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County opposes EPA proposed definition of change

Fri, Apr 25th, 2014
Posted in All Government

At the Fillmore County Board’s April 20 meeting the recent notification that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have proposed a rule change involving the Clean Water Act (CWA) definition of “Waters of the U.S.” was discussed.

The agencies intend to clarify protections under the CWA for streams and wetlands. The Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) has requested comments from county offices across the state, so they can form a statewide opinion to lobby at the federal level. The agencies suggest that three Supreme Court decisions over the last decade or so have created some confusion and uncertainty. The proposed rule change would “define the scope of waters protected under the CWA.” Comments must be submitted to the EPA prior to June 21.

The agencies have suggested classifying “other waters” as “waters of the United States.” Commissioner Duane Bakke believes this would give the EPA more jurisdiction over land uses, thereby controlling land uses and requiring permits. He expects they want to make changes to the term, “navigable waters.” Fillmore County has more shoreland than any other county in the state.

Commissioner Randy Dahl acknowledged that what we do can have an effect on New Orleans, since everything runs down hill. He insisted that Fillmore County has been progressive in supporting the environment and that “local control sometimes produces the best results.”

The board unanimously adopted a resolution that will be sent to AMC laying out the county’s opposition to the EPA’s proposed definition changes.

Other Business In Brief

•Fillmore County “Law Day” is April 28. Three schools are participating this year. Students get to tour the courts and jail.

•A bid from ASTECH Corp., St. Cloud, in the amount of $598,260.26 for the microsurfacing of CSAH 12 in Preston, Amherst and Preble Townships was approved. There was only one bidder, but the bid did come in lower than the engineer’s estimate.

•Bakke reported that “swing away” mail boxes are being installed along reconstruction projects. Private citizens can purchase them for $110 installed or less if they install them themselves. County Engineer Ron Gregg called them snow plow friendly. Dahl suggested large farm equipment takes out more mail boxes than snow plows. If a county plow hits your mail box, the county replaces it. If heavy snow damages it, the county is not responsible. Gregg maintained that some ornate mailbox structures that won’t break away can be a danger to motorists.

•Payment was approved for 2014 Agricultural Non-Homestead Taxes on Parcel No. 18.0242.000 (county farm). Twenty acres have now been removed from taxation. The 2014 classification has been changed from Agricultural Non-Homestead to Exempt. County Coordinator Bobbie Vickerman explained that we pay the taxes on the county farm this year. The county won’t be charging real estate taxes to the state. The county does pay real estate taxes on the tillable acres on the county farm because it is rented out and provides income.

•ITC Midwest LLC had requested to terminate their lease of 7,200 square foot plot of land adjacent to its substation at Spring Valley because they were not using it. Gregg noted the security fence had been completed and the area within the fence had been graveled, adding it will be an asset to the county. Chairman Chuck Amunrud said the area would be an adequate storage area for the county. As both ITC Midwest and the county were in agreement, the board approved the termination of the lease.

•An amendment to the Zoning Ordinance, Section 604.03, #13, Conditional Use Permits in the Ag District was approved as recommended by the Planning Commission. The ordinance already provided for conditional uses for commercial or industrial businesses as long as they serve agricultural purposes. The additional language allows conditional uses for non-agricultural uses to be located in “existing buildings, not previously permitted as a dwelling, sited adjacent to the Highway 16, 52, and 63 corridor.”

No comments had been received at a public hearing held April 10. Zoning Administrator Chris Graves explained there are existing buildings that under the current ordinance don’t have a possible use making them unsalable. Bakke maintained they didn’t want to extend the additional uses for buildings on county or township roads, continuing to limit them to ag related uses.

The amendment to the ordinance as presented was approved effective immediately.

•An access permit for Jerry and Rebecca Gingerich to CR 23, Amherst Township was approved. Graves explained they wanted to widen the access from 12 feet to 20 feet.

•The purchase of two 2014 International 7600 SFA 6 x 4 trucks at a total cost of $226,286.34 was approved from Boyer International Truck. Snow plow equipment for the trucks is not included. Amunrud said these purchases are necessary for timely rotation of vehicles and they are a budgeted item. Brent Kohn said they will work to get more for the trades of the old trucks.

•Approval was given for the purchase of a new printer at the low quote of $819.26 from for Social Services. The purchase will be partially reimbursed with federal dollars and will replace two problematic printers in the department.

•Approval was given for the purchase of server storage as recommended by the Technology Committee for $2,295. Systems staff will install the back-up storage from Virtual Graffiti, Inc.

•Thirty-eight computers (combination of laptops and desktops) and five docking stations will be purchased at a total cost of about $29,000. Systems administrator Jeff Cooper said the old computers will be used for parts. Most of the computers are to be replaced because Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP since the middle of April.

•Approval was given to hire Jana Masters as Merit Office Support Specialist, Sr. effective July 1. She will replace a retiring employee.

•An annual agreement for the Dodge-Fillmore-Olmsted (DFO) Community Corrections Program was approved.

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