With a roll call vote of three to two, the Houston County Commissioners approved Sheriff Brian Swedberg’s request to “approve budgeting the Houston County Jail for 2024 at the November 7, 2023, regularly scheduled commission meeting. The request includes reviewing the jail’s budget and operations at the July 2024 commission meeting.
Both Sheriff Brian Swedberg and Jail Administrator Dean Ott appeared before the commissioners to request a vote of confidence by approving their request as jail employees are uneasy about their future.
Both Commissioners Johnson and Burns stressed that the jail’s budget is included in the county’s preliminary budget and expressed concern that approving the jail’s budget at this time is out of line.
Chairman Dewey Severson call the meeting to order at 9 a.m. and lead his colleagues and the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. The board unanimously approved the meeting agenda with one addition to the consent agenda. The board also unanimously approved the minutes from the October 24 regularly scheduled commission meeting.
All five commissioners were in attendance: Chairman Dewey Severson, Eric Johnson, Robert (Bob) Burns, Bob Schuldt, and Greg Myhre.
Due to staffing shortages the Houston County license center located in the courthouse will temporarily have new office hours as of November 1. The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday until the State of Minnesota has completed the employee background checks on new hires. It is estimated that regular hours will resume mid-December.
The consent agenda was approved in its entirety, including the reappointment of Arlyn Pohlman and Brad Felten to the Crooked Creek Watershed District for three-year terms scheduled to expire on November 30, 2026; hired Heidi Lapham as a temporary/casual (67 day) Deputy Auditor-License Center employee through December 2023 at a rate of $22.90 per hour; changed Highway Mechanic Shane St. John’s employment
status from probationary to regular as of November 14, 2023; changed the employment status of Deputy Sheriff Ethan Meyer from probationary to regular as of November 21, 2023; and changed part-time Deputy Auditor/Treasurer Susan Wiegrefe start date to November 7, 2023.
Polly Heberlein updated the commission on the status of the License Center variance of hours saying, “Thank you for the ability to use the variance of office hours in the license center if needed. So far, we have not utilized this option and we hope to not have to. November and early December may be tricky yet. But we are doing everything in our power to keep moving ahead without making changes, even if they are temporary changes, unless they are absolutely necessary. We made some progress since our last meeting but unfortunately, the process with the state is a long one and it is not a fast one. There still are a few items we are waiting for from the state. Otherwise, we have two team players that are doing an awesome job keeping up. We have a new part-time gal starting today. So, we are moving in the right direction. It is nice to know that the variance of office hours option is there yet for the next month or so till we get everybody fully onboard.”
In other business, the commission:
• Approved the revised resolution number 24-42 for the MnDOT Aeronautics companion grant for the airport taxi lane project.
• Adopted resolution number 23-43, requesting a variance from standard for state aid operation for project number S.A.P. 028-610-021.
• Approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for Thomas and Judy Vixfor. The plan is to install a solar energy system in the flood plain district of the agriculture protection district in Houston Township. Martin Herrick confirmed that one of the conditions clarifies that the county is not responsible if a flood washes the panels away.
• The meeting was adjourned at 10:11 a.m.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Houston County Commission is Tuesday, November 14 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.