Personnel, veterans and dividends come before commissioners

Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

Following a competitive search, Houston County commissioners appointed/transferred deputy auditor Michelle Quinn to the position of property appraiser last week. The brief August 15 session also featured a few more personnel votes, some highway department news, and notice of an $81,000 dividend check.

The board voted to conduct a search to replace Quinn. Personnel/facilities director Tess Arrick-Kruger also brought a hiring recommendation to fill the short-staffed license center. That was accepted, when Larissa Erickson was hired as as a deputy auditor-license center clerk. Human services employee Jessica Reed was also appointed to the new position of “childrens services lead social worker.”

Houston County veterans services officer Robert Thoen asked commissioners to approve the annual grant agreement which supplies between 10 and 12% of his office’s needs. The  Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs provides the “Operational Enhancement Grant” monies, Thoen said, which will add $10,000 to Houston County’s efforts to support local vets and steer them towards available resources. The funds are approved for the purchase of equipment, supplies, software, etc., and to pay for outreach expenses.

The resources that flow into local households from those outreach efforts are considerable. “The 2017 fiscal year numbers are in,” Thoen said, “and VA (United States Department of Veterans Affairs) expenditures on Houston County alone is $9.3 million dollars.”

The board approved the agreement.

Airport, bridge work

County engineer Brian Pogodzinski brought two items to the attention of commissioners. The first was a bid opening to replace a bridge on county 19 near Spring Grove. Low-bidder ICON Constructors of Mabel, Minn., was awarded the job with a $605,233 offer. The engineering estimate was approximately 13% higher, at $698,587. The project is set to begin after Labor Day, and could take as long as three to four months to complete, the engineer reported.

The board also approved a final payment to Fahrner Asphalt Sealers, LLC (Eau Claire) for crack sealing and seal coating at the Houston County Airport. That job ended up costing $148,557.

Human Services votes

Houston County Human Services director John Pugleasa asked commissioners to vote on several items. Those included an agreement which will allow Human Services and Public Health/Nursing to cooperate, working together to provide child care licensing. Secondly, a list of “old/uncollectable debt” was presented for write-off. The total amount was $138,088. A new funeral expenses policy for medical assistance estate recoveries was also offered, which will bring the county into accord with the Minnesota Department of Public Health’s latest requirements. Finally, a pair of guardianship/conservator contracts (with Tri-County Fiduciary Services, LLC) for Human Services clients were submitted. The board approved all of the above.

Other news

Commissioners noted that the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust will send Houston County a 2017 dividend check in the amount of $81,942 in mid-November. Those funds will be earmarked for the county’s Capital Improvement Fund.

Houston County relies on MCIT for Worker’s Compensation and property/casualty insurance coverage.

“Dividends are a reflection of MCIT’s past performance,” staff from the agency stated in a written report. “Nothing guarantees ongoing positive performance. Each year the MCIT Board of Directors cautions members not to plan on dividends.”