By Charlie Warner
From 2000 to 2010, Houston County’s population experienced a 3.5 percent decrease from 19,718 to 19,027.
According to state statutes county commissioner districts must be equally represented. So a slight shuffling of townships, actually just one, was required for Houston County to be in compliance.
At last week’s meeting, the Houston County Board unanimously approved a motion to move Mayville Township from District Three to District Five.
Until last Tuesday, District Three included the city of Caledonia and Caledonia and Mayville townships, which is served by Commissioner Steve Schuldt.
Mayville Township will now be part of Commissioner Tom Bjerke’s district. Bjerke’s district now includes the cities of Spring Grove, Eitzen and Black Hammer, Crooked Creek, Jefferson, Mayville, Spring Grove, Wilmington and Winnebago townships.
The other three districts were not affected. They include:
• District One served by Commissioner Jack Miller- city of La Crescent (precincts one and two);
• District Two served by Commissioner Justin Zmyewski- city of Houston and Houston, Money Creek, Mound Prairie, Sheldon, Union and Yucatan townships;
• District Four served by Commissioner Teresa Walter- city of Browsville, city of Hokah, city of La Crescent (precinct three) and Brownsville, Hokah and La Crescent townships.
In other board action:
K-9 officers discussed
Stating that he thought the agreement the county had approved was for the Houston County Sheriff’s Department to have one K-9 dog on staff at a time, Board Chairman Jack Miller asked Sheriff Doug Ely for some clarification.
Ely had brought the lease renewal agreements for K-9 officers Ike and Chance to the board.
Ely replied that the county had originally approved a lease agreement for Virgil, which was the first K-9 dog in Houston County. In April of 2011, Ely said he requested a second lease agreement for Ike, as Virgil was getting up in age and a replacement would soon be needed. Several months later Virgil was decommissioned and the board approved a lease agreement for Chance.
“I thought it was a one for one,” Miller noted.
“It says right here that the board approved the lease agreements for both Ike and Chance,” Ely said, as he read the board minutes.
“I feel the K-9 program is a good one and very beneficial for our department,” Commissioner Tom Bjerke said. “But according to this report, it’s cost the county about $16,000 over a five-year period. I thought the entire program was going to be covered by donations.”
Ely explained that Houston County was in a unique situation, since the county is just leasing the dogs from their handlers.
“For most cities or counties, they’ll have between $20,000 and $30,000 invested in a dog,” Ely said. “We haven’t had to go that route. And, for the most part, donations have covered the cost.”
When asked about the $16,000 figure, Ely said that was the first he’d seen that figure and wanted to discuss it with County Finance Director Carol Lapham first.
Commissioner Steve Schuldt said he talked to Jail Administrator Mark Schiltz about the K-9 dogs and found out that the dogs are used routinely to screen inmates when they return to the jail from work release to make sure they aren’t bringing contraband into the jail.
Because both K-9 leases were up for renewal and the commissioners agreed to the importance of having the dogs on staff, a motion by Bjerke and seconded by Schuldt to extend the current leases for 30 days was unanimously approved.
Ely said he would report back to the board once he had a chance to discuss the report with Lapham.
Airport fuel tanks
Highway Engineer Brian Pogodzinski, who also serves as the airport manager, provided the board with bids to have the jet fuel tank cleaned out.
The county discontinued selling jet fuel several years ago and sold off the remaining jet fuel about a year ago.
The county plans to use both 3,000 gallon tanks for aviation fuel, which is a 100 octane fuel used for most airplanes.
The low bid to clean out the jet fuel tank was $2,500, which was submitted by Minnesota Petroleum of the Twin Cities. Mn/DOT Aviation will pay for half of the cost to clean out the tank. The bid includes cleaning out the tank, installing new filters, running some aviation fuel through the system and then disposing of the spent fuel.
Pogodzinski noted that Minnesota Petroleum has their own state-approved recycling center, which is why he felt their bid was so much lower than the other three bids the county received. The high bid was $7,250 and the other two bids were in the $5,000 neighborhood.
The county sells between 12,000 and 18,000 gallons of aviation fuel annually, with a 50 cent mark-up. Because all of the fuel is sold through a credit card system, the county actually realizes a profit closer to 20 cents per gallon, once all the credit card handling charges are figured in.
A motion by Bjerke and seconded by Commissioner Justin Zmyewski to approve Minnesota Petroleum’s bid was unanimously approved.
You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]