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Commissioners Report: Consultant to work on emergency plan


Fri, Aug 17th, 2007
Posted in Government

PRESTON - The Fillmore County Board, in a drawn out meeting mostly dedicated to pruning preliminary budgets, approved the hiring of a consultant to help complete an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) at their August 14 meeting. Deborah Teske, Veteran Services/Emergency Management, requested that the board approve the hiring of Gary Peterson, Spring Valley, to help with the work needed to produce a plan.

Teske informed the board of the huge work load increase required of her department both in the veteran area and in the emergency management area. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have increased the applications for benefits from veterans and their dependents 150% in the past year. The requirements for Emergency Management (EM) have ballooned over the years since 9/11. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) was implemented in 2004 with new requirements including an EOP which will outline the steps the County Commissioners need to take in case of a disaster. Teske has put in over 130 extra hours at home in an effort to complete the plan requirements by September 30, 2007. Commissioner Chuck Amunrud acknowledged her added effort and thanked her for it. She notes that failing to complete an acceptable plan could make the county unable to qualify for federal aid. Chairman Marc Prestby suggested that Fillmore is not the only county behind with the plan.

She explained that the EOP that was last updated in 2004 and was reviewed last year by the State and found to be deficient. Teske has mostly completed the new plan and ten of the annexes, but does not have the time to complete all the annexes and appendices required. The annexes are eighteen, including direction and control, communications, warning, public information and more. The appendices are hazard categories including agricultural incident, cyber attack, flood, and more. To complete all these specific areas will require a meeting with several different department heads.

Teske made note of a quote from the Minneapolis EM director Forte after the recent 35W bridge collapse when he was remarking that the emergency response went well because of the updating of their plan since 9/11 and that their teams had completed exercises and training on collapsed structures.

Teske added that she had EM grant money which can be used to pay for the consultant. She said that Gary Peterson has a background in communications and local emergency management. Peterson estimates that the work can be completed for less than $5,000. The board approved the hiring of Peterson at a cost not to exceed $5,000. Teske agreed to keep the board informed.

EDA

Cris Gastner, Economic Development Authority (EDA), briefly listed accomplishments of the EDA in aiding the county's rural and urban communities. The Fillmore County EDA was set up nearly six years ago with a "sunset" provision in six years. Commissioner Randy Dahl suggested that the original six year timeline was adopted to allow for a long enough period to truly evaluate the system. The board passed a resolution for the continuance of the Fillmore County EDA. The county EDA will be reevaluated in three years.

The EDA is working with the Bluff Country Housing Rehabilitation Authority (HRA) on a housing plan for the county. The plan hasn't been formally passed. If the plan were agreed to, it would cause the county EDA budget to be inflated by $50,000 for one year only.

County Attorney

County Attorney Brett Corson recommended that Kelly Wagner fill in for him as the acting county attorney while he is serving overseas. He explained that she knows the system, is eager and a hard worker, even if her experience is limited. Commissioner Duane Bakke asked if former local county attorneys would be willing to help on a contract basis when needed. Corson suggested that she would have access to a support system and that the need for contracting should be minimal. Dahl agreed that Wagner would help keep a continuity in Corson's absence.

Corson added that Leigh Campbell who is currently a .4 position could be hired in a temporary full time position. The office would then advertise for a part time position.

The board by consensus agreed with Corson's plan and told him to go ahead and work out the details.

Variance

Highway Engineer John Grindeland explained the need for a variance for a federal culvert project located on County State Aid Highway (CSAH) #20 in York Township. He noted that the location and topography require the construction of a 40 mph design minimum according to Minnesota Rules for Sate Aid Operations. The 40 mph design would be cost prohibitive requiring extreme fill sections, additional right-of-way, and more pipe length. A 30 mph design would be much more economical. The variance resolution was approved.

Law Enforcement

Sheriff Daryl Jensen discussed his preliminary budget. He suggested that an additional staff position for a programmer should be considered. He added that this would be a full time position replacing a current half time position. The net extra cost would be $15,000. The time spent in jail now is consumed mostly by card playing and sleeping. The programmer could use idle time for classes, etc. and could better supervise the inmates.

Jensen discussed communication changes required by the FCC to be in place by 2013. He recommended that he and his staff need to continue going to meetings to be well informed on the options to better make a decision on which system to use and he encouraged commissioners to do likewise. The state is installing what he calls the "backbone," a series of towers for an 800 MHz system. Monies would be available to help the county prepare for this system, however the system could cost the county a couple of million. Jensen is considering a VHF narrow banding system that would be less expensive, about a $100,000. He added that the state will build the towers for their 800 MHz system with 911 money and that the county could put their equipment on the towers. Jensen said that the hill and bluff topography of Fillmore County is a problem for the 800 MHz system. He asked the board to start thinking about the transition and to consider putting away $25,000 per year to get ready for the transition.

Commissioner Stafford Hanson remarked that he was impressed by the cleanliness and organization of the jail during a visit by the commissioners awhile back. Jensen credited the good work of Jamie Fenske in keeping the jail running smoothly.

Preliminary Budgets

Over the last several board meetings, commissioners have heard from most of the departments as to their preliminary 2008 budget recommendations. Bakke remarked that the preliminary budgets would require about a 14% levy increase. Line by line the commissioners are whittling away at projected numbers. The scrutinizing is tedious and frustrating but will determine the figures for the levy.

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