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Fillmore-Houston boards approve grant agreement

Fri, Jun 5th, 2009
Posted in Government

The June 2 meeting of the Fillmore County Board included a teleconference for the Fillmore-Houston Joint Board of Health. A resolution was once again passed for 2009-2010 to enter into a grant agreement for Toward Zero Deaths Safe Roads Grant with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety.

Fillmore Public Health Administrator Sharon Serfling will act as the fiscal agent and administer the grant which is expected to be as much as $20,000 and will be shared by both counties. Serfling noted it has been called the Safe Communities Grant in the past and has been in existence since 2004.

Brenda Pohlman says they work a partnership with the 4 E's (Law Enforcement, Engineering, EMS, and Education) to make improvements in road safety. She described the root causes of impairment as being excessive speed, lack of seat belt use, and alcohol. The goal of the partnership is to adjust behaviors to improve outcomes with regular safety checks, community education, and media out reach.

A traffic safety assessment measures 100 cars or those passing through in one hour. Seat belt use has improved as it was about 50% and is now up over 75%. The state average is 90%. Car seats have been checked for safety, as many as 400 in the past 5 years. Serfling added that there will be an effort with this grant to quantify what it is doing for the public.

Social Services

Thomas Boyd detailed a request from funeral directors to consider an increase for allowances for county paid burials. The rates haven't been changed since 1992. Boyd noted the county pays for an average of six burials per year.

In 2009 Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into law an amended version requiring the county board to pay for cremation, burial, and funerals when the person did not have sufficient funds for final disposition nor did the spouse. The law makes cremation first choice unless it is found not to be in accordance with decedent's faith or the preference of spouse or next of kin. Boyd said the county needs to develop a new policy to come into compliance with the law. He suggested they be up front that cremation will be the first choice as the new law takes place on July 1.

Commissioner Duane Bakke commented if the next of kin has a say in the decision, they could also be responsible for the cost. Boyd said they have been averaging about $1800 for a burial.

Commissioner Randy Dahl noted the subcommittee has proposed raising the base amount paid an additional $500 and to require a biennial review. The increase would amount to 2% per year for the past 17 years. Dahl added the law is to help the truly destitute. He worried about the use of estate planning to cause one to look destitute.

Boyd remarked that assets and resources of people in nursing homes is known. He stressed the need to maintain respect for people.

A committee will come up with a draft for a new policy. The board also wants to wait and see how the governor's unallotment policy could affect the issue.

Chairman Chuck Amunrud encouraged Boyd to continue to work on the redesign effort to increase collaboration and coordination between counties to reduce administrative costs. Boyd added the reason there is a county based administrative system is that county administrators know the people in their area. Boyd says they are working on a flexible regionalization that is outcome based. He suggests the governor's plan to package and make fifteen regions across the state won't best serve the state, won't be as flexible or be built to produce the best outcomes.

Boyd produced a chart that shows the increase in residents seeking food support in the last seventeen months, from 322 to 477. However, the number of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) has been holding relatively steady for the last eleven years.

Other Business In Brief

• County Assessor Cindy Blagsvedt requested and received approval to purchase an HP tablet (notebook computer) for $1275 to make it more time efficient when an appraiser is out in the field.

• Ashley Stinson requested and received approval of amendments to the Personnel Policy, probationary period. It will increase the probationary period to one year for department heads. There will be an evaluation at six months. Commissioner Tom Kaase asked that the policy be standardized to one year for all employees. The year long probation would allow employees to be released without cause up to day 364. He noted the policy protects the county. Sheriff Daryl Jensen added the probationary period gives an employee time to correct a situation. Dahl said the review at six months gives notice of a concern and the time to make the correction.

The board voted against a training program called Training Advisor by a vote of 2 to 3 (Dahl, Bakke and Amunrud against). It would have been a way to keep department heads current and aware of federal law as it pertains to employees. Department heads had recommended the program which would have required them to respond to a few questions about the laws on a regular basis, after which there would be some feedback. They expected it to be more effective than lectures.

Dahl thought it would be better to develop an internal program that would be similar rather than pay a fee to a company in the amount of $437 this year and that or more each year for the service. He commented that the fee wasn't a lot but amounted to about a day without pay for four employees.

• County Attorney Brett Corson requested to make an agreement with Thomson West for Westlaw PRO for the attorney's office. Bakke was concerned about duplication of the service as it is available in the law library. Information Systems Jeff Cooper was asked to look into it and see what the licensee agreement allows. It would need to allow multiple users from multiple sites. The issue was tabled until next week.

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