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Fillmore County Board Declares State of Emergency

Fri, Jun 28th, 2013
Posted in All The Great Outdoors

The above photo was taken by Barb Jeffers on Sunday, June 23, 2013, as flood waters over-powered dams, roadways, homes, bridges and campgrounds throughout Fillmore County. Journal reporters Barb Jeffers and Mitchell Walbridge captured photos from areas like Choice and Lanesboro throughout Sunday morning, and posted them on the Fillmore County Journal Facebook Page. Please see a collection of their photos on page 15 of today’s Journal.

The county board at its June 25 meeting declared a state of emergency in Fillmore County due to major losses from the flooding this past week and adopted a resolution to use emergency procedures to repair roads and bridges. The declaration allows the Highway Department to streamline the process to immediately contract for emergency road and bridge repairs.

Sheriff Daryl Jensen said he had been in contact with Houston County and said there was 2007 type flood damage. It was estimated that Houston County may have about $2 million in public infrastructure damages.

Emergency Management Director Kevin Beck reported he has sent out e-mails with a form from the state to cities and townships in Fillmore County to gather estimates of public infrastructure damages. If the total public damages reach $7.2 million for this event, then the governor can request a disaster declaration allowing area local governments to receive federal aid. In any case a minimum of $70,735 will have to come from Fillmore County funds. County Engineer Ron Gregg encouraged officials to take pictures.

Gregg said the CR 23 bridge south of Whalan is out. He estimated it would cost $140,000 to replace the bridge (the bridge had been scheduled for replacement). Commissioner Duane Bakke asked to have signage placed on Grosbeak Road to advise motorists about Hogsback Bridge. Gregg noted that they had to obtain barricades from MnDOT because they had used all of the county barricades. Several roads in the southeast portion of the county remained closed as of Tuesday. Gregg reported the existence of ruts, which measured two feet deep or more, would not allow two lane traffic. He explained they will need to examine several bridges to see if the abutments have broken loose. Gregg praised maintenance crews for diligently working to get roads passable.

The damages had more effect on public infrastructure than private property. Beck didn’t think it was likely that private damages could meet the threshold for aid. Chairman Randy Dahl suggested that charitable organizations will have to pitch in to help with private losses. Dahl thanked residents who helped people in distress.

Sheriff Daryl Jensen provided a detailed report of events on late June 22 and early June 23. His office was busy responding to reports of flooding, campgrounds under water, evacuations, stranded cars and people, reports of impassable roads, loss of livestock, and flooding at the fisheries near Lanesboro causing significant trout losses. A second dispatcher was brought in to help with the volume of phone calls and radio traffic at 4 am Sunday morning. Most of the calls streamed in from 10 pm Saturday to 10 am Sunday.

Record Management System

Sheriff Jensen said there had been five proposals for a record management system, jail management system and computer aid dispatch for his office. Those results were distributed to the board at the June 11 meeting. Since then an evaluation team and the Jail Committee have reviewed the proposals and recommended the board consider LETG (law enforcement technology group) as the vendor.

Jensen said it is a Minnesota company used in 30 counties and 60 agencies within the state. He admitted that it was not the least expensive. It would cost $163,192 with tax with an annual maintenance cost of $20,273. Most of the cost would be paid from 911 funds with $47,300 to be paid from county funds. About two-thirds of the annual maintenance cost will be paid through 911 funds with approximately $7,000 coming from county funds.

LETG representative Dean Gutzke fielded questions from the board. He noted the maintenance includes upgrades to the system and finances future development of the product.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud said he had to justify the higher cost. Jensen said the Minnesota relationship is incredibly important. Commissioner Tom Kaase agreed that the company was not the cheapest, but added it was a product that he wished he could work (with in) his capacity as a police officer. He said the workability with the state and the interface is huge, adding that the number of agencies that use the product within the state says something.

Jensen noted that the state legislature has passed a law which makes cities and counties exempt from sales tax after January 1, 2014, which in this case would save nearly $10,000. Gutzke explained the company would offset the cost of the tax to purchase the product now by including an extra CAD (computer aid dispatch) model.

The purchase of the LETG product was approved as presented.

Wheelage Tax Option Discussed.

• Gregg provided some literature from the Transportation Alliance on possible new funding sources through a wheelage and sales tax for counties. He explained that these are possible funding mechanisms now available to rural counties. They were open to metro counties since 1992.

A wheelage tax would at this time be $10, to be collected when a vehicle is registered (cars and trucks). Gregg said the money could be used to fix three digit roads. It is estimated that Fillmore County would bring in about $234,500 from a wheelage tax in 2014. Dahl said as a board they have struggled with the maintenance of three digit roads. He questioned which tax is more fair, a wheelage tax, property tax, or bonding. Bakke noted the state would collect the tax and then keep a portion of it. He added that he was concerned that the state didn’t pass a transportation package this session.

Amunrud said people aren’t concerned with the source of funding so much, but they just want to see the roads fixed. He expects they may be forced into adding the tax because they need the funding.

Gregg said he liked the idea of holding a public hearing on the possible tax and the incorporation of three digit roads into a five year plan. Dahl agreed that the public should give their input, adding that we aren’t even treading water as is. Bakke said the Association of Minnesota Counties asked for this option, but we didn’t expect the state not to pass the transportation package. He added that federal dollars aren’t going to pay for bridges. No action was taken.

Other Business In Brief

• The purchase of wireless equipment for the county buildings was approved at a cost of $14,147.06 plus tax with an additional cost of $2,000 for the Marco support agreement.

The possibility of placing an audio recording of the board meetings on the county website was discussed. A motion to do so failed for lack of a second.

• Enhancement to the child support electronic document management system was approved with the county’s portion of the cost being $13,500. Community Services anticipated a 12.5 percent increase in the volume of casework due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. (ACA). Appointment enhancement software with the county’s portion of the cost being $7,700 was approved. The software will streamline processes and improve efficiency.

• An additional Office Support Specialist position for Community Services was approved at a cost of $35,992, which will be 75 percent reimbursed with federal monies. The addition of one Eligibility Worker and the replacement of one Eligibility Worker was approved at a cost of $48.470.42 per worker with a 75 percent federal reimbursement of the net cost. A request to retire from Sandra Junge, Eligibility Worker was accepted with thanks for her 20 years of service effective January 3, 2014.

Community Services Director Beth Wilms related that because of the expansion of the MA program and implementation of the ACA, an additional 390 cases to health care programs are expected in addition to those that they currently administer.

• Bonita Underbakke, Holt Township, expressed her concern over the considerable soil erosion from runoff during the citizen input portion of the meeting. She suggested soil and water personnel recognize bad practices, but don’t intervene because they have to maintain a relationship with farmers and land renters. She added that Iowa has managed to achieve a 70 percent reduction in runoff.

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