Fillmore County to lease four squad cars

By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
BLUFF COUNTRY NEWS

Fillmore County’s commissioners made a decision to lease four vehicles after perusing the possibilities and pitfalls of leasing vehicles for the county’s law enforcement officers during the May 8 board meeting. 

Sheriff Tom Kaase returned to the boardroom to hear the commissioners’ decision on whether to lease squad cars from Enterprise Fleet, as that had been a topic of discussion during the April 24 meeting.  Enterprise Fleet representative Wong Nystrom had accompanied Kaase at that meeting to outline the company’s lease-to-own program, though at the outset, some of the commissioners expressed skepticism about how leasing to own vehicles would benefit the county as a means of saving money. 

When asked about how the sheriff’s department might compensate for vehicles being unavailable for use because typically, Fillmore County deputies have taken their squad cars home so that they can be on call, Kaase posited, “What about changing the way we’ve always done things?  What if we utilize vehicles that are not being driven by people on a stretch of days off?  What are the costs of shuttling vehicles across the county for a few days?” 

Commissioner Duane Bakke asked, “Aren’t the deputies always on call?” 

Kaase replied, “They’re always on call-out, but it’s not guaranteed that they’ll be available.” 

Chief Deputy Sheriff Kevin Beck addressed a question regarding whether Enterprise delivers vehicles or if the department has to send someone to pick them up, saying, “They deliver to us at no cost.  Right now, if we buy a vehicle on state bid, we have to go all the way up to Hibbing to get it.”

Commissioner Randy Dahl wanted to know more about the lease-to-own portion of the program.  “If we’re going to lease cars and there’s a $17,000 install of equipment, that’s going to add up pretty quick.  You’ve got to calculate that into the cost of the cars…if we’re getting new cars every three years.” 

Beck informed Dahl that the $17,000 would be for equipment that the county would own and that the actual cost of installation was estimated at a few thousand dollars. 

County Attorney Brett Corson was in attendance at the May 8 meeting and related that he had reviewed the initial contract proposals, citing that Enterprise Fleet had agreed to be subject to Minnesota law.

“We’ve tried to look at this every way and find (flaws), but a number of other counties are going with this,” Kaase stated. “Are they missing something, too?  Do we go forward with this for the initial year and see if we see red flags?  Where I stand, this is something we should pursue.” 

Corson added, “They said they would work with us to make sure these vehicles have equity – most of the time, they take the vehicle and market it, and we pay the difference.” 

Presently, Fillmore County has ordered two vehicles that are awaiting customization for sheriff’s department at the dealerships, and Beck remarked that if the county were to engage Enterprise Fleet, the county would not pay for those vehicles so that Enterprise could purchase them and make them part of the leasing program. 

The commissioners compared leasing cars to leasing copiers – that both can become high-mileage.

“If we do anything at all, we could turn in very high-mileage vehicles…if we’re doing that with printers,” Bakke observed.

Kaase said, “I’m hoping that if we participate in this, we save more than the low-end projected amount.” 

Bakke made a motion to proceed with leasing four vehicles to replace high-mileage vehicles, contingent on Corson reviewing the documents and the board approving the exact dollar amount.  The motion was seconded and passed.      

Financial matters

County coordinator and auditor-treasurer Bobbie Vickerman presented a resolution involving the sale of tax-forfeited land, information on election equipment purchases to be made with a 2018 grant, online training for the 2018 election, and the rerun of property tax statements related to bordering county tax calculation. 

The forfeiture listing included two properties that would need the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) approval, as those properties would qualify for the DNR to acquire those lands because there may be waterfront or standing timber. 

Dahl inquired as to whether site visits had been made to all properties on the forfeiture list to make sure that there are no hazardous chemicals, and auditor-treasurer’s office representative Heidi Jones replied that all properties had been secured and that there were no hazardous materials present. 

The resolution for the forfeited properties passed, but a resolution allowing the DNR to proceed with the acquisition was put off. 

Election equipment -- costing a total of $114,160 for 22 replacement voting machines, incorporating a $50,117.20 grant – was approved.  Vickerman explained that several of the election judges upon which the county and municipalities have relied are no longer able to carry out election duties, and that training would prove beneficial as the county seeks to find younger candidates to become election judges.  The board voted in favor to allow election training to take place. 

Lastly, Fillmore County residents of the LeRoy-Ostrander school district apparently had been overcharged on their property taxes by approximately $968, and with that mistake, Mower County agreed to pay refunds, but Fillmore County would provide auditor-treasurer office staff to review and rebill the property taxes to those residents.                

Road issues

County highway engineer Ron Gregg asked to be allowed to advertise for bids on two Local Road Improvement Program (LRIP) projects in Carrolton Township – surfacing Goodview Drive and Heron Road.  Additionally, he presented a resolution and a grant agreement for LRIP funds for the reconstruction project being done on County State Aid Highways (CSAH) 1 and 3 in Ostrander. 

Bakke made a motion to proceed with the Goodview Drive project’s advertisement, but asked that the board consider the Heron Road project separately, making that motion for when bids are ready. 

Regarding the LRIP projects, Gregg related that the LRIP grant amount stood at $341,895.42 for the CSAHs, and the commissioners accepted the agreement. 

Other matters

During the citizens’ input portion of the meeting, Holt Township resident Bonita Underbakke registered her dismay that environmental impact assessments (EIA) have not been scheduled for a proposed Newburg Township hog operation that is to have 4,980 sows.  Underbakke explained that the source of her concern is that the operation would be over karst topography, affecting ground water.

The commissioners closed the meeting for two purposes – first, pursuant to Minn. Statute 13D.05, subd.2 (b) regarding the possible termination of an employee during the probationary period, and second, pursuant to M.S. 13D.03 for the 2018 Local #85 Law Enforcement Labor Services labor contract strategy session.   

Also, social services manager Kevin Olson came before the board to request that the commissioners proclaim May as Mental Health Awareness Month, and the board obliged. 

The consent agenda included approving the minutes of the April 24 meeting, appointing Tom Thompson of District 5 to the Planning and Zoning Commission, closing streets in Lanesboro for Girls’ Day Out on May 12, granting a merit increase for social worker Elizabeth Fuglestad, and approving unpaid administrative leave for an employee in the solid waste department effective May 7.