County Board discusses committee appointments, including jail assessment

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Bluff Country Newspaper Group

Fillmore County’s commissioners had a busy agenda during the Jan. 28 meeting, including discussion on committee appointments, road projects and other items.

County administrator Bobbie Vickerman introduced commissioners’ committee appointments for 2020.  Vickerman’s portion of the meeting involved filling those board committee appointments to address the new year and the addition of Commissioner Larry Hindt to the board. 

She also introduced discussion about jail assessment committee options, and Commissioners Duane Bakke and Randy Dahl agreed that a Jail Needs Assessment Planning Committee should be formed to help guide the county in addressing the future of its jail.  The Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee could make a recommendation for team members at their next meeting on Feb. 7 and forward that recommendation to the board at the Feb. 11 County Board meeting. 

Additionally, she gave an update on the county’s technology projects, such as updating deputies’ computers to allow all deputies to have access to a computer instead of the computers being dedicated to just one law enforcement officer’s use. 

During the citizens’ input portion of the meeting, Holt Township resident Bonita Underbakke spoke of the ongoing process of filling committee and volunteer vacancies, noting that currently, vacancies are being filled through recommendations made by the commissioner from a district.  She cited that an ad is occasionally placed in the county’s official newspaper to find volunteers to serve on county committees but that most residents do not likely see the ad and are unaware of openings.  She suggested an outreach process for volunteer committee members so that the county can reach anyone interested in contributing toward the county’s betterment. 

Also, Bristol Township resident John Zanmiller spoke on his own behalf regarding the maintenance of County Road 15, where he currently resides.  He stated that he sees hazards on the road and that he represents a group of investors who would like to purchase and invest in rural America.  He related to the commissioners that a growing tax base could benefit the entire county, and he offered numerous suggestions for how to possibly approach reinvigorating parts of Fillmore County, thanking the commissioners for their time as Commissioner Marc Prestby closed the citizens’ input part of the meeting.  

Highway engineer Ron Gregg appeared before the board with a list of projects and payments to handle, beginning with seeking approval to purchase two pickup trucks that had been included in his department’s budget.  The board discussed at length the rotation of vehicles in the county’s pool, as well as taking Gregg’s current vehicle and rotating it into the county’s pool.  The board chose to move the $61,569.80 purchase request to the Feb. 4 meeting due to a request for quotes on different vehicle brands.  The board granted a $51,178.36 final pay request for the reconditioning of County Road 115, then went on to advertise for a reconditioning project on CSAH 5 from CSAH 44 to the Iowa state line. 

Also, board members heard Gregg’s request to advertise for the construction of a land bridge on CSAH 5 west of Chatfield to mitigate a perpetually-eroding stretch of the roadway.  That project also required that the board authorize the purchase of stabilizing agents for the project for the base of the land bridge.  Dahl and Commissioner Mitch Lentz motioned to approve the land bridge’s construction advertisement.    

The board closed the meeting briefly, pursuant to Minn. Statute 13D.05, subd.2(b), regarding the possible termination of an employee during the probationary period.  The meeting was re-opened and the decision announced to proceed with the termination due to that individual’s inability to complete probation.  The board voted to proceed with the termination.    

Sheriff John DeGeorge asked to be allowed to purchase two budgeted pickups through the Enterprise Fleet Management Program.  Each Dodge Ram squad pickup is $27,702.05, and equipment and setup costs for the two vehicles totaled $26,509.08.  Bakke and Hindt opened the motions to approve the purchase requests, and the remaining commissioners obliged.  Equipping the pickups encompassed that $26,509.08 – with purchases being made from EATI at $15,883.92, WatchGuard at $9,640, and Kelly Printing & Signs for $985.16.      

Human resources officer Kristina Kohn brought forward the 2020 pay equity report, citing that Minnesota is one of the last states to require a pay equity report from each county but that Fillmore County’s pay equity is within the percentages that the state requires.  Lentz and Hindt made the motions to approve the pay equity report, with the rest of the board voting in favor.  Following that report, she went on to discuss the recruitment of a new feedlot officer, as current feedlot officer Mike Frauenkron has submitted his resignation, effective May 28.  Board members agreed to table the item and return to the boardroom with it during the Feb. 4 meeting so that the content of an advertisement could be compiled to encompass a feedlot officer’s entire duties.       

Bakke made the first motion to amend the agenda to discuss hiring a replacement for the assessor’s department – with Dahl seconding — and a hiring analysis form was submitted by the acting head in the assessor’s department.  The board discussed placing the range of salary within the advertisement with additional compensation included for licensure in assessor-specific, experience-only certifications.  Dahl and Bakke also made motions to approve simultaneous advertising internally and externally for a property appraiser until the position is filled. 

Finance director Lori Affeldt presented a request to invest matured CD funds in new investment avenues, then registered a request to approve the existing finance warrants list.  The board gave a nod to each. 

The consent agenda included approving the minutes of the Jan. 14 board meeting and granting regular status for highway maintenance specialist Troy Soiney. 

Note: This article is based on the unofficial minutes provided by county staff.