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Progress made on sewer systems

Fri, Feb 15th, 2008
Posted in Government

PRESTON - Zoning Administrator Norman Craig and Donna Rasmussen, Soil and Water Conservation District, updated the board on the progress of the program at the board's February 12 meeting. Craig explained that since 2004 there have been 4,205 individual sewer systems located in the county and 531 of those have been labeled an Imminent Threat to Public Health. These systems that come to the surface were about 12.6% of all those in the county.

A total of 259 or 49% have been fixed and brought up to code. The wet weather in 2007 prevented more work being completed. Grant funds of $300 each have been paid out to 220 of those property owners.

Craig explained that it is their policy to send out a series of letters to property owners who need to fix their systems. He expects that most all will cooperate and fix the deficient systems without enforcement. There is an Open Pipe Law that is in effect to help bring property owners to compliance. If property owners do not comply an administrative penalty order will be issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Property owners could be fined $500 per month until the system is brought up to code. Craig expects that 2008 will bring a busy season for sewer work.

The county has received a $175,000 grant from MPCA for low income property owners. Craig added that letters are being sent out to 255 property owners who need to bring their systems up to code. Rasmussen reported that 22 septic systems have been funded with low interest loans and low interest loan programs are available to qualifying property owners.

Craig pointed out that in their effort to identify deficient systems across the county, he was surprised to discover the number of abandoned homes. He speculated that some may have been abandoned because of a difficulty with heating them. Some deficient systems are yet to be identified. Craig expects that some will be discovered at the point of sale where property disclosures are required as are inspections.

Video Project

Donna Rasmussen asked the board to approve an agreement with Kendal Rasnake who is the Lead Instructor of Mass Communications at RCTC. He will work as an independent contractor to put a power point presentation on DVD and VHS. The power point presentation was developed by producers representing dairy, beef and hog groups and county and state staff to demonstrate economic and environmental benefits of livestock in southeastern Minnesota. The informative and educational material will be distributed to five Minnesota southeastern counties and their schools, libraries, cable access channels and other non-ag groups.

The costs associated with the video will be met with a South Branch Root River Watershed Project grant and from donations from Pork Producers, Farm Bureau, Farmer's Union, and Dairyland Cooperative. The agreement with Kendal Rasnake was approved. The DVD and VHS video will be available by July.

Other Business

• County Recorder David Kiehne discussed policy regarding future new signs and replacement of missing or damaged rural address signs. New and replaced individual number signs are already assigned a $50 cost including the sign and installation.

Kiehne noted that there is $79,768 left in the original rural addressing budget. The funds will continue to be used for maintenance, labor, equipment and fees for sign repairs. In 2007 a total of $6,347 was spent for repairs. Townships should notify law enforcement, the highway department, or the GIS Department if a sign is missing.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud insisted that the highway department should be responsible for installation of new or replacement signs. Kiehne added that some signs disappear and tax payers will be stuck with the bill.

• Commissioners approved a motion making adjustments to salaries of department heads as recommended by Bjorklund, the county's consultant, and the Personnel Committee. Commissioner Duane Bakke pointed out that this was just a minimum-maximum for the department head position to be competitive with the market place and in no relation to the present office holders. Bakke said that it has nothing to do with merit pay or job performance. The adjustments will take effect with the next payroll.

• A Participation Agreement and an Access Agreement were approved between the county and the StedFast Health Plan. County Attorney Kelly Wagner reviewed and approved the agreements. She noted that if the plan failed that there was a clause for termination.

A payment of $380,006 from the Social Services fund balance was approved. The money is Fillmore County's portion of the start up costs to the StedFast Health Plan. Fillmore is responsible for about 10% of the total cost which is about $4,000,000. Olmsted is responsible for 47% of the total with Houston paying 7%, Mower paying 20%, and Winona paying 17%.

• Long time county employees were honored with a reception. Eugene Voight of the Highway Department had the most years of service numbering 35. Five employees including Kandace Johnson, Dennis Atkinson, Kristin Musselman, Robert Bakken, and Michael Ask had been with the county for 25 years. The Safety Award was given to Norman Craig. Nominations for this award were submitted to the Safety Committee and the committee selected the winner.

• Brad Moore of the MPCA sent a letter to Solid Waste Administrator Jon Martin expressing his appreciation for the commitment and effort of the department in the clean up effort after the August 2007 floods. He noted that hazard waste staffs from Minnesota and Wisconsin counties "helped prevent a bad situation from getting worse."

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