoting commissioner Duane Bakke from the previous week, "People don't mind paying for roads."

The rest of the board agreed, accepting Voigt's budget of $12,137,950. This is $4.25 million more than the $7,883,729 that was budgeted for roads and bridges in 2000.

The board has completed their initial hearings with department heads regarding the 2001 budget. The board has to finalize their budget by September 15. Truth in Taxation hearings, at which time the public can comment on the budget, will take place in December.

Social Services. Is Fillmore County the welfare magnet of Minnesota? Apparently some commissioners have been asking that question lately. Tom Boyd and Gail Bunge assured them that the same rules apply to all counties in Minnesota.

"Fillmore County is in the ballpark with other rural counties," Boyd said, citing comparable figures in other rural counties to the number of cases in Fillmore County.

Boyd went on to point out that Fillmore County does have a higher number of Medical Assistance cases, which fluctuates by income and age levels. "We have seven nursing homes in Fillmore County," Boyd said. "In the 1990 census, we had one of the highest populations of people over 80 in the state."

Bunge showed the board that the number of cases have dropped considerably over the past five years. However, she said that while the number of cases are down, the job responsibilities of intake workers are more complex and time consuming than in the past.

"The orientation given to clients at intake takes 45 minutes," Bunge said. "And Medical Assistance requires a time consuming eligibility determination process."

Bunge, who supervises intake workers and carries out internal audits on applications, said that all counties administer the programs alike. "We use the same rules, the same manuals," she said. "There is no advantage for one county over another."

New office building. The board decided to write a letter to TSP Architects of Rochester, who designed the new county office building, informing them of a number of concerns the county has with the new building. The letter is in response to TSP's request that the county make final payment to Nelson Construction of Caledonia, the contractor on the building.

In addition to a list of minor fix-it problems, the county's main issue is with the noise the air conditioner makes.

"People in the rooms next to the air conditioner can't hear themselves talk on the phone when that thing kicks in," commissioner Bakke observed. "That's a monster unit." Bakke said that he has been in similar buildings elsewhere that use a number of smaller air conditioning units, that are less noisy, for cooling their building.

Another major item the board is concerned about is the water runoff on the west side of the building from rain and snow melt. Both commissioners Bakke and Boyum believed that this could be a big problem in the winter.

In the letter, the board is also asking that the architect and contractor extend the original warranty on the building another year.

Asbestos. The board approved a proposal from Kane & Johnson Architects to do spot asbestos abatement at the courthouse in preparation for the installation of a new elevator. The project will cost $33,889 and be completed by October 27.

Ostrander clean-up. The board authorized OMNI Consultants to conduct a Limited Site Investigation Report Proposal to the MPCA regarding the Ostrander tax forfeit property. Based on recent soil and water analysis, the proposal will recommend that the clean-up site be closed.

Aggregate Tax. Commissioner Duane Bakke thinks that the county should consider placing a tax on aggregate going out of the county, given that there is a shortage of crushed rock in the state. Commissioner Gary Peterson suggested discussing the matter first with the county attorney to see if there are any legal ramifications in doing this.

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