By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor
Existing in the computer world can be expensive. The Houston County Board came to grips with that notion last week when they approved the purchase of 35 new computers at a price of just under $22,600.
County Information Systems Director Andy Milde brought the purchase request before the board. He explained that the county rotates its computers every five years and that these machines would be purchased through a state bid, which constitutes considerable savings to the county.
Board Chairman Jack Miller asked Milde if there was some way the county could squeeze more life out of their computers. Milde replied that county staff considers how much usage there is on each computer before deeming it worn out.
“We extend the life of the computers that aren’t worked as hard,” Milde said. “We don’t replace about 20 percent of them in the same time frame as those that are used more. We rotate those back into our system.”
Commissioner Justin Zmyewski asked if the monitors are replaced at the same time. Milde noted that they work the monitors until there isn’t any life left in them.
Zmyewski then asked why these computers cost more than the ones anyone can purchase at one of the major box stores. Milde explained that the county is required to use different operating systems, which are more expensive than what the general public uses.
“These are just standard computers, nothing fancy, but we do have to have a better operating system,” Milde said.
It was also pointed out that the county will be reimbursed just over $7,700 for 12 of the computers that will be going to the Human Services and Public Health departments through state and federal reimbursements.
A motion made by Commissioner Tom Bjerke and seconded by Commissioner Teresa Walter to purchase the 35 computers was unanimously approved.
In other board action:
Action is rescinded
County Attorney Jamie Hammell informed the board that the action they took while in closed session on April 10 concerning a settlement with former county employee Andy Melde was inappropriate.
Hammell said the board should have reopened the public meeting and then made and passed the motion. She suggested that the April 10 motion be rescinded and if the board wanted to approve the recommended settlement with Melde for $1,500, they should do it at the April 17 meeting.
Hammell also noted that the county had been threatened with litigation by Melde, but nothing was filed in court.
A motion by Commissioner Tom Bjerke and seconded by Commissioner Steve Schuldt to rescind the motion made on April 10 was unanimously approved.
A motion to approve the settlement with Melde for $1,500 was made by Schuldt and seconded by Commissioner Teresa Walter. It passed 3-0-1. Zymyewski abstained, as he had not attended the April 10 meeting.
Won’t need as much salt
County Highway Engineer Brian Pogodzinski brought some good news to the county board.
Due to the record-breaking mild winter, Pogodzinski said his department carried over 2,700 tons of salt from this past winter, and only used about half of what is used during a normal winter.
The county will realize a substantial savings, as Pogodzinski figured they only needed to order 1,600 tons for next winter.
Pogodzinski also brought four calcium chloride bids before the board for summer dust reduction on gravel roads. The low bid was from Freeborn County Co-op for 79 cents per gallon delivered to Caledonia and Spring Grove and 99 cents per gallon applied.
The county will purchase 75,300 gallons, with the townships in the county purchasing about 40 percent of that to be spread on township roads.
Does county need two K-9 dogs?
After reviewing the report provided by the sheriff’s office on the K-9 program, Miller asked if the county really needed two active K-9 dogs.
“I realize a K-9 dog is an excellent aid for our county officers, and I also realize that much of the money to fund this program comes from donations, but I question if we need two dogs,” Miller said.
It was pointed out that over the past five years the accumulative costs for insurance and off-duty comp time for K-9 handlers has totaled $16,190.
The board will ask County Sheriff Doug Ely to attend the next board meeting to discuss this issue.
New lawn care equipment
After receiving bids from three Houston County businesses, the board approved the low bid for a zero-turn mower straight-shaft trimmer from Ken’s Small Engine of Caledonia in the amount of $2,841. The county had also received bids from SEMA Equipment of Caledonia and Breyer’s Sales and Service of La Crescent.
$5 fee for escrows?
Due to the fact that Houston County is one of the only in this section of the state that currently does not charge a $5 fee for filing escrows, a public hearing will be scheduled in the near future to obtain public input on this matter.