Commissioners Dewey Severson, Eric Johnson, Robert Burns, Teresa Walter, and Greg Myhre were present at the July 6, 2021, meeting of the Houston County Commission. Chairman Burns called the meeting to order at 9 a.m. The meeting adjourned at 10:50 a.m.
Others in attendance inclued Allision Wagner, Board Clerk/EDA; Mary Betz, interim recorder; Donna Trehus, auditor/treasurer; Brian Pogodzinski, engineering; John Pugleasa, director, Houston County Public Health and Human Services; Carol Lapham, Finance director; and Theresa Arrick-Kruger, Human Resources.
Chairman Burns led the commissioners and attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Commissioners approved the meeting agenda with two changes to the consent agenda: Jessica Reed’s resignation is effective August 25 not August 27, and initiate a competitive search for a social worker. Commissioners also approved the minutes from the June 22, 2021, commission meeting, and the consent agenda.
Pogodzinski recommended commissioners approve the department’s request to have Minnesota Energy Distribution install gas service to the new highway building to heat the shop. The line will not cost anything to the county. Pogodzinski states that there is an excess footage charge to the county if the line is greater than 75 feet from the property line. Pogodzinski stated, “The $4.32 a foot excess footage charge is a minimal cost to the county.” Commissioner Myhre made a motion with Commissioner Severson seconding the motion to approve the installation. The motion carried.
Lapham explained the changes made to the budget. There were no adjustments made to the budget; instead, amendments were made to the budget, specifically payroll with the bottom line staying the same. “It works better to have the numbers in there since we are starting the budget process for next year,” explained Lapham. Commissioners approved the amendments.
The commissioners went into closed session at 9:30 a.m. to discuss labor negotiations. Commissioners returned to open session at 10:06 a.m. In summary, the commissioners came to a consensus to approve the pay grid as proposed by David Drown Associates (DDA).
Pogodzinski asked if the commission would like the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to present the new 10-year capital highway investment plan (CHIP) this year. If so, would the commissioners like the presentation in-person or virtually. The commission felt it was okay to do it virtually if Pogodzinski was available in person. The commission will present questions ahead of time, but they also want the opportunity to ask questions after the presentation. Whether the presentation is held this summer or fall does not matter to the commissioners.
At this time, the Minnesota State of Emergency is scheduled to end on July 14, 2021. On July 13, the commission will discuss officially ending the County’s State of Emergency.
Myhre reported that he attended the county shop meeting. As a result, commissioners can expect to see a change order for $33,000 for the records room and tech room. If the job had been bided correctly, the cost would have been $22,000.
Walter asked the commissioners if they want Emergency Medical Service (EMS) to come in front of the commissioners to ask for their appropriation. Walter also attended the county extension meeting. The county will need to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for extension to work with the county. Walter explained, “All counties must sign the MOU.” Discussion also centered around next year’s budget. Walter also attended the recycling meeting and mentioned that prices are changing. Revenue from recycling is $13M and expenses are $12M.
Commissioner Severson asked for a list of all vacancies in each department within the week. Severson also asked if non-public meetings can still be held via Zoom. The consensus is to continue offering Zoom meetings. Severson announced that the Freeburg bridge is done and that the county fair information is being placed in both the Caledonia Argus and Fillmore County Journal.
Chairman Burns updated his fellow commissioners on his meeting with the Townships. The group’s discussion centered on two items. Earlier this year, county librarians asked commissioners for an increase of $40,000 for salaries. The group felt that $20,000 is more realistic. Burns reminded commissioners that Houston County appropriates $165,930 for libraries. Second, the Townships want the Waste and Recycling program to remain the same as it keeps the ditches and roadways clean, but they want to see a cost reduction.
The next meeting of the Houston County Commission is Tuesday, July 13, 2021, at 9 a.m. at the Historic County Courthouse, Caledonia. The public is invited to dial in. Contact Donna Trehus, (507) 725-5803 to be included in remote meetings.