County board approves two-year extension on water quality plan

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

The Houston County Board of Commissioners approved a two-year extension on the county’s Comprehensive Local Water Management Plan during the March 20 meeting.

Ron Meiners of the Soil and Water Conservation District brought a resolution before the board that would extend the five-year update, which was due to be completed Dec. 31, 2012.

With SWCD Manager Ralph Tuck resigning and the county board looking at different staffing options, Meiners explained that it would be quite difficult to complete the five-year update on time.

“The two-year extension is a typical request,” Meiners said, “especially when there is a staffing change like we are going through.”

Each water district in the state is required to compose a 10-year plan and then hold public hearings midway through the decade-long plan to see what changes might crop up and make revisions to the 10-year plan. The plan spells out projects and goals to help improve water quality in the county.

A motion by Commissioner Tom Bjerke and seconded by Commissioner Justin Zmyewski to approve the extension was unanimously approved.

In other board action:

New pickup purchased

While county staff and the county board did everything they could to try to purchase a new pickup for the County Highway Department, they had to follow state law and go with the lower bid.

Last month Highway Engineer Brian Pogodzinski brought a proposal to the board to purchase a new truck for the Highway Department. He had gone through the state bidding process.

Several commissioners asked why the county couldn’t purchase the truck through the only new car dealership left in the county, Ellingson Motors of Caledonia. Pogodzinski was instructed to contact the local dealer and request a bid.

Unfortunately, the local bid ended up being $223.28 higher than the state bid. After checking with County Attorney Jamie Hammell, Pogodzinski told the board the county had to follow state law and go with the lower bid.

“At least we did the research and did everything we could to try to make this work,” Commissioner Teresa Walter said.

“I would have rather gone with the local bid, but we must do what state law dictates,” Board Chairman Jack Miller added.

A motion by Walter and seconded by Commissioner Steve Schuldt to approve the state bid for the new truck was unanimously approved.

Airport consultant

Pogodzinski then provided an update on the airport consultant issue.

The county has used the engineering consulting services of Mead & Hunt for a number of years and the five-year contract needed to be renewed. Several board members questioned if the county could save money by having several firms bid for the work on a per-project basis and possibly realize a savings in consulting fees.

Pogodzinski said he spoke with the FAA and found that the county was required to have a consulting contract in place for day-to-day operations, as well as for projects.

“The consultant must be selected based on the standard qualified selection process,” he noted. “This selection process and agreement may be on a single project basis or involve multiple projects. Therefore, if we would like to continue to use Mead & Hunt for assistance with updating our CIP on an annual basis and for day-to-day operation questions and guidance, we must have a contract with them.”

Because county staff would be meeting with the Airport Commission this week, the board decided not to take any action on this issue.

Human Services staffing

HR Director Tess Arrick-Kruger informed the board that social worker Andrew Melde had resigned. She said there was no “wiggle room” as far as moving staff around to cover the vacancy and requested a search to begin immediately.

A motion was made by Zmyewski and seconded by Schuldt to accept Melde’s resignation and to proceed with a search to find a replacement.

Elevator savings

Kruger brought some good news to the board when she reported that due to some diligent digging by Auditor Char Meiners and other county staff, they were able to find the documentation needed on work conducted in 1977 on the elevator in the Courthouse.

The documentation proved that the proper work had been conducted on the elevator 35 years ago and that with the recent updates made on the elevator, it now meets all state and federal codes.

Had the documentation not been located, the county would have been looking at spending another $30,000 to $40,000 on the elevator.

You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]