Victim services funding yanked

By Emily Bialkowski
Caledonia Argus

Funding  has run out for Houston County’s victim services coordinator Michelle Herman to the tune of about $42,000. The sudden decision by the state to cut funding is disconcerting but not entirely shocking as other counties have fallen victim to the same fate.

The situation has left the county scratching for funds to maintain the position, which will otherwise end next month.

“The bottom line is my office handles most of these victim cases. It has everything to do with victims’ rights and our ability to handle that load,” said County Attorney Jamie Hammell at the Aug. 21 county board meeting.

She asked that the position be absorbed by her office and that the county seek ways to cost share the expense.

Commissioner Jack Miller agreed the services provided by Herman are critical. He said, “It’s very unfortunate that we constructed a $17 million building for the criminal element in the county, but for victims we have to scrape around to find $40,000.”

No decision was made on the matter, and Hammell said she intends to gather specific numbers to facilitate a quick transfer of the position.

The county will likely ask municipalities that use victim services to contribute to the cost while also budgeting for the position in 2013.


Meth lab

In addition to the City of Caledonia racking up an initial $2,488 meth lab clean up bill for a bust that occurred on July 5, the county is left with the responsibility of eliminating this public health threat.

Director of Public Health Deb Rock explained the residence at 1017 Sunrise Lane has been locked and sealed, but that it can’t just sit there in perpetuity.

“Under the local public health act, it needs to be removed and abated,” Rock said.

The home is a trailer that is owned by the alleged perpetrators, but the lot it sits on is owned by someone else. Further complicating the matter is the fact that one of the two owners remains incarcerated, and it doesn’t appear that either owners are in a position to pay for mitigation.

“Basically, there’s no guarantee this can be paid for by the alleged criminals,” Rock admitted.

Disposal must first include testing so authorities can determine exactly what chemicals or substances they are dealing with. The estimate for testing is $1,500.

The results of the test will then indicate the extent of any special disposal needs.

“Can we just throw wheels on it and move it and get it out of there and get it tested?” Commissioner Tom Bjerke asked.

“I would agree the faster the better,” Commissioner Jack Miller added.

The board expressed support as a whole to pursue that avenue and instructed Rock to follow through. The county will also seek restitution when possible.


Frac sand EAW

The board dialed in attorney Jay  Squires to speak on their decision to conduct an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) on the Minnesota Sands (Erickson) frac sand mine.

The matter continues to draw ire from both the mine operators and those opposing it.

This latest development simply solidifies – in legal documentation – the board’s decision to order the EAW.

Jerrie Hayes, attorney for Minnesota Sands, argued that her client was not notified of the Aug. 7 meeting date where the board made the decision and that she would like the opportunity to provide contrasting information.

Squires said the decision was based on documents presented to the county for the current mining operation, and not future mining, and that, “This document accurately reflects what you were relying on in support of your determination on Aug. 7.”

The board agreed the documentation was accurate and voted accordingly.



• The board reviewed a request from the City of Houston to extend  sewer and water out to West Gate Industrial Park. The proposal includes disrupting a small section of wetlands – about 400 square feet. The majority of the work will include boring under the wetlands. The board unanimously approved the proposal. A 30-day public review process will take place prior to construction.

• Jordan Wilms, economic development coordinator, presented a recommendation from the Economic Development Authority  to approve a $25,000, 10-year, two percent loan to Lynne Nelson for a new business start-up.

The proposal introduces a cafe at 236 Main Street in the former Amish Expressions store. The cafe will feature breakfast and lunch and is expected to create four jobs.

“It will fill a nice void in La Crescent,” Miller said.

The board gave a unanimous nod.

• Alas, summer road construction continues to plague motorists, and now travelers of Swede Bottom Road, adjacent to Hwy. 76, will experience inconveniences as a $70,400 project gets underway.

“This is going to have some impact on locals initially,” Brian Pogodzinski, county engineer, said.

• A public hearing on the Wildcat Park ordinance dealing with yearly campsite lottery drew no comment. The board voted to extend the lottery out over two years, as there are always open campsites available for both travelers and locals.


Contact Emily Bialkowski at [email protected]