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Recognition for Fillmore County's Brown


Fri, Dec 19th, 2008
Posted in Government

Karen Brown

Some positive news for the county was announced at the county board meeting on December 16. At the recent meeting of the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC), Fillmore County was recognized with two awards and the election of Commissioner Duane Bakke as second vice-president of the AMC.

County Coordinator Karen Brown was awarded by her peers, county coordinators and administrators, as the Administrator of the Year for 2007. Commissioner Chuck Amunrud praised her saying that she really deserves the award. Fillmore County also received an award for their participation in the Septic System Inventory Project.

Belt Tightening

A serious discussion ensued contemplating where to cut or freeze expenses to make up for the anticipated reduction in Lo cal Government Aid (LGA) from the state. Minnesota is forecasted to have a $5.2 billion deficit through 2011. As much as $426 million of a shortfall is expected through June 30, 2009. The LGA payment that is expected later this month may come in total or come in part.

Karen Brown noted that the county is scheduled to get $910,000 at the end of the month. She admitted that anything is possible at this point. Commissioner Duane Bakke expects that the governor will make an announcement on Friday. He said that there has to be an accommodation including more income and less spending.

Amunrud questioned what affect the expected LGA cuts will have on county department budgets. Bakke cautioned that if there were a total wage freeze of nonunion employees and elected officials that it would only be a gain of $250,000. Decisions will have to be made at the next board meeting on the 23rd. Sheriff Daryl Jensen remarked that if there are going to be layoffs, the word needs to get out. Commissioners Amunrud and Marc Prestby agreed that personnel layoffs would be a last resort. Social Service Director Thomas Boyd recommended that the cutting be done in a smart way rather than an across the board percentage cut.

Karen Brown and Amunrud and Bakke are to meet with individual department heads on Friday. They hope to bring recommendations back to the board next Tuesday. Bakke expects that employees will have to work at last year's wages and possibly some reduced hours. Amunrud wants department heads to scrutinize their budgets and together work toward an expense reduction of $500,000. Chairman Randy Dahl suggested that some restructuring of some departments may be necessary. Further reductions will probably be required because of expected cuts in LGA for 2009.

Bakke sits on the AMC board which meets on Thursday. The AMC's Redesign Project will be discussed. The project is an effort by the counties to streamline government and make it more efficient, reducing waste. The counties are seeking "flexibility, transparency and efficiency." The counties want any state mandates reexamined and for the state to allow more decisions to be made on a local level.

County Attorney

County Attorney Brett Corson explained that as agreed to before his deployment the temporary assistant county attorney position is terminated with Corson's return from active duty. The termination was approved with thanks.

Kelly Wagner who has served as county attorney for the last year has resigned effective January 2, 2009. The resignation was approved. Corson praised both employees.

The board approved a motion to advertise for a .8 position to replace Wagner and to maintain a .6 position for Assistant Attorney Leigh Campbell. Bakke and Prestby voted against. Bakke insisted that there should be a cut in total hours for the department to work toward making up the possible $1 million reduction in LGA dollars next year. Corson defended his need for the total time for his assistant attorneys. He said that any loss in personnel hours would result in limiting their ability to prosecute misdemeanors, limiting his ability to attend board meetings and would have a negative affect on public safety. He insisted that any reduction should go across all departments.

Root River Energy

The board passed a resolution in support of the development of the Root River Energy Project as a Community-Based Energy Development (C-BED) project. The resolution had been passed by the EDA board on November 26. Prestby noted that the resolution was a requirement for Root River Energy, but doesn't indicate any greater support from the board for them over any other wind energy company. Bakke abstained from the vote as he is considering becoming a share holder. Dahl remarked that we need to keep moving forward on sustainable energy.

Board of Canvas

Shirl Boelter updated the board on the hand count for the US Senate election. She said that there were eleven absentee ballots of which five had been rejected by mistake. Boelter added that the Secretary of State wants to count absentee ballots that were wrongly rejected. Brett Corson stated that there are differing opinions on that and suggested that they may need to wait for direction from the courts.

Wellness Initiative

Joan Grotjahn, Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust, gave a thorough presentation on their wellness initiative. She congratulated Fillmore County on their efforts in keeping their insurance costs down since 2006. The county already has a wellness committee in place as a subcommittee to the insurance committee. The effort is for county employees as well as their families to lower costs, encourage healthier lifestyles, increase productivity, and reduce absenteeism.

Veterans

The board accepted a $15,000 grant for outreach from the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs. Fillmore County had 1,718 veterans in residence at the end of 2007.

Board of Equalization

The board will convene the 2009 Board of Appeal and Equalization on June 16, 2009, at 6:30 p.m.

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