Marc Prestby elected County Board chairman

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP Commissioner Marc Prestby, left, has been elected chairman of the Fillmore County Board, and Commissioner Randy Dahl has been chosen as vice chairman for 2020.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

The Fillmore County Board of Commissioners convened Tuesday, Jan. 7, for its first official meeting of the year, electing Marc Prestby as chairman and Randy Dahl as vice chairman.

Committee appointments for each commissioner were also given review, and an update is expected to reflect the arrival of Commissioner Larry Hindt.

County administrator Bobbie Vickerman oversaw the transition from Commissioner Duane Bakke’s year as board chair, conducting the first five minutes of the meeting until Prestby was elected. She had a long list of items for the board’s consideration, beginning with an update regarding the Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) staffing change.

New development director

Current economic development director Marty Walsh has accepted a position with another employer, but the county still has CEDA staffing to carry out economic development leadership. Walsh introduced Chris Hahn as the county’s new economic development staff and assured the board that if there were questions that needed answering, he’d be in the area to assist Hahn in finding them.

“I know there have been concerns in the past about new people coming through,” Walsh said, adding that he wanted to highlight that Hahn has worked for CEDA for at least six months and has experience in the economic development field. “Regardless if I left or not, I was going to have some staffing changes, but I was going to keep Fillmore County in my contract. I do want to say ‘thank you.’”

Hahn outlined that he has degrees in business and education and that he teaches marketing at Winona State University as an adjunct instructor. “My passion has been workforce development and education,” he told the board.

The board then went on to discuss payment of the first quarter 2020 CEDA invoice for $10,120.25, with the commissioners declaring, “Welcome – you’ve been paid.”

Annual business

Several annual business items were handled at the meeting: the designation of tax forfeiture funds for county parks were accepted; the County Board meetings were set for 2020 as the first, second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 9 a.m. in the lower level boardroom of the courthouse – with the June 30 meeting scheduled as a continuation of the board of appeal and equalization only if necessary; the commissioners’ per diem was set at $45; the mileage rate for use of private vehicles for county business was set at 57.5 cents – down from the 2019 rate of 58 cents; and motions passed for the hourly rate for temporary employees at the non-union pay rate of grade 1 step 3, over the grade 1 step 1 entry-level temporary pay of $10.98 that was proposed.

Dahl registered his objection to the proposal for $10.98 starting pay, saying, “Even if they are a temp, they’ve got to feed their family.”

Bakke observed, “We don’t have anyone hired at grade 1,” after which Dahl made a motion to hire at grade 3 step 1. The motion passed, as did the motions for the other items.

Numerous other items for action followed, and the board once again granted reimbursement of expenses incurred by veterans’ organizations for Memorial Day ceremonies, allotting $75 per ceremony to be paid to the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars in each instance. Dahl said, “Much thanks to them for what they do.”

Overnight stays for elected officials, department heads and division leaders to attend their respective annual professional conferences were given a nod, as was payment for one out of 87 flu shots administered to county employees; Vickerman observed that the rest were charged to employees’ health insurance plans.

New SELCO rep, bids

Vickerman asked that the board pass motions for naming Linda Hennessey as Fillmore County’s representative to Southeast Libraries Cooperating (SELCO). “We have not had a representative to SELCO for many years, and it would be great to have her there because we have not fulfilled that for quite a few years,” she said. Dahl and Bakke offered the action for the representative’s appointment.

Additionally, the county’s website will continue to be used as an alternative method to disseminate bids for county projects such as those which the highway department carries out.

F&M Community Bank was again named as the county’s official depository for 2020, though Commissioner Mitch Lentz wanted to know why the county couldn’t check the market for another option with which to compare it.

“I’d like discussion,” he said. “I know last year, we tried to go out for bids, but it was tabled due to the auditor-treasurer’s timetable. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with making sure the service we’re provided is the most optimal we can receive. It was tabled last year, but why can we not do it now?”

Further discussion led to F&M being renewed as the county’s depository, but Lentz’s suggestion was taken for future reference.

County salaries set

Elected officials’ salaries were next on Vickerman’s portion of the agenda, and the commissioners began by setting their salaries at $23,693 through motions made by Dahl and Bakke.

The county attorney’s salary was set at $117,750, and the sheriff’s salary was set at the requested amount of $108,045 including the $6,000 for emergency management – with Bakke making the statement that he felt that it would be unnecessary to discuss the emergency management compensation and just include it in the sheriff’s salary next year because most sheriffs handle emergency management.

Sheriff John DeGeorge stood to speak, expressing his agreement with Bakke’s sentiment.

The county recorder’s salary was set at $73,750, the auditor-treasurer’s was set at $79,500, and the chief deputy’s salary was posted for 2020 at $92,712.

Temporary position

Human resources officer Kristina Kohn requested to extend a temporary assignment for Sandy Solberg for up to six months, as Solberg is serving in the recorder’s office and has specialized experience with handling property abstracts. Vickerman and Kohn related that Solberg doesn’t want a full-time job, but that her experience is valuable to the county and that taking her on for up to six months would provide a solution in a situation where finding someone on short notice would be difficult.

The county’s hiring policy needs tweaking to better address what should happen if a temporary employee would like to be considered for a permanent position, Vickerman said. “We’re trying to follow policy, and I do think it would be a good idea to look at our hiring policy because we get some good temp employees,” she said. “In this situation, it’s a very specific role doing abstracts…she doesn’t want the full-time job.”

Bakke interjected that he had reservations about keeping a temporary employee on for so long, in part because of the possibility that a person who’d been brought on for temporary work could be promoted to full-time without being interviewed. “I don’t have a problem with her continuing to be a temporary employee,” he said.

Kohn informed Bakke and the rest of the board that Solberg’s status with the county is dependent upon her Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) benefits’ allowing her to carry on until a certain number of days have been fulfilled.

The board chose to proceed with Solberg’s temporary hiring.

Other personnel issues

Kohn also asked to advertise externally and internally for a 0.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) office support specialist senior position in the recorder’s office. Other requests of hers were adopting the 2020 non-union pay plan with a 2.5 percent pay adjustment, approving the 2020 non-union classification chart, granting the resignation of accounting technician Deborah Dunn, effective Jan.10, advertising for a replacement accounting technician in the auditor-treasurer’s office, granting public health nurse Angela Serfling’s resignation, effective Jan. 31, and approving a request to hire from an existing list for a replacement registered nurse/public health nurse in the public health department. All were approved.

The board closed the meeting pursuant to Minn. Statute 13D.05, subd.2 (b) for the possible termination of an employee during the probationary period. The meeting was reopened approximately 15 minutes later, at which point Vickerman announced that the board had reached the decision to terminate employee 1572 due to inability to complete probation.

Other business

Also on the agenda were items from director of nursing Jessica Erickson, seeking approval of the Semcac Head Start nursing consultation services agreement for which Fillmore County nurses would advise Semcac on nursing policy, and the national tobacco prevention mandate that will raise the age for sale of tobacco from 18 to 21, require identification of individuals under 30 years of age and provide grants for states to carry out prevention activities. Both garnered the commissioners’ approval.

Zoning administrator Cristal Adkins presented an access permit for a property drive for Michael and Diane Thompson of Carimona Township, which was approved by the commissioners.

Solid waste administrator Drew Hatzenbihler spoke about extending current pricing for all licensed haulers within Fillmore County. That action was postponed until Hatzenbihler has more information.

Highway engineer Ron Gregg brought forward the 2020 travel and conference schedule for the highway and airport departments, seeking the board’s approval of the schedule. Bakke and Hindt gave their motions before the vote in favor.

Auditor-treasurer Heidi Jones addressed the delegation of assessor duties and then explained that assessor duties can be delegated to employees who possess the knowledge to execute them and that Sheila Buenger has the necessary abilities to meet the county’s needs until a new assessor is identified.

Jones also declared the winning bid for the county’s 2020 official newspaper, including 2020 publication of the 2019 delinquent tax list. The Bluff Country Reader had the low bid, making it the county’s official newspaper.

The consent agenda included approving the minutes of the Dec. 17 County Board meeting as well as paying the $450 National Association of Counties 2020 membership, the Association of Minnesota Counties’ (AMC) $13,096 2020 dues, which is an increase of $97 over the 2019 dues, the AMC’s $2,642 invoice for 2020 Minnesota Association of County Social Service Administrators (MACSSA) annual dues, which is a slight increase over the 2019 amount of $2,246, the AMC’s $1,248 invoice for the 2020 Local Public Health Association (LPHA) annual dues, which were raised by $36 over last year’s dues, and the Minnesota Association of County Administrators (MACA) dues for $771, or $70 more than last year.

Payment was also made for the 2020 workers compensation insurance renewal for $108,552 and the 2020 property and liability renewal for $146,309 to the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust (MCIT) and the first quarter Dodge-Fillmore-Olmsted Community Corrections invoice of $107,887.50 to Olmsted County Community Services for the 2020 appropriation in accordance with the joint powers agreement.

Consent was also given to granting approval for a property appraiser to attend the 2020 Minnesota Association of Assessment Officers (MAAO) basic appraisal procedures conference and payment of lodging expenses.