In the single action item on the agenda for their May 23 meeting, the Houston County Commissioners approved reapplying for a MnDOT Aeronautics grant for maintenance and operations of the airport. The grant, which must be applied for every other year, can be used for snow plowing, cleaning, and other upkeep. the maximum amount per year is $24,552; usually the eligible expenses are close to that. The state reimburses for 75% of the expenses.
The consent agenda for the meeting included the 2023 contract with Driftless Region Vendor Control LLC to canvas specifically identified Houston County communities for potential mosquito related human health issues. Another consent agenda item was the approval of liquor licenses in the county for wine and strong beer, on sale beer, and off sale beer.
In discussion items, Greg Myhre, fifth district commissioner, shared that he’d been working on zoning this week and on things at the airport.
Bob Schuldt, district 4 commissioner, reported that he’d attended the recent department heads meeting. Schuldt shared that state legislation might affect Houston County’s highway department and human services. He also noted that county computers will be needing updates for security purposes.
Third district commissioner Bob Burns attended the CJCC (Criminal Justice Coordinating Council) meeting. Discussion at the meeting included the style with which the court will be handled. Houston and Fillmore County wil tie in with Winona County; this will save on expenses for the counties. Burns shared that budgeting for the new year has begun; there will be some banking procedure changes.
Burns received information that the state legislature possibly will require the county to provide another Saturday and a Sunday for citizens to pick up absentee ballots; obviously this will increase county expenses for elections.
The work on the west parking lot of the historic courthouse beginning in June brought some concerns about courthouse handicap accessibility during the work. Contractors are aware of the concern; handicap accessibility will need to temporarily shut off for a short time. The exact time period will be shared with the public. During that time, people will need to call ahead to get access. Staff will be able to meet people in the parking lot with documents and to help them as well.
Second district commissioner Eric Johnson reported on the recent Root River Watershed Plan meeting held in Hokah. The watershed plan was established in 2018; a five-year assessment is being undertaken to see how it’s doing. Since its inception, there have been 488 best practice plans put in place, a majority of them in Houston County; this does not include any federal dollars. Johnson shared that the group had recently gone to Freeburg to look at the Crooked Creek structure. A recent five-inch rainfall in the watershed had resulted in a 16-foot water depth in the structure. Around 1,000 acres are drained by the watershed.
First district commissioner Dewey Severson shared information from SMART (Southeastern Minnesota Association Regional Trails). The group is working to get the area bike trials completed. This year, work will focus on Taopi and to the west. Severson noted that all the trails share the same challenges in dealing with landowners to obtain use of former railroads for trails.
In another discussion, Greg Myhre brought up his concerns that the DNR is going to open up Houston County to high powered rifles for hunting. Myhre felt Houston County needs to “shut them off.” He pointed out that Mower County had successfully done so already.
Eric Johnson brought up the topic of edible marijuana. He pointed out that Fillmore County was having a public hearing on the topic that very day.
The next meeting of the Houston County Board of Commissioners will be June 6 at 9 a.m. in room 222 of the Houston County Historic Courthouse in Caledonia.