County still grappling with what to do with Spring Grove salt shed

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

What do you do if you purchase something, find out later that the product is defective and when you try to gain some type of recourse, you learn the company that produced the product has gone out of business?

That’s exactly what the Houston County Board has been forced to deal with concerning a salt shed located in Spring Grove.

Several years ago Coverall, Inc., the company that built the shed in Spring Grove, contacted all of their customers to alert them that the metal supports that hold up the buildings had a design flaw and some of the buildings were failing.

The county discussed hiring a structural engineer with a number of neighboring counties to share the cost of inspecting their Coverall salt sheds.

The issue was put on hold when it was learned Mn/DOT officials were considering hiring a firm to inspect salt sheds throughout the state.

Last fall Pogodzinski located a company that has been doing inspections, called TKDA of St. Paul. The cost for the inspection was approximately $7,999, plus $900 to have the county rent a lift for the inspection.

Money for the inspection came out of the Highway Department’s building fund.

Last week County Highway Engineer Brian Pogodzinski informed the county board that the state has decided to replace all of their hoop buildings due to potential liability issues.

Pogodzinski had gotten a $1,200 estimate from a Spring Grove welder to repair the flawed supports. But when Pogodzinski checked into the proposed repair project, he found out the building would not meet state building codes. And if the building did not meet state building codes, the county’s insurance carrier will not cover possible liability issues.

Pogodzinski added that he has looked into replacing the structure and estimated it would cost around $40,000.

The county board decided to put the issue on hold and instructed to Pogodzinski to do more research replacement costs.

In other board action:

Contract with Premier Security

County Jail Administrator Mark Schiltz requested that the board sign a contract with Premier Security, Inc. of Rochester and Winona. Schiltz explained that the county has utilized Premier’s services in the past when a county inmate is transported to a hospital and a guard is needed at the patient’s door. He said it is much more economical to contract the services of a guard in Rochester than having someone from Houston County stationed at a hospital room door for a week at a time.

A motion made by Commissioner Tom Bjerke and seconded by Commissioner Teresa Walter to enter into a two-year contract was unanimously approved.

Completes probation

The board unanimously approved a motion to end the probationary period for financial worker Sandy Ask. She had fullfilled her probationary period and HR Director Tess Arrick-Kruger recommended the action.

Human Services staffing

The board spent some time discussing possible options to complete the staffing of the Human Services Department with Kruger.

Earlier this winter the board agreed to name Human Services Accounting Supervisor Linda Bahr as the interim Human Services Director/Accounting Supervisor, Sharen Lapham as the interim Social Worker Supervisor, continue having current Human Services Financial Worker Supervisor Karen Kohlmeyer serve that capacity and search for an accounts collection person to work in the Human Services and Financial departments. Lapham decided she did not wish to continue serving as interim Social Worker Supervisor and requested she retain her former position as a social worker.

Two weeks later, the board approved a recommendation made by Kruger to name Karen Sanness as the interim Social Worker Supervisor, effective Feb. 29.

But how was the county going to handle the accounts collection person to work in the Human Services and Financial departments?

Because Houston County is actively involved in a region-wide human services redesign project, several of the commissioners questioned if now would be the appropriate time to hire on another person.

“Once we hire someone, it’s going to be pretty tough to lay them off,” Bjreke pointed out. “I thought we went into this whole thing thinking there was going to be a cost savings”

Kruger replied that if the county does hire a financial worker, who could serve both Human Services and the Finance Department, the county would see a savings of approximately $93,000.

Walter asked if the county couldn’t backfill the position with current staff.

Kruger explained that with all the budget cutting that has occurred during the past few years, everyone’s plate is quite full. She added that anyone hired to work as a financial worker for the Human Services Department is required to pass a Merit exam

The board decided to have Kruger, Financial Director Carol Lapham and Bahr develop a position description and bring that back to the board.

You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]