By Emily Bialkowski
Salary adjustments for Houston County elected officials were put off for a week after the County Board agreed they needed more time to consider the situation.
The board met with elected officials Dec. 19 to evaluate their performances and discuss 2014 salaries. The officials include the county auditor, treasurer, county attorney, recorder and sheriff.
A recommendation from the Human Resources Department is to give the officials a 1 percent raise Jan. 1, 2014, and an additional 1.5 percent July 1, 2014.
A determination must be made by the next meeting, set for Dec. 30, according to statute.
If the recommendation were to be approved, it sets the 2014 salary schedule as follows:
Auditor – $66,400
Treasurer – $52,900
County Attorney – $91,000
Recorder – $60,600
Sheriff – $86,300
In other business, the board heard from Jim Nissen, district manager for the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. He discussed the district’s 2013 revenue sharing payment to the county, which amounted to $24,195. The payment is issued as compensation for lost tax revenue.
Roughly 13,000 acres of land make up Houston County’s portion of the 261-mile-long refuge that extends from Wabasha, Minn. to Rock Island, Ill.
The payment is a percentage of the appraised value of the land, or $15 million in Houston County’s case.
Nissen warned, however, that the 2014 payment will be based off $14.5 million of appraised value. When asked why that was the case Nissen said he, too, was surprised and will seek a formal answer. “I was struck by that,” Nissen admitted, adding that he will respond by letter once he is certain of the answer.
On a positive note, Nissen said 9,000 guests were tallied as visiting the Brownsville overlook this year.
“The river is popular and people enjoy it – and that’s good – but we need to manage it,” Nissen said.
To learn more about the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, visit their district office and visitor center at N5727 County Road Z on Brice Prairie. It is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Each year the County Board renews its lease agreement with the K-9 deputy. This time around, Sheriff Doug Ely asked the board to consider a month-by-month contract since the lease language doesn’t change and the county has a 30-day out clause if needed.
This type of indefinite agreement “would be nice,” Ely said.
“I think that’s a good idea,” Commissioner Teresa Walter said.
An open-ended lease renewal was approved.
Ely said he will visit the board again in the coming weeks to provide end-of-the-year statistics on drug related offenses in the county.
As is customary this time of year, Environmental Services Director Rick Frank presented several contracts his department oversees. They included:
• ABC/Woodland Industries for personnel they supply at the drop sites and recycling centers.
• Waste hauler licenses for Hilltopper’s Refuse & Recycling, Waste Management, Richard’s Sanitation, Bob & Shirley Giblin, Harter’s Refuse, Midwest Roll-Off and Two Guys and a Dumpster.
• Richard’s Sanitation drop off site rates.
The three contracts received approval.
Frank also mentioned that he is working on switching the county’s appliance and electronic waste provider, who can no longer accept such waste for free. Valuable components of this kind of waste eliminated the cost of recycling in year’s past, but that trend has since changed and providers need to charge for shipping such items to their facilities.
Houston County’s electronic and appliance waste used to go to a facility in Janesville, Wis., but Frank will likely switch that to a provider in La Crosse to save money.
The board made quick work of approving a recommendation to hire a temporary, 67-day employee for building maintenance needs due to another employee’s extended leave.