At the December 19 County Board meeting, last of 2017, the 2018 Fillmore County budget and levy were certified. Due to insurance savings of $40,275, the preliminary levy increase of 5.16% approved in September was reduced to a 4.76% increase.
The insurance savings were realized when employees were given the option for plans that didn’t include Mayo Clinic. County Program Aid will be $698,998 in 2018, up about $94,000 from 2017. The 2018 levy of $10,454,200 amounts to $501.02 per capita.
Chairman Randy Dahl thanked County Coordinator Bobbie Vickerman and department heads for all their work on the budget.
Appropriations for 2018 were approved individually. Most were the same as 2017. Southeast Minnesota Historic Bluff Country did not receive an appropriation in 2017, but was appropriated $1,041.70 for 2018 (the amount appropriated in 2015). No appropriation was given to Bluff Country MN Multi-county Housing and Redevelopment Authority as there was no request.
Jim Edgar, MN DNR, and Richard Biske, Nature Conservancy, described land located in Sections 21 and 28 in Holt Township which is to be acquired by the Nature Conservancy and gifted to the DNR as an addition to the RJ Dorer Memorial Forest. County board approval is required due to a grant agreement, as the land is to be acquired with Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Funds granted to the Nature Conservancy.
The land includes a stretch of Gribben Creek and wooded bluffs. Tillable land is being divided off and sold separately. The property will be available for public recreation. The DNR will make payments in lieu of taxes (PILT).
Scott Strom, speaking during citizen’s input, said his parcel borders this property. He spoke against the sale because it takes more land off the tax rolls. He insisted people don’t pay attention to private property signs. As a hunter, he can’t police his own property and hunt too. Strom said his family has cleaned up the mess left on state land by hunters.
Commissioner Duane Bakke said his objection to a recent land acquisition request was due to the inclusion of tillable land. In this case the purchase includes woods only.
Edgar said the property connects to state forest land. Bakke noted the DNR is paying an average of $27 per acre with the PILT payments. He added that opposition to these land acquisitions is beginning to show up. He asked about signage on DNR property. Edgar said the new signs notify people when they are leaving state land and that permission is needed to be on private property. The DNR tries to install signs at the corners and through the woods.
Commissioner Mitch Lentz said the DNR has not worked well with the county in regard to road and bridge projects. “I think we should work together.” Dead end roads due to bridge closure don’t allow emergency vehicles to get through.
Dahl said he would like to see more state personnel managing state lands. Biske noted this is the last land acquisition for now, so funding will go toward restoration and enhancement. Dahl said enforcement needs to be stepped up to protect private land owners.
A motion to approve the sale was approved with Lentz voting no.
A land acquisition committee was created which will include planning commission members and the commissioner on whose district the parcel is located.
Other business in brief
• There were eight bids for the concrete paving project on CSAH 1 (from the city limits of Spring Valley to Highway 30). PCiRoads, LLC was awarded the contract with the lowest bid at $6,559,427. The bid was $315,376 under the engineer’s estimate. The paving will begin in June 2018 and is expected to take 60 days to complete. The road will be closed to through traffic during the project.
Approval was given to advertise for the Old Barn bridge replacement project when state gives approval.
• Travis Gransee, director of Dodge, Fillmore, Olmsted (DFO) County Community Corrections, asked the board to approve the new DFO Joint Powers Agreement. The agreement was approved and will be in force through 2020. Bakke noted the DFO now uses a funding formula (Fillmore County responsible for about 8% overall). Gransee said the underspent part of the 2016 budget that comes back to Fillmore County is $34,957. The estimate to come back from the 2017 budget is about $39,000.
• A 2.5% pay increase in 2018 for Chief Deputy Sheriff Kevin Beck was approved. His is a non-union position.
Sheriff Tom Kaase asked the board to look at District 6 comparable sheriff salaries for 2017. He added that all that information is not available at this time. He did not make a specific salary request. He asked the board to review comparable information used in union contracts and take into account market adjustment information. Vickerman reported that the sheriff’s budget allows for his base salary to be $100,000 plus $6,000 for Emergency Management work.
Squad car replacements were discussed. Vickerman noted that the 2018 budget includes $80,000 in Sheriff’s budget and $12,500 in Emergency Management budget for vehicle replacements. Beck said they were looking at two marked squad replacements from Rochester Ford. With equipment, the two squads are estimated to cost about $68,000. The EM vehicle will likely be a van or sedan. A motion on low quote for two squads and equipment was approved. Funds will come out of 2018 budget.
• Kaase had Olmsted County Chief Deputy Brian Howard and Rochester Police Captain Mike Drees in to provide information for a K-9 proposal. Kaase said there is an opportunity to reestablish a K-9 program in Fillmore County at a reduced cost. Howard explained that a K-9 is a locating tool, for a lost kid, a suspect, or drugs. The dog can also provide protection. Dogs are selected that have confidence, as opposed to a lack of confidence or fear.
The first year start up cost is $26,400. The cost per year for operations is $3,650. A dog is expected to work about eight years. Kaase insisted it would cost less with the donations and financial commitments toward the first year cost.
Bakke maintained there is nothing in the 2018 budget for a K-9 unit. He said he didn’t see the need for it and would not support it.
• A policy on land splits was discussed with County Recorder David Kiehne and County Attorney Brett Corson. Kiehne said the policy would help make sure septic systems are compliant. Taxes need to be paid before a split. Corson explained there is a check on the deed for a well inspection but not for septic compliance. This policy could stop the recording of a deed if a septic system was not in compliance. The policy will be brought back for the board’s consideration with some changes.
• The request to retire from Vicki Kruegel, RN, effective January 9 after 21 years of service was accepted with thanks.
A request to resign from Margaret Lyngholm, RN, after a year and a half of service effective December 31 was accepted with thanks.
Approval was given to advertise for both a replacement full-time RN and a replacement half-time RN in Community Services/Public Health Department.