In their first meeting of the new year on Jan. 8 the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners officially welcomed back incumbents Chuck Amunrud of the Third District, Marc Prestby of the Fifth District and Thomas Kaase of the First District.

Each was sworn in by Judge Robert Benson. Randy Dahl was nominated and elected board chair and Amunrud elected vice-chair. Dahl thanked Kaase for serving as the chair in 2012, as well as for all the work being done by the local government and elected officials.

"I am very much looking forward to the completion of the veteran's cemetery," shared Dahl. "It's the kind of thing that's the highlight of a person's career."

Both Gail Bunge and Beth Wilms from the Community Services department presented multiple contracts needing approval. All contracts had been reviewed by County Attorney Brett Corson and looked good, according to Bunge and Wilms.

In the case of a purchase for a mental health services contract through the Zumbro Valley Mental Health Center, the contract is still being reviewed due to a new format used this year.

Amunrud thanked Bunge and Wilms for getting these contracts completed in an orderly fashion.

The board also approved 2013 compensation of $44,843.16 for a Community Services administrator that would be paid to Winona County in quarterly amounts and prorated between the Social Services, Public Health and Veterans departments.

In considering the adoption of both the 2013 non-union and 2013 merit pay plans, the board approved a 1.5 percent increase to the non-union pay plan and a 1.75 percent increase in the merit pay plan, as proposed by Human Resources director Kristina Kohn.

Sheriff Daryl Jensen and Emergency Management director Kevin Beck presented a lease agreement with A-plus Imaging Systems out of Rochester for a new copier/scanner/fax/printer machine. The current machine is out-of-date and getting to be too expensive to maintain. Jensen received board approval for a proposal of a 60-month lease that would cost roughly $84.70 per month and around $3 per month for a fax line.

Jensen also updated the board on the successful efforts to switch the radio communications to analog narrowbanding, which brought it in compliance with FCC requirements. He thanked Beck for the work that he did in coordinating the switch and also the county board in ensuring compliance was reached in an efficient and timely manner.

Jensen also requested the board approve Chief Deputy Sheriff Anthony Webber for reappointment in 2013 and for his salary to increase 1.5 percent to $70,001.47.

County auditor/treasurer Shirl Boelter had the board consider a resolution for the Mabel-Canton-Harmony Trail-Busters Snowmobile Club to be allowed to construct and maintain the Big Woods Unit. She mentioned the county is a sponsor of the club and since the DNR is requesting that the trail go through Big Woods, the board would need to give its approval. The board approved the site unanimously.

County Attorney Corson updated the board on the attempt to recover costs for contamination testing done at an old motel building near Prosper. The testing cost $2,433.10 and the property owner was not willing to pay for it. Corson asked the board to approve a property assessment so that the testing costs could be assessed to the property.

Commissioner Duane Bakke asked if the bill had yet been paid. County coordinator Karen Brown explained that it had been paid through the unallocated account, but that they still needed to get the money back.

Commissioner Kaase asked about the possibility of additional costs being assessed to the property if the testing is not paid for, to which Corson said there would be. Kaase advised Corson to have a conversation with the property owners to let them know that this could be a possibility.

The board accepted the retirement request of Danette Steinmetz, fiscal officer, who had served for 37 years. "She will be missed," Amunrud stated, echoing the board's appreciation for her service.

The board approved an access permit for Gary and Beth Redalen and Fred and Linda Meurer to CSAH (county state aid highway) 21 in Pilot Mound Township for field access. The new access point was considered by the Zoning Department to be a safer option.

The board approved the appointment of Ronald Gregg as the county's highway engineer at an annual salary of $98,568.14 plus the cost of living adjustment. Amunrud asked Gregg about the possibility of being able to pay for construction on County Road 1 through bonding instead of waiting for a number of years until a bid comes through.

"I'm worried about the funding and other projects that aren't getting done," expressed Amunrud, who also shared that bonding interest rates are low. Gregg said the department would consider it.