Law enforcement and zoning items fill county agenda

By Emily Bialkowski
Caledonia Argus


Law enforcement related requests dominated the Houston County Board’s agenda Nov. 27, though none of the items were extraordinary in nature. The board also approved  a list of zoning permits.



Three sheriff’s department personnel items came to the table and included:

• Reinstating Judy St. Mary as a transport officer.

• Approving Michael Rasmussen as a 67 day jailer/dispatcher at a rate of $18.44 per hour. This request was fueled by another candidate not working out in the position.

• Changing the employment status from probationary to regular for Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Garrett, who met all expectations.

The three requests passed unanimously.


Probation officers

Denise Schaffer of the court services department presented the county board with a money saving suggestion related to the county’s two probation officers.

She recommended that the agents use county-owned vehicles when traveling to training and meting locations instead of paying the $0.55 per mile reimbursement rate.

“They will do a tremendous amount of traveling in the next year, and if  they could use a county vehicle that would be less expensive than driving their own vehicles and reimbursing for mileage,” Schaffer said, adding that Winona County uses this philosophy.

She said the zoning office and veterans service office have already agreed to lend their vehicles as long as there wasn’t a conflict at any given time. Schaffer also believes the sheriff’s department has a non-patrol vehicle that she will discuss with the sheriff as a possible option.

“I don’t think it’s a large dollar figure but it’s a way to save money,” Commissioner Tom Bjerke said.

If the agents get to use a county vehicle the cost is equivalent to fueling up the tank as opposed to $0.55 per mile.

Commissioner Jack Miller said it’s a hard calculation to make in terms of exact cost savings, but agreed that it’s worth a try.

Schaffer assured the board that she will first request use of vehicle from the aforementioned departments and if none was available she’d instruct the agents to go ahead and use their own vehicle.

“I think we should give it a try,” Commissioner Teresa Walter said, and with that, a motion to approve the request passed unanimously.



A long list of zoning permits (available in the adjacent chart) was approved after Commissioner Justin Zmyewski shared a few thoughts on a permit submitted by Scott Sanness of Wilmington Township.

Zmyewski said he received several phone calls about Sanness’ request to build a 61 by 164 foot confinement barn for hogs. The callers wanted to know how the county can be sure Sanness is not adding more animals than permitted, suggesting he could easily hide extra hogs in the building.

Zoning Director Bob Scanlan said the permit for animal units is not changing and that Sanness is responding to his contractors, who wish to have hogs healthily divided among several buildings.

“Ninety-nine percent of the hogs today are on contract by companies. The people who own the hogs want to limit the number of hogs and not over populate a building,” Scanlan said.

Zmyewski pressed further asking what assurances the county has that the producer is following regulations. “Who’s monitoring this to make sure he’s not stuffing more animals in it once a building is built,” the commissioner asked.

Scanlan said that duty falls on his lap. “If a complaint came in I’d be obligated that day to go out and count tails,” he said, adding that this request aims to reduce the numbers in each building to accommodate his contractors and the health of the animals.

With those assurances the item passed.

In a related matter, a conditional use permit (CUP) was approved for J.B. Holland Construction to extract material for a road construction project on Perkins Valley Road in Money Creek Township. A previous request from J.B. Holland failed due the project’s proximity to a family cemetery, but this CUP met no objections.

The board also re-approved a CUP held by Travis Zenke for soil work he does between Hokah and La Crescent in low-lying wetland.

Environmental Services Director Rick Frank said Zenke passed all state and federal regulations in December 2006 to do this work, and the yearly approval process allows the county to check in and make sure he is still  working within the parameters of those permits.

Zoning Director Bob Scanlan said he has not received any complaints, and the board gave their nod unanimously.