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County Board struggles to trim budget

Fri, Aug 8th, 2008
Posted in Government

PRESTON - Fillmore County Board members slogged through proposed budgets from several departments in a long day at their Tuesday, August 5, meeting. The board is faced with cutting and trimming a hundred here and several thousand there in order to stay within the state imposed levy increase limit of 3.9% in these times of inflated prices.

• Jeff Cooper, Information Systems, has advised the board to replace county computers on a regular rotation. The laptops used by the commissioners are past due to be replaced. In order to cut a few more thousand dollars, four of the five commissioner computers will not be replaced for another year. One is failing and must be replaced. Other equipment purchases including a wireless system will be delayed.

• Social Service Director Thomas Boyd showed the board graphs comparing his department's budget over several years with other similar size counties. He maintained that maintenance costs paid out to lower income people go up in times like these when the economy is not doing well, especially the food stamp program.

Fillmore County Social Services in 2007 administered the distribution of $31,806,228 of federal and state funding. About $21 million was for health care, $8.3 million was for social services, and $1.3 million was for support including food stamps. The total county share of the cost is $1,163,998 or $50 for every person in the county. The county picks up about 50% of the cost of administering federal programs and 100% of the cost of administrating state programs.

Boyd requested a levy increase of 3.9% for his department. He added that he had no requests for more staff or services. The increase would be about $45,000 more than the 2008 budget.

• Zoning Administrator Norman Craig stated that revenues gained from building permit fees and charges are down for the first time this year.

• County Recorder David Kiehne noted that because less people are getting mortgages there is less revenue from those fees. However, more fees have been coming in from abstracting.

• Court Administer Jim Attwood asked to have the budget increased for court appointed attorneys from $20,000 to $30,000. Commissioner Chuck Amunrud explained that most counties set aside money for court appointed attorneys.

Attwood said that parents in family court and people in commitment hearings are entitled to be represented. He noted that about a month ago the state said that it wouldn't provide attorneys for parents in child protection cases. Attwood added that he didn't think the additional burden on the county to provide the attorneys would be significant because the social service department does a good job of resolving issues before the cases go to court. The board had him reduce his request for court appointed attorneys to $25,000.

Amunrud questioned whether the county should be buying any technical equipment for the district court including computers. Commissioner Duane Bakke suggested that it be a policy for Attwood to first check and see if equipment can be purchased through the district court system before coming to the county. Amunrud wanted Attwood to check and see if the State Court Administrator has a budget for the purchases.

Rural Addressing

A public hearing was set for September 23, at 10:00 a.m. in the county board room to hear public concerns on the proposed changes to the Rural Addressing Ordinance. Chuck Amunrud wanted letters sent to the clerks of the townships to notify them of the hearing. The changes in the ordinance involve maintenance and replacement of signs detailing the county and township responsibilities. The county will be responsible for the cost to replace damaged or stolen signs.

Cell Phone Limitations

Sheriff Daryl Jensen and Chief Dispatcher Mike Ask requested and received approval to purchase additional service from Pro-West to help with emergency calls. Ask commented that many more people than expected have dropped their land lines and use a cell phone only. When a call comes in on a land line, the source of the call comes up with location, name, and emergency services which will serve the location. When a call comes in from a cell phone, the caller needs to give a location and the current system doesn't display which ambulance or fire district they are in. The service will cost $4,000 and will be paid for with 911 funding. A cell phone caller will still need to give a location which will be manually entered into the system.

The board also approved the purchase of equipment at the cost of $5,161.36 from Whitewater Wireless, Inc., Rochester, for a repeater for Canton, similar to the one that is now in Lanesboro. This will allow the main dispatch to talk on one channel and another dispatch to talk on another channel. The ability to have two dispatchers on two separate channels will allow one to handle a major emergency while leaving open the other line for other calls.


Zoning Administrator Norman Craig asked the board to consider approval of five Conditional Use Permits (CUP) which had all been recommended for approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission. Eco Energy was approved for a CUP for a meteorological tower in Bristol Township. A CUP was approved for Fillmore Wind, represented by Larry Tammel, for a meteorological tower in Bristol Township. A CUP was approved for John Rein for a sand pit on his farm in Holt Township. He plans to sell sand to dairy farmers for free-stall bedding.

A CUP was approved for John Ackerman for a cemetery on his property in Spring Valley Township. He wants to be buried in a cave. Commissioner Marc Prestby wanted to see the number of possible burials limited. The cemetery will be a two acre plot. His concern was if the land would be sold or to change hands. Duane Bakke suggested that it should be restricted to only Ackerman's immediate family members. Amunrud disagreed saying that he should have the right to use the two acres designated as a cemetery for burials. The CUP was approved with the amendment limiting use to immediate family only. Ackerman has the right to appeal the condition.

Approval for a CUP was given to Ron Scheevel for a sand pit in Carimona Township. Two conditions on the permit require an earthen berm between the sand pit and a neighbor's home and rock can only be crushed for 10 days within a year.

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