Commissioners Dewey Severson, Eric Johnson, Robert Burns, Teresa Walter, and Greg Myhre attended the August 24 meeting of the Houston County Commission. Chairman Burns called the meeting to order at 9 a.m. and led board members and attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance. Commissioners approved the meeting agenda and minutes from the August 10 regular meeting, the August 17 workgroup session minutes, and the Consent Agenda. There were no public comments. The meeting adjourned at 11:17 a.m.
President and CEO Tim Penny, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), explained that SMIF serves 20 south-central and southeastern Minnesota counties, including Houston County. The non-profit organization has an annual budget of $5 million and three main areas of focus, economic development, early childhood development, and community vitality (www.smifoundation.org). Penny shared that in response to COVID-19, Houston County entrepreneurs, childcare providers, and communities received $191,000. “A role we can play when times are tough,” emphasized Penny. In 2020, 25 Houston County early childhood professionals were impacted by grants, training, and technical assistance. In addition, 26 businesses were impacted through our entrepreneur programming, grantmaking, and lending. Recently, Spring Grove and Caledonia received funds for mural projects. In answer to commissioners’ questions, Penny explained, “Childcare shortage leaves us with a need for 8000 slots in the 20 counties,” causing SMIF and communities to find unique solutions, such as daycare training at no cost. “The $10,000 grant per community is all federal dollars,” confirmed Penny. Penny was asked about Acres for Good, “It is a way to keep local wealth local.” Penny summarized SMIF’s role, “We try to be a good partner in our three areas of work.”
Health Care Economist and Benefits Consultant Bill Colopoulos and Executive Director Steve Sallee, Southeast Service Cooperative, appeared before the commissioners with good news. County employees will see a 5% decrease in health care premiums effective January 1, 2022. The single rate is $726.75, and the family rate is $1,803.35. Colopoulos mentioned that benefits would not be changing.
Rawlings Sporting Goods announced that they are closing Miken Sports, a long-time employer in Caledonia. Miken Sports currently employs 78 people. Both the City of Caledonia and Houston County Commissioners approved resolutions asking Rawlings Sporting Goods to reverse its decision to close Miken Sports. Allison Wagner, EDA, explained that the resolution and accompanying letter would be sent to Miken Sports, Rawlings Sporting Goods, and Major League Baseball.
Commissioners went into closed session at 9:40 a.m. to discuss pending arbitration. Commissioners came back to the regular session at 10:09 a.m.
According to State statutes, commissioners must accept donations. Therefore, commissioners accepted a $150 check from the Brownsville VFW for the Veteran Services Office. The donations will be used for any veteran’s needs.
The 2021 Watermain Improvements project is completed and has been inspected by the State. County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski recommended that the commission pass Resolution 21-40 to authorize the final payment to Zenke Inc. Pogodzinski reminded commissioners that the project’s total cost is $52,818, well under the original contract price of $75,434.50. In addition, the cost-share is 1/3 city and 2/3 county. Therefore, $52,818 is the county’s share.
Initially, there were no bids for the highway shop window covering, so the department went out to bid again. During round two, the county received four bids ranging from $3,016.67 from Design Studio to $32,100 from Schneider Window. Pogodzinski recommends accepting the bid from Design Studio, noting, “Window coverings were included in the budget and are not an add-in.” In answer to a question, Pogodzinski confirmed that the bid does include installation. Approved.
Commissioners declared a State of Emergency for Houston County due to heavy rains and flooding from the August 7 storm.
Commissioner Walter explained that Resolution 21-37, Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Aid, is a routine resolution that the commission approves every year. Houston County was allocated $22,653 for 2022 and the following years. This was again approved.
The next meeting of the Houston County Commission is Tuesday, September 7, at 9 a.m. in County Board Room 222 in the Historic Courthouse, Caledonia, or via the County’s conference call line at (312) 626-6700 and entering meeting ID: 994-7297-7175 and password 368422.