Commissioners address property owner's concern regarding mining
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 5:21 AM
Fillmore County's board of commissioners discussed how to respond to a letter submitted by Lanesboro resident Merwood Storhoff to the Bluff Country Reader, alleging the county board has not answered his request for county enforcement of regulations related to a rock quarry located within his property, but that does not belong to him. The discussion took place during the commissioners' regular meeting on Tuesday morning, May 13.
Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson addresses the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners regarding how the board should respond to a letter from Lanesboro resident Merwood Storhoff. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/NEW-RECORD
Storhoff's letter reads, "We have a rock strip mining operation in the middle of our farm. It has been in operation since the 1960s. We have had many issues with the quarry. The county has rules in place that is supposed to handle most of these issues. Many meetings with the quarry operators proved fruitless. We met with the commissioners in August 2011 about the issues, especially with water. The zoning administrator reported to the commissioners that the berming of the quarry was completed. We disagreed and sent pictures to support our position. The county attorney then sent us a letter saying there was no basis for our complaint and closed the file on us. He never interviewed us. The county commissioners refuse to meet with us. This is our story and we have books and documents with pictures to back up our statements. We feel that Fillmore County does not have the right people in place to handle these issues."
Board Chairman Chuck Amunrud related, "I'm concerned what's being alleged...it makes it appear that we've failed to do our jobs."
Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson stated that he had met with Storhoff "a number of times, and the bottom line is that the landowners have done a number of things to improve the adjoining quarry" and that he encouraged Storhoff to speak with an attorney to be certain the advice and actions are accurate.
"The attorneys agreed with us," Corson said, "and the bottom line is that the adjacent land owners have done everything they can. We haven't found any violations, and we've had other agencies (consider the matter)."
Commissioner Tom Kaase observed that Storhoff had hired his own attorney and engineer to deal with the land use dispute.
Additionally, the commissioners and Corson noted Fillmore County Zoning Administrator Chris Graves has apparently been in contact with Storhoff and that Storhoff is not able to accept the county's findings regarding the quarry.
Amunrud stated, "I'm offended by the accusations."
Kaase commented he'd "like to request that everything be directed through Mr. Corson" in the case of all future correspondence between the county and Storhoff.
Commissioner Duane Bakke agreed, asking that any related correspondence - including that from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the county attorney, consultants and any attorneys advising - should be directed through the county attorney's office and that facts found be made available to interested parties.
Amunrud requested that any action be taken before May 27, as he planned to tender his resignation from the county board on that date. "I want to be a part of the response."
Amunrud did actually submit his resignation as the Third District's Fillmore County commissioner during the May 13 meeting. Auditor and treasurer Shirl Boelter advised him, to the best of her knowledge, that the cost of a special election to find his replacement to fill out the remaining two years of his term would be notable enough and would require a 120-day delay after the Nov. 4 general election. Running an election concurrently with the primary election in August would likely be the board's best option.
He said, "If it leaves the board more options, I will resign earlier."
The agenda was amended to include a resolution accepting a motion for Amunrud's resignation and to run a special election to fill his seat, concurrent with the primary election.
Amunrud thanked the board's remaining four members for the opportunity to serve with them for the past 12 years, sharing that he had intended to fulfill his term but felt that he could not due to health issues.
"I've really enjoyed the go so far. It's been good," he said. "This has been a very good job, very intense, but worth every sleepless night. The decision-making here is done on a very good level. I'll be an ally and an aide to the person who takes my role."
In other business, Graves presented a request from Mervin Moen of Pilot Mound Township for an access to property located along County Road 21.
Moen had asked that the access be allowed because he would like to expand his feedlot - under the supervision of county feedlot officer Mike Frauenkron - and Graves pointed out that the proposed access has been examined by zoning and also the county highway department.
A motion passed approving the addition of the access.
Next, human resources officer Kristina Kohn asked for approval of the highway department's roster and requested to advertise internally and externally for a full-time head mechanic.
Bakke inquired whether the highway department roster had to be accepted, and Kohn replied that doing so made way for the head mechanic's position to be determined.
Both motions were passed.
Boelter reviewed the county's tax forfeiture process before moving on to speak about the county's 2013 cost plan, to ask for approval of the agreement with Government Management Group for a 2014-2016 cost allocation study. She also reviewed county election equipment and laws associated with holding an election.
Boelter cited that minimum bids must be set before the county can hold its tax forfeiture property auction and that taxes from properties that are long in delinquency aren't likely to be collected, but that the purpose of selling those properties at auction is to get them back on the tax rolls.
Government Management Group's three-year contract with the county was renewed at a cost of $5,000 per year. Boelter said she feels the firm is efficient in assisting the county in managing various departments and meets with the county coordinator, the county attorney, the auditor, public health and social services.
Boelter then updated the board on election preparation, citing that under Minnesota online voter registration and online absentee ballot guidelines, faxed or e-mailed voter registrations will no longer be accepted.
She added the county would like to have more advance voter registrations instead of Election Day registrations to expedite the voting process. Voters registering at the poll on Election Day will be able to show a paper or an electronic bill on a smartphone or tablet to prove residence and that electronic poll books that use data from magnetic strips on drivers' licenses or state identification cards are on the horizon.
The 2014 primary election is set for Aug. 12.
County coordinator report
County coordinator Bobbie Vickerman updated the board on the department heads' decisions regarding employee candidates' background checks and the smoke-free workplace policy under examination.
Amunrud elaborated on the smoke-free workplace policy, saying the department heads and county safety committee had come to the conclusion that it would be best to form a committee to specifically address tobacco and e-cigarette use on county property, and that it is best to make the policy an actual ordinance, governing everyone.
The consent agenda included approving payment of $49,408.04 to Stantec Consulting Services, Inc., for professional services from March 15 through April 18 for the Greenleafton wastewater project and approving overnight stays for three appraisers to attend licensure training as recommended by county assessor Cynthia Blagsvedt.
Fillmore County highway engineer Ronald Gregg sent a request for permission to advertise for bids for a bridge replacement project over Kedron Creek in Sumner Township on 121st Avenue, half a mile south of County Road 2, which the board granted.