County continues to work on human services collaboration

By Charlie Warner
Argus Editor

With Olmsted County comprising 47 percent of the population, should one county have 47 percent of the control in a 12-county human services collaboration?

That was the question the Houston County Board of Commissioners wrestled with during last week’s board meeting.

The county has been working with 11 other Southeast Minnesota counties to try to form a collaboration to provide human services to its residents. The state of Minnesota has mandated that human service collaborations must be established in order to serve a minimum of 55,000 residents.

A number of planning sessions have been held with the 12 counties in this corner of the state. A consulting company has been hired, but as the process continues, many questions and concerns have cropped up.

Last month the board discussed the issue and appeared to be leaning towards a collaboration with Fillmore and Winona counties. The combined population of the three counties would meet the 55,000 population requirement.

A fourth county, Wabasha, may be added to the mix. The board took no action on this issue, but agreed that the 12-county scenario, with Olmsted County making up 47 percent of the population probably won’t be a workable solution.

Construction season underway

Spring has arrived and with it the highway construction season. At last week’s county board meeting, Houston County Highway Engineer Brian Pogodzinski brought several detour proposals when work begins on a bridge replacement project over the South Fork of the Root River on State Highway 76 two miles south of Houston.

Pogodzinski explained that Mn/DOT’s agreement calls for traffic to be detoured on a one-mile section of CSAH 20 that runs between Highways 76 and 44 just north of Caledonia. The contract calls for the state to reimburse the county $627.92 for the 36 days the detour will be in place.

A second detour was discussed, but hasn’t been finalized yet that would route traffic on CSAH 10 through Sheldon and then over to CSAH 4 and back on to Highway 76. Pogodzinski said Mn/DOT originally discussed closing the highway for six weeks, but after receiving local pressure, will only have that portion of the highway closed down completely for two weeks.

In other board action:

Public hearing on fees

The board held a short public hearing to allow public input on the proposed creation of a $5 fee for persons filing property escrows with the county.

According to County Treasurer Donna Trehus, Houston County is one of the only counties in the state that currently isn’t charging for this service.

The second fee increase proposed was to change the charge for NSF checks written to the county from $25 to $30.

Commissioner Tom Bjerke said he was concerned that for families that are living on a string and having a difficult time making it, the $5 increase in NSF checks would just be adding to their troubles.

Board Chairman Jack Miller agreed with Bjerke, but added that nearly all establishments and banks have already gone to the $30 charge.

No one from the public addressed the fee proposals.

A motion by Commissioner Teresa Walter and seconded by Commissioner Justin Zmyewski to approve both fee increases was unanimously approved.

County auction June 20

The annual county auction, which usually takes place during the Houston County Fair in mid-August has been moved up to Wednesday, June 20 beginning at 4:30 p.m.

The reason for the change was that the county has many more items, especially office furniture and equipment, due to the move into the County Justice Center. Those items are currently being stored on the county fairgrounds.

If the county would wait until the week of the fair to hold the auction, many of the items would have to be moved to make way for the fair.

“It’s just going to be much easier scheduling the auction earlier and having it done before the fair,” County Auditor Char Meiners noted.

Crack fill bid

The board unanimously approved the low bid for the summer pavement crack filling program submitted by B&D sealcoating of Caledonia at $1.89 per pound. According to Pogodzinski the county has $90,000 in the 2012 budget for this year’s crack filling program, but due to the mild winter, should only need to spend about $60,000.

Collection services

The board approved a one-year contract with Grand American Resources, Inc. of Grand Marais, Minn. to conduct collection services with persons who have been incarcerated in the county jail, released and owe the county money.

County Jail Administrator Mark Schiltz said County Attorney Jamie Hammell reviewed the contract and recommended the board approve it.

67-day employee

The board approved the hiring of Ryan Meiners as a 67-day employee to work in the County Surveyor’s Department. Meiners will be hired at an hourly rate of $11.12 for a maximum of $2,500, which is what was budgeted for the summer program.

Change in status

The board unanimously approved the change in work status of Christine Buege from 67-day temporary to half time.