At the July 11 regularly scheduled Houston County Commission meeting, commissioners approved allocating $255,000 from the county’s ARPA funds for Houston County childcare.
Houston County EDA director Allison Wagner, Houston County Public Health and Human Services director John Pugleasa, and representatives from Workforce Development Inc. presented the Houston County Childcare Enhancement proposal. The proposal outlines five goals which will be implemented over the next three years and includes a request for $255,000 in ARPA funds. The funds will be used for outreach, training enhancement, facilities support, and provider onboarding tracts.
The Rural Child Care Innovation Program community solution action for childcare in Houston County explains that a team of county leaders and childcare providers along with support from First Children’s Finance “conducted a thorough investigation and analysis to uncover the factors contributing to the childcare shortage in the area through individual interviews and surveys with a multitude of stakeholders.” The results showed a childcare shortage of 206 slots in Houston County.
The action plan stated, “The analysis also revealed the childcare shortage has severely impacted parents living in Houston County. Thirty-two percent of parent survey respondents declined employment or withdrew from the workforce due to childcare issues, and 39% of employers responded that childcare impacted their ability to attract employees. Additionally, 17% said the childcare shortage has impacted their ability to retain employees. Absence from work (when a provider is closed for the day), inability to work a flexible schedule, inability to work different shifts, and tardiness to work hinders the ability of parents to advance in their careers and the ability of employers to meet their business needs.”
Commissioners in attendance: Chairperson Dewey Severson, Eric Johnson, Robert (Bob) Burns, Bob Schuldt, and Greg Myhre.
Chairperson Severson called the regularly scheduled meeting to order at 9 a.m. Severson led his colleagues and the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. The board approved the meeting agenda with the addition of one item to the consent agenda and the minutes from the June 27 regularly scheduled commission meeting.
At the end of the meeting, commissioners interviewed four candidates for the position of auditor/treasurer. Current County Auditor/Treasurer Donna Trehus announced her retirement earlier this summer. The successful candidate will fill the remainder of Trehus’ term which ends in 2026. The four candidates included Houston City Administrator Michelle Quinn; Houston County Environmental Services Technical Clerk Amy Sylling; Houston County Deputy Auditor/Treasurer Polly Heberlein; and Houston County Deputy Auditor/Treasurer Mark Bennett. Each candidate had 45 minutes to answer 11 questions relating to the responsibilities of the position and the candidate’s experience.
Commissioners unanimously approved the consent agenda as amended including the resignation of Heidi Lapham, deputy auditor/treasurer, initiate a search for a part-time deputy auditor/treasurer, amend the resignation date of Amy Gehrke, lead dispatcher/jailer/programmer from July 23 to July 15, and change the employment status of Ben Novak, sheriff’s deputy from .55 FTE to .8 FTE effective July 16 to December 30, 2023 after which time Deputy Novak appointment status will revert to .55.FTE.
In other business, the board:
• Approved a motion not to enter into a pollinator and brush application contract for Botcher Park due to several unknowns in the 10-year contract.
• Approved an interim use permit (IUP) for Jeff and Kelly Mauss. The approved permits allow the Mausses to have a temporary farm dwelling on their property in Mayville Township.
• Approved a conditional use permit (CUP) for Kimberlee Burichter and Doug Dammen, La Crescent Township. The permits allow for substantial land alteration.
• Approved Resolution No. 23-23 and LG220 Application for Exempt Permit for Gambling Activities on behalf of the Sheldon Valley Sportsman’s Association for gambling activities to be conducted at The Sheldon Valley Sportsman’s Association Gun Range on October 8, 2023.
• Authorized Public Health to submit a U-Care grant application to support the dental access project.
• Authorized Public Health to submit a Towards Zero Deaths (TZD) grant application to the Office of Traffic Safety. The grant will be used to provide public health education related to traffic safety.
• Approved a letter of commitment for the Minnesota Housing Program, Community Homeowner Impact Fund. (ARPA dollars for a one-time match were previously approved assuming funds are awarded.)
• Adjourned the meeting at 12:51 p.m.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Houston County Commission is Tuesday, July 25 at 9 a.m. in the County Commission Board Room 222, located on the second floor in the historic county courthouse, Caledonia, or via the county conference call line (312) 626-6700 enter ID: 994-7297-7175 and password 368422. Public attendees are requested to mute their line until addressed.