R. Ross Reichard, M.D., Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner, reviewed 2017 Fillmore County death statistics at the board’s May 22 meeting.
This medical examiner’s office investigates “sudden, violent, unexpected, and suspicious deaths” in an eight county area in southeastern Minnesota. The office certifies deaths after investigation and postmortem examination and issues deaths certificates. The cause and manner of death is determined.
Reichard highlighted the contribution of local field investigators, noting a large number of people support death investigations. In 2017 there were 117 Fillmore County cases reported to the medical examiner. Eighteen were certified after postmortem examination and a complete autopsy. Eighteen were certified without a postmortem examination. Eighty-one of the 117 deaths were not certified by the medical examiner’s office after investigation. These deaths were reviewed and determined not to fall under the medical examiner’s jurisdiction.
Ninety-nine deaths were determined to be from natural causes, 10 judged to be accidental, seven were suicides, and one was undetermined. Most deaths by natural causes were cardiac or cancer related. Most of those by unnatural causes were either related to a fall (generally the elderly) or by a firearm (four of those suicides, one accidental). Hanging, drugs, and other causes each resulted in two deaths. There was only one death due to a vehicle crash (motorcycle).
Vehicle involved accidents have been mapped over the last few years (2014-2017) to determine if there is a cluster at a particular location.
There was one death in 2017 due to methamphetamine and one due to mixed drugs (prescription opioids). In the United States deaths due to accidental drug overdoses have sky rocketed. It was asked if these could be suicides in some cases. Reichard explained while drug use is known to be risky, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person taking the drugs expects to die from their use. There were no homicides in 2017. The greatest number of deaths were among elderly people.
Tax forfeited lands
Heidi Jones, finance officer auditor/treasurer office, was asked at the May 8 meeting to seek clarification on the public waters statute as it pertains to the sale of tax forfeited property. Two properties out of the 15 tax forfeited properties on the list may need DNR approval before sale. One was in Preble Township with standing timber. The other in Harmony Township with 530 feet of waterfront (MN statute 282.018). The DNR will have first option on these properties when they go to tax forfeiture. The question to be clarified was on the application of the waterfront/public waters statute as it pertained to the Harmony Township property.
Jones contacted the DNR and asked about this property and was told that dry ditches are considered protected waters; plus there is also timber on this property. If the DNR doesn’t think the sale requires DNR approval, they will note that. Any standing timber does require DNR approval. The DNR must respond with their findings within 60 days. Commissioner Duane Bakke insisted this property does not require a buffer, so it is not shoreland. He added timber is a different question.
Jones said the DNR has 60 days to review, after which they can decide to purchase a property or give the go ahead to sell; allowing the process to continue. Bakke said he still disagrees the Harmony Township property falls under the waterfront statute, but he didn’t have a problem with it falling under the woodland/timber statute.
A resolution requesting approval from the DNR for the sale of the lands was adopted to move the process forward.
Other business in brief
• CSAH 1 will be closed to non-resident traffic beginning on June 6 for paving. The contract completion date is September 15.
• Christina Welke, technology advisor for Marco, described recommended updates to the county’s phone system. There currently are two phone systems which are isolated from each other and require support from two providers. Marco recommends expanding the current Mitel system to the courthouse and highway department to provide a single voice platform. Four digit dialing will be provided among all Fillmore County facilities. All the software, hardware, support, labor for installation and training is included in the proposal.
Chairman Mitch Lentz said this was discussed extensively in Technology Committee. County Coordinator Bobbie Vickerman recommended a 36-month lease option which costs $2,854 per month, or $102,744 over the life of the lease. Funds for the phone system were budgeted. The 36-month lease proposal was approved.
Highway Engineer Ron Gregg said five bids were submitted for a bridge replacement project in Beaver Township. The low bid of $135,533 from Minnowa Construction was approved. The engineer’s estimate was $155,500.
An overnight trip for Gregg was approved to Buchanan County in Iowa for a bridge screening tour put on by the Federal Highway Administration.
A cooperative agreement between Fillmore County and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U. S. Wildlife Service, to conduct a wildlife hazard survey at the Fillmore County Airport was approved. The cost of the survey is $3,077.36. The Federal Aviation Administration requires all airports to complete these assessments.
• The request for early retirement from Cindy Mensink through the Early Retirement Incentive Program effective July 26 was approved with thanks for her 34 years of service.
A request to advertise for a replacement Property Appraiser was approved.
A request to hire three part-time courthouse security personnel was approved as recommended by the Hiring Committee.
• A public hearing to consider the Enabling Resolution for the Fillmore County EDA was held. There was no comment from the public. The resolution was adopted.
• Drew Hatzenbihler, Solid Waste Administrator, explained Winneshiek County passed an ordinance banning sharps (medical sharp infectious waste). The county recycling center will use the same service for sharps as is used by Public Health. Stericycle is a medical waste removal service. For the time being, people are to bring in their sharp waste in hard sided containers.