At the September 26 meeting of the county board, Blake Lea was hired to fill the newly created position of Land Use Director, effective September 29.
In August the board voted to restructure the Zoning Department, which was supported by the current Zoning Administrator Cristal Adkins. This day, the new job classification for Assistant Land Use Director was approved.
Approval was then granted for Adkins’ classification to change from Zoning Administrator to Assistant Land Use Director, effective September 29; she will continue at her current pay scale. Kristi Ruesink, zoning assistant, is retiring, effective January 4, 2024. Dallas Dornink will continue as the Feedlot Officer. The newly restructured department will continue to be staffed by three people beginning early next year.
The restructuring is expected to save the county money, as Lea is certified to do septic inspections and has GIS experience. The current GIS contract expires at the end of this year. The county should no longer have to contract out for septic inspections and GIS.
2024 Preliminary Levy
County Administrator Bobbie Hillery presented detailed adjustments to the proposed preliminary levy. Additional revenue and/or savings were detailed for the general fund, social services, road and bridge, solid waste, and the airport.
Adjustments were made to the county’s health care plan with Medica. Without adjustment the increase for health insurance would have been 27%. An increase of 20% had been used for departmental budgeting. The Benefits Committee and its consultant, Jenny Van Deinse, recommended staying with Medica but using an alternate plan with a higher out of pocket for some employees (about 20% of employees). If an employee meets his/her deductible, they will pay out of pocket over the deductible until reaching the out-of-pocket limit. This alternate plan was approved as recommended.
This adjustment will still result in a net 16% increase in health insurance costs for the county over 2023.
The preliminary levy in the amount of $13,142,013 or a 5.99% increase was approved. County Program Aid for 2024 will be $1,197,612 or a $257,257 increase.
Amended Hemp Ordinance
Numerous changes were proposed for the ordinance regulating the sale of hemp-derived consumer products, edible cannabinoid products, nonintoxicating cannabinoids, and lower potency hemp edibles food and beverages.
During the public hearing there were comments from two people. Benita Underbakke supported the additional language. Luis Hummel, Fifth Sun Gardens in Lanesboro, asked for clarification. Would he be able to use an out of state manufacturer under the ordinance? Would license from the state be enough for a manufacturing license? Commissioner Duane Bakke said he will need to wait until we know the state language concerning out of state manufacturing. County Attorney Corson said processing is allowed, not manufacturing. Once state approves manufacturing it will be restricted to certain areas. Right now, there is to be no manufacturing in Fillmore County. Hummel thanked Corson and Brenda Pohlman for working with him and his lawyer.
The language changes were approved along with the publication of the final ordinance in the Fillmore County Journal.
Other Business in Brief
•A resolution was adopted for the authorization to execute the Minnesota Department of Transportation Grant Agreement for Airport Improvement excluding land acquisition. This allows for the release of funds for the construction of the arrival/departure building at the airport. This grant funding ($950,000) was awarded to the Fillmore County Airport through the 2021 bi-partisan Infrastructure Bill.
•County Engineer Ron Gregg presented three quotes for the purchase of a half-ton pick-up for the highway department. The low quote in the amount of $40,815 submitted by Happy CDJR of Rochester for a 2023 Dodge Ram 1500 Classic Quad cab 4×4 was approved.
•Fillmore County was recognized with an Age-Friendly Award making the county part of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities.
•Laura Nauman, Women’s Shelter, read the proclamation. Approval was granted to proclaim October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence is widespread. One in four women and one in 10 men have experienced some form of domestic violence or stalking. In 2022, 24 Minnesotans lost their lives as a result of domestic violence. An activity will be held each week in October. October 19 is National “Go Purple” Day.
•A resolution was adopted for Snowmobile Club Sponsorship for TriCounty Trailblazers, Mabel-Canton Trail busters, Hiawatha 1 & 2 and Bluff Valley Riders.
•The resignation of Tyler Olson, Facilities Maintenance Worker, was approved, effective October 3 after two-and-a-half years of service. A request to advertise for a replacement Facilities Maintenance Worker was approved.
•Approval was granted to advertise for a temporary Transfer Station Attendant, to fill in for a full-time employee on medical leave.
•The county board will meet next on October 3.