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Who wants to be a commissioner?

Mon, May 22nd, 2000
Posted in

Monday, May 22, 2000

If you didn't know it by now, this is an election year. Come November, voters in Fillmore County will be casting their ballots for president, senator and congressmen. Both of the seats held by state Representative Greg Davids and state Senator Kenric Scheevel will also be on the ballot.

At the county level, three Fillmore County districts will be choosing who their commissioners will be.

In District Five, Commis-sioner Robert Underbakke has announced that he will not seek re-election. Underbakke was first elected in 1985. Under-bakke has worked hard on behalf of his constituency and served the county well. With no incumbent running for the District Five seat, this race could turn out to be a wide-open affair.

Like Underbakke, Commis-sioner Gary Peterson began serving on the county board in 1985. Peterson has indicated to the Journal that he will likely run again for the District Three Commissioner seat this fall.

In District One, Commis-sioner Donald Boyum has said that he will run for another term. Boyum was first elected to the county board in 1973.

Whether any candidates will emerge to challenge commis-sioners Peterson and Boyum remains to be seen, but these are some of the issues that would-be commissioners need to focus on:

Solid Waste. No decision has been made on whether to eliminate the composting line at the Resource Recovery Center and privatize some of the opera-tions. Even if action is taken before November, there will be a need to monitor the implementation from a county-owned to a privately-run operation closely.

Employee Compensation. While the county board is expected to make a decision soon regarding the implementa-tion of the new wage study car-ried out by Bjorkland Consult-ing, the county board will need to devote considerable time to ensure that the plan is kept up to date. And once implemented, there will be many challenges to the plan brought to the board by employees and department heads.

Courthouse Remodeling. The county board has decided to move ahead on putting an elevator into the old courthouse, but they have avoided the hard decisions on what else to do. The mechanical plant is outdated, many offices need remodelling, asbestos needs to be removed and courtroom and court security issues need to be addressed. Remodelling estimates come in at $2 million, which means that any significant renovation would require bonding which would result in a referendum. There are even some who think that a new courthouse should be built somewhere out near the new county office building.

Zoning. There is a natural conflict between farm and non-farm development in rural areas. This is especially true in the northern parts of the county where the demands for housing and other economic develop-ment from the metro regions spill over into the county. Chatfield Township recently imposed a moratorium on development because of this very problem. Other townships are expected to follow suit.

The Planning Commission has had a motion on the table for the past year that would limit non-farm development by changing the zoning ordinance to one non-farm home per 160 acres in some designated areas. While no action has been taken on this motion, the debate needs to be joined at this level so as to ensure that the needs of farming are balanced against the needs of other development. Both are important. This is an area where the county board needs to devote more energy, time and leadership.

These are only some of the issues sitting on the top of the pile, and certainly others will emerge. The 2001 county board is certain to be different than the present one, if for no other reason than Commissioner Underbakke will not be on it.

It's time for the citizens of the first, third and fifth districts to think about the issues that ef-fect them and consider whether they have the skills and leader-ship to serve their neighbors on the county board.

The dates for filing are from July 4 through July 18.

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