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County Coordinator Brown to Retire


Fri, Aug 16th, 2013
Posted in All Government

By Karen Reisner

County Coordinator Karen Brown’s request to retire effective December 31, 2013 was approved at the county board’s August 14 meeting.

Kristina Kohn, Human Resources, said that with honor and sadness she requested the acceptance of Brown’s retirement. Brown has served the county for 20 years. She stated, “It has been the highest honor of my life to work for Fillmore County,” adding that she will continue to work for the county through the end of her tenure, December 31.

Brown’s request was approved by the board. Addressing Brown, Chairman Randy Dahl said, “Much thanks for putting up with us.”

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud said, “Karen, it has been a real pleasure,” adding, “You have kept our heads on our shoulders.”

Commissioners requested a market study, range information, and a job description for coordinator and administrator positions before the next meeting. Kohn reminded commissioners that it took 4.5 months to hire a new county engineer, expecting it will take some time to find a replacement for Brown. Kohn said there were only three county coordinators left in the state, most counties have an administrator. Differences between the positions include the level of interaction they have with commissioners.

Budgets

The board continued the arduous process of reviewing departmental budgets line by line. This week commissioners scrutinized the Surveyor, Sheriff, Recorder, Attorney, Economic Development, and Coordinator departmental budgets.

The proposed 2014 preliminary levy is about $9.5 million which is over a 12 percent increase. These numbers will likely be reduced over the next several weeks, as the board works to reduce each department’s budget. Also, cities and counties will not be paying sales tax on some purchases and services in 2014. As more information is available as to what local government purchases and services are tax exempt, the county is finding that the exemptions are more limited than they were originally led to believe. There is no exemption for electricity and gas used in county buildings. Motor vehicles, dump trucks and snow plows are not sales tax exempt for the county. However, townships do enjoy the tax exemption for their road maintenance vehicles.

Other Business In Brief

•During the review of the Sheriff’s budget for the County Jail, the Department of Corrections (DOC) complaint about the fact the Fillmore County Jail does not have a nurse on staff came up. Sheriff Daryl Jensen did not include wages for a nurse in the County Jail budget. Commissioner Duane Bakke maintained the problem is with the state, saying the jail has a very small jail population, which makes the hire of a staff nurse unwarranted. Jensen says nobody has a jail population as small as we have.

Jensen said the DOC is concerned about the level of medical services we provide. He added that we take people to the doctor when necessary and deal with other medical needs. Options continue to be discussed, including sharing a jail nurse with another county or working with Public Health to provide nursing services.

Three squad cars are scheduled to be replaced at the Sheriff’s Department in 2014. The new laws governing tax exemptions for local governments exempt ‘marked’ police vehicles, but not ‘unmarked’ vehicles. One vehicle to be purchased in 2014 will be unmarked.

•Cris Gastner, EDA, before reviewing his 2014 budget, detailed projects that he has been working on for the county. He has been helping a local family to explore new business opportunities, as well as working with the zoning office to make their plans fit within the county ordinances. He is working with owners of an existing business that are in the process of a large expansion and local government for related infrastructure improvements. These businesses will help grow the county’s tourism industry. Grant applications have been prepared for locally grown foods producers. He noted that their have been an increased number of businesses with counseling requests as of late.

He works with communities like Mabel, Minn. in their effort get a grocery store once again in their town. Historic Forestville has been challenged to raise up to $150,000. This is the amount which an anonymous donor has offered to match dollar for dollar. Gastner noted that numerous school groups visit Historic Forestville, including many from outside the county.

Gastner said along with the Initiative Foundation, they have been looking into organizing a couple of formats within the county including a group for small employers and also one with a large employer for a parent coaching program, “Parenting Matters.” The commissioners added $1,000 to the budget for a cost share to get the program up and running possibly this next year.

•Commissioners discussed the amount of “per diem” paid by the county to commissioners and citizens serving on committees and to commissioners for special board meetings. Commissioner Duane Bakke maintained the per diem now at $40 is close to the lowest or is the lowest in the state.

Some counties have an expense allowance which Bakke said he didn’t agree with. Amunrud said he favored looking at an increase in the per diem which hasn’t been increased in well over a decade. The per diem is one pay allowance per day, regardless of how many meetings are attended in that one day. The budget includes a 1.5 percent increase in pay for county employees and the county commissioners.

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