Fillmore County commissioners entertained a return visit from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) representative Mike Tenney and Robert McGillivray, of The Trust for Public Land, during the meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

Tenney and McGillivray had come before the board during previous meetings to ask for the commissioners’ blessing for the acquisition of 337 acres from a land trust, the Larson Family Trust, to be added to the Choice Wildlife Management Area near Mabel.

During those previous meetings, the pair had been turned down with commissioners expressing reservations related to the balance of available farmland and the board’s somewhat frustrated perspective of the DNR’s management of land that had already been acquired.

The board came to a compromise with the DNR and Trust for Public Land, but Board Chair Mitch Lentz voted in opposition.

Following the vote, Commissioner Randy Dahl registered his concerns and appreciation. “Going forward, I very much appreciate your cooperation…I have concerns about the amount of land being bought.”

 The commissioner asked Chief Deputy Sheriff Kevin Beck, “How many total policemen are there in Fillmore County?”

Beck stated, “Probably 30.”

Dahl then asked, “How many game wardens do we have?”

Beck said, “One east and one west.”

Presently, though, the county has only one, as there is a vacancy, and Dahl continued, “We have 30 police officers and one game warden…the number one complaint is trespassing.”

Dahl encouraged the representatives to keep communicating with the county as the legislative process ensues. “If we can talk with you before we talk with legislators, it helps to keep (communicating) with everybody involved.”

Personnel issues

Human Resources Officer Kristina Kohn came before the board with a request to officially promote Registered Nurse Linda Logsdon to a public health nurse (PHN) on Jan. 26.

Kohn also presented the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Affirmative Action policy for a second reading and asked permission to advertise for a replacement senior merit office support specialist. The board also approved a change in status for GIS coordinator Danea Murphy from 1.0 full-time equivalent (FTE) to .9 FTE retroactive to Jan. 1.

Then, she presented the fifth reading of the paid time off policy, with hopes of final approval. The board chose to approve the PTO policy, along with the other items for consideration.

Kohn asked the commissioners to grant a one-time deposition of 80 hours of paid time off to Bobbie Vickerman, county coordinator and auditor-treasurer, because of her willingness to assume the role of auditor-treasurer for 2018 without a request for further compensation.

Vickerman received additional PTO – the vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Marc Prestby opposed. Prestby said, in the private sector, he had given additional duties to employees and not offered additional compensation.

However, Kohn replied, when the county chose to ask Maintenance Supervisor Terry Schultz to take on the task of overseeing the county’s waste recovery center, he was offered an additional sum of money for that job.

While Vickerman had not asked for any further compensation, Commissioner Duane Bakke observed that giving her some form of compensation would be the fair action to take.

Highway department

Highway Engineer Ron Gregg had been car shopping for his department — he outlined that he wanted to purchase two half-ton pickup trucks and one one-ton pickup truck to replace existing vehicles in the fleet at the state bid. Two trucks would come from Midway Ford and the other would come from Ranger Chevrolet.

Next, he shared a resolution for the 2018 bridge replacement priorities, or determining which bridges in the county need to be replaced more immediately than others, after which he revisited the snow removal policy.

Gregg noted that the bridge replacement list is an ongoing document, and Dahl thanked Gregg for his communication to inform residents of which bridges will be replaced so that there are fewer questions among the citizens. A motion carried to accept the bridge replacement list.

The snow removal policy garnered attention after the bridge replacement list, and Gregg referred to Dahl’s comments made during the first reading that encompassed concern for wording in the policy that seemed to imply that the county would not respond to emergencies.

“It’s certainly not the intent not to address emergencies, but…to let the public know what we’re doing and how to address it,” he said.

Dahl questioned what might happen if nobody is able to contact the highway maintenance foremen, and foreman Brent Kohn replied that there are employees who are always available if he or others in charge are not.

Bakke specified that he felt it would be helpful for the public to know that the county has only a certain number of plow operators and that 24-hour plowing is not possible due to that fact.

Motions to adopt the policy passed, with minor language changes included.

Dahl then asked, “I know that we have had discussions on the amount of salt and the environment…are we just kind of varying it according to conditions?”

Kohn answered that it depends on conditions. “We adjust it. Every outlying shop has salt, and we vary how much we put out according to conditions…otherwise we strictly go with an 80-20 mix all the time.”

Other business

 Recorder David Kiehne presented the recorder compliance report for the 2017 recorded documents, then went on to outline the projected expenditures from allocated and unallocated accounts for various expenses as related to land records. He highlighted that the county has met its goal of returning all documents to their owners within ten days, adding that the use of e-recording, or logging documents into the county’s recording department, has increased, thereby saving the county postage expenses. “What surprised us was the number of (land) splits in the past year,” he commented.

Next, Social Services Coordinator Kevin Olson asked for the renewal of telecommuting agreements for eligibility worker Denise Zwart and child support officer Jessica Bergsgaard, as well as approval of a purchase of service agreement with Family Service Rochester for family engagement strategies.

 Lastly, Sheriff Tom Kaase had interns and new plumbing to deal with, though separately. He requested permission to have an unpaid internship take place within the sheriff’s department, and the commissioners welcomed the opportunity. The county’s jail has long been subject of repair conversations, and at this point, new toilets and sinks will be placed in the facility to update it. The quote that he presented was for $28,500 for six new toilets and sinks, instead of the original five.

The consent agenda included granting successful completion of probation and a merit increase for eligibility worker Jason Wetzel — effective Feb. 4; a merit increase for eligibility worker Deb Tammel-Peterson — effective Jan. 13; and granting finance officer Heidi Jones’s probation completion, effective Jan. 26.