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County Board approves Harmony quarry


Fri, Dec 5th, 2008
Posted in Government

PRESTON - Zoning Administrator Christopher Graves addressed the commissioners for the first time at their December 2 meeting. Chairman Randy Dahl welcomed County Attorney Brett Corson back from his year of service in Iraq.

The board considered a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application submitted by Bruening Rock Products for a quarry in Section 3, Harmony Township. The Fillmore County Planning Commission had recommended approval of the CUP with three conditions, after holding a well attended public meeting and having a thorough discussion of the application on November 20.

The three conditions include conducting a well survey within a one and one half mile radius of the site, raising the floor of the quarry 20 feet to 1220 feet (the low spot in the dry run), and having a geological survey or core sampling taken by a geologist. The conditions would have to be met before operation of the quarry could begin.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud asked if the well survey would include any private wells within the city of Harmony. Geoffrey Griffin, representing Bruening, stated that they would locate all wells within a one and one half mile radius including inside the Harmony city limits and would 'camera' any uncased wells. Harmony City Administrator Jerome Illg said that Harmony had two city wells. To his knowledge, all of the city's residents were connected to the city municipal water supply.

The board unanimously approved the CUP with the three conditions attached.

Zoning Amendment

The Planning Commission at their November 20 meeting held a public hearing on a possible amendment to the Zoning Ordinance, section 604.03. It would have allowed conditional uses on properties in the Ag District located within one half mile of a municipality for purposes other than agriculture. Numerous city officials spoke against the ordinance change. The Planning Commission voted to keep the original language. The County Board voted to affirm the Planning Commission's decision. Commissioner Duane Bakke who also serves on the Planning Commission was pleased with the process to get ideas out there and reasons for or against.

Aggregate Resource

Preservation

A public hearing was held on the Aggregate Resource Preservation Property Tax Law. The state statute allows for counties to opt out or terminate application of the law. A public hearing is a requirement for that process.

County Assessor Cindy Blagsvedt explained that Fillmore County already recognizes a value difference between "inactive aggregate land and active (permitted) aggregate land." She recognized no benefit from the law to the taxpayer or the county. County Attorney Brett Corson added that if the county opts out now, there is nothing to stop the county from later deciding to apply the law.

The resolution to terminate participation by Fillmore County was adopted.

Debris Grant

Commissioner Marc Prestby noted that $481,945 has already been dispersed from the Debris Grant, for removal of debris from the 2007 floods. He said that 94 individuals have received grants with a $6,000 cap. That cap is being raised to $9,000. Therefore, the 42 individuals that had removal costs exceeding $6,000 will automatically receive an additional check to cover the difference up to $9,000.

Prestby stated that the application deadline is also being extended to May 15, 2009. Any new applications will have the $9,000 cap. The criteria for the cap increase and deadline extension was approved.

Guardianship Policy

Thomas Boyd, Social Services, asked for and received approval for an amendment to the guardianship policy. He explained that this is a guideline for payment to a guardian for a vulnerable adult who is incapable of making decisions for themselves. The court supervises and the county pays the bill for the guardianship service. Corson added that the fees are reimbursed to the county when the individual has significant assets. Boyd maintained that only about 5% have assets available.

2009 Budget and Levy

County Coordinator Karen Brown noted the board's use of "fiscal restraint" in developing the 2009 budget. The increase in the budget from $23,842,747 in 2008 to $24,413,378 for 2009 is a 2.4% increase. This includes no staffing increases and a wage adjustment of 3% for nonunion employees.

The State is projected to increase its aid by over $100,000 for 2009. However, Brown warned that with a large Minnesota State deficit projected, the increase may not be dispersed. Bakke expressed concern that some of the state aid may be taken away because of the state deficit. Amunrud stressed the need for the commissioners to get the message out to our legislators. Chairman Randy Dahl added that the number of people needing social services will increase during these times of an economic down turn.

The levy increase for the county is 3.5% or $257,534. The county wide tax capacity increased by one million mostly due to increase in agricultural land values. She directed property tax questions to the Assessor's Office.

The board approved the 2009 budget and levy resolutions.

County Farm Bids

Four bids were accepted to rent the 46 tillable acres on the county farm for 2009 and 2010. One bid that was received late was rejected and left sealed. Brad Krahn's bid of $8,556 for each year ($186 per acre) was the high bid for both years and was accepted.

Elected Official Salaries Set

The Auditor/Treasurer salary request was $63,135 at slightly more than a 3% increase and was approved with Prestby voting against.

The Recorder salary request was $53,100 and was approved with Prestby and Bakke voting against. Amunrud commented that it was still well under the average of surrounding counties. Prestby warned that these are uncertain times with the state budget forecast.

The Sheriff salary request was $76,000. Dahl noted that it was still quite a bit under the average. A salary of $75,400 was approved with Prestby voting against.

The County Attorney salary request was $89,000. Because Brett Corson has been serving in the Reserves for the last year, the last figure of $79,825 was his 2007 salary. Dahl suggested that he get 3% increase for each of 2008 and for 2009 or $84,686. A motion was approved to set the salary at $83,000 with Dahl and Prestby opposed.

The commissioners set their own salary by unanimous vote at $20,000 which represents about a 2.7% increase.

Other Business

• Surveyor David Knutson's resignation was accepted with thanks for years of service effective December 31, 2008.

• The purchase of a machine for $4,745 to screen newborn hearing was approved. It will be purchased with grant money provided by U-Care. It is Minnesota law that every newborn get a Newborn Blood Spot screening and a Newborn Hearing screening. Parents against these tests must sign a waiver to opt out.

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