Commissioners discussed all the “ifs” related to a proposed state veterans home for Fillmore County at their March 27 meeting. During committee reports at the end of the meeting, commissioner Duane Bakke reported on a March 21 hearing held by the Minnesota State Government Finance Committee.
Up to 240 veterans home beds have been authorized by the federal government for Minnesota. Besides Fillmore County, Montevideo and Bemidji have been working to gain support for a veterans home in their communities.
Rep. Greg Davids is sponsoring a house bill to appropriate $10 million in state bonding for a veterans home to be located in Fillmore County. The federal government provides a 2:1 funding match. It has been estimated it will cost about $30 million for a 72 bed facility, not including land and infrastructure.
Bakke said there was a possibility for all three proposed homes which together would be under the 240 bed limit the federal government may be willing to fund. However, Minneapolis has also requested an additional 150 beds. There is considerable competition for the federal funding as well.
There is no doubt there is a real need in southeast Minnesota due to a large number of veterans in the area. Bakke noted one negative for Fillmore County compared to Montevideo and Bemidji is the distance to a hospital.
Bakke said we (county board) are being asked to make a decision. We are being told by legislators, Department of Veterans Affairs, city councils, and local communities that the decision needs to be made between the two cities in Fillmore County that have been actively pursuing a veterans home; Preston and Spring Valley. Both cities have offered to provide land for the building site and infrastructure necessary for a 72 bed nursing home facility. Bakke asked board members are we going to attempt to make this decision?
Commissioner Randy Dahl asked, “How do we get the whole county on board?” Bakke noted there is nothing saying the decision is our responsibility. Commissioner Marc Prestby suggested the two city veterans home committees provide written proposals. Commissioner Mitch Lentz added that the board will make a decision based on which is most feasible financially.
By consensus, the board directed that each city be notified by e-mail and asked to submit a written package by April 3. These packages will be used to make the decision. The target date set for a decision was April 10.
Other business in brief
• A conditional use permit was approved for PCiRoads, LLC for a temporary concrete batch plant for the CSAH 1 project. Approval for the CUP was recommended by the Planning Commission. There was no opposition at the public hearing.
• A request was made by the city of Preston for the county to provide a Quit Claim Deed for a portion (triangle shaped) of a 60 foot by 120 foot lot which is located near the military tank near the trail head. The property will be used as part of a development agreement with Andy Bunge for three duplexes anticipated to have a total value of about a half million. There is no cost or gain for the county. County Attorney Brett Corson said the Quit Claim Deed is us saying we give you what we have.
• LuAnn Hoff, who put in a request to retire through the Early Retirement Incentive Program as of May 31 after 44 years of service, expressed her resentment during the citizens input portion of the meeting. She said she was shocked to see in the agenda that there was a request to advertise for a “replacement” to do to a large part what she has been doing, but at a higher pay grade. She said there had been no attempt to have her pay grade reevaluated.
There was a long discussion about the duties of an “account technician” for the sheriff’s office that would take over her duties. Sheriff Tom Kaase explained that when there is a vacancy we look at the status of the position. He expects the new employee will have an increased work load. Prestby countered there are still only 40 work hours in a week. Kaase noted a list of duties Hoff has performed including acting as a matron for female prisoners. Hoff performed some accounting duties. County Coordinator Bobbie Vickerman explained that it would be great if the person in the new position could create account codes.
Prestby moved to replace Hoff with an office support specialist, Sr. (the same position). Bakke asked if we hire under this job description will we give the employee accounting duties? He moved that the motion be referred to the personnel committee to look at both potential job descriptions. It was sent back to committee.
• Approval was given for a change to the “distracted driving” policy and language in the “outside employment” policy was reaffirmed.
• Approval was given for the hire of three intermittent jailers and one intermittent dispatcher.
• One of five proposals for a compensation and classification study from David Drown Human Resources was approved at a cost not to exceed $30,750.
• Approval was given to advertise for a paralegal for the county attorney’s office.
• Approval was given to hire three part-time temporary summer interns for the Highway Department.
• An estimate from Haakenson Electric, Inc. in the amount of $1,992.10 to replace a damaged light pole at the Fillmore County Office Building was approved. Vickerman explained that a Highway staff member slid into the pole. There will be a $100 rebate for installation of an LED light for energy efficiency thanks to Preston Public Utilities.
• A maintenance agreement with Ancom was approved at a cost of $10,254.48. Kaase noted the portable Motorola radios are toward the end of their service, but can still be fixed and have parts available for up to five years. He suggested they plan for the replacement of the radios.
• Kaase explained the purchase of two new squad SUVs was approved a few meetings back. Equipment, installation, and radar for the vehicles will cost an additional $12,188. New video cameras will cost $4,820 each. The total for the two vehicles with equipment will be $92,680. Kaase said the funds will come from $80,000 in vehicle budget, $12,500 in Emergency Management budget and the balance from seizure funds. He said the EM vehicle will be up for replacement next year. The purchases were approved.
• Approval was given for the low bid from Allied Blacktop in the amount of $662,466.94 for 2018 sealcoating and fogseal projects. Funding will come from Local Option Sales Tax and Wheelage Tax. The bid came in under the engineer’s estimate for the projects, which was $794,665.
• A quote for courthouse security doors from Knutson Construction in the amount of $13,436 was approved. The doors are part of the courthouse security upgrade.