In direct response to the damage sustained by flash flooding throughout eastern Fillmore County on Sunday, June 23, the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners declared the county is in a state of emergency at the regular June 25 meeting.

Sheriff Daryl Jensen, Kevin Beck from Emergency Management, and county highway engineer Ronald Gregg updated the board on where the county was at in terms of assessing and responding to public and private damages.

Jensen provided a printed timeline of events the sheriff's office dealt with beginning the late evening of June 22 through mid morning of June 23. Beck noted there would be two damage cost thresholds to surpass in order to receive state and federal assistance. The state assistance threshold is based on a per capita calculation. Fillmore County would need to have over $70,000 in damages to county property in order to qualify. Gregg explained the county would easily qualify since a bridge on County State Aid Highway 23 had been destroyed and would cost at least $140,000 to replace.

The federal threshold is $7.16 million, which would include all damages sustained by one event and warrant FEMA funding if exceeded. Beck estimated that Houston County sustained a couple million dollars in damage and Fillmore County, close to $1 million. Commissioner Chuck Amunrud asked if the recent storms in the Twin Cities would be counted together with the damages in southeast Minnesota. Jensen said he didn't know if they would be because they were different storm systems.

Eight county roads were affected and two bridges were washed out. Workers involved in other construction projects in the county would be moved to work on emergency replacement of washed out bridges and roads. The County Road 23 bridge had been three years overdue for replacement prior to it being washed out. The board adopted a resolution allowing the highway department to enter into contracts for emergency repair of those damaged roads and bridges without the customary bid and advertising process.

Beck said damage estimates would be coming in as communication with townships and city administrators improved. He encouraged all people who were affected to report their damage assessments to the county. Beck said he didn't think there would be enough damage for assistance in the private sector. Commissioner Randy Dahl thanked all the workers and neighbors who had helped people in distress.

In other action, Jensen recommended the board approve Minnesota-based company LETG as its new vendor for record management, jail management and computer-aided dispatch software systems. LETG regional sales director Dean Gutzke was present at the board meeting. He said information could be shared between all 200 agencies the company handles. The county would be able to pull information from a master name index during an investigation and other state agencies could do the same with Fillmore County information. The system allows dispatch centers to share shifts and provide redundancy in backup. Commissioner Tom Kaase said, "It's a product I wish I had and the number of agencies they are working with says a lot." Jensen said the connections through LETG were important.

The total cost of the systems is near $153,000 with around $9,000 in sales tax. Commissioner Duane Bakke asked if the annual maintenance cost would increase every year from the $20,000 it was at. Gutzke said the costs would not increase by more than 5 percent per year and LETG has only seen one increase in the past five years. After additional discussion, the board unanimously approved the LETG system purchase.

Jeffrey Cooper, Information Systems, received approval from the board to implement wireless networks in all county buildings. The project would cost approximately $16,000, not including tax.

Dahl asked if the wireless network would eliminate the need to hardwire computers in the Community Services building, including a future computer kiosk stand.

Copper said it would. The network could be accessed by public visitors.

Cooper also asked the board to consider the audio recording and online publication/archiving of board meetings. He said the county already has the equipment to record their meetings and would be a better option than purchasing equipment to video stream their meetings online.

Bakke said he didn't see a need for it as there would be no return on the investment.

Kaase disagreed saying it would allow people who can't attend the meetings during the day to access it later.

Cooper said a policy for recording meetings would need to be approved.

Kaase motioned to have a six month trial run. The motion died for lack of a second.

Wheelage tax

Fillmore County now has the opportunity to receive funding for their paved three digit roads through a Wheelage Tax and the Local Option Sales Tax. The tax began in 1972 in the Twin Cities, but was made available to all counties through this year's Transportation Appropriations bill. The $10 per vehicle tax applies, with several exemptions, to all registered vehicles.

Amunrud asked whether the county would see a reduction in funding from MnDOT if they approved the tax. There wouldn't be a reduction.

Dahl suggested the county hold a public hearing on the benefitting three digit roads.

Gregg was told to form a five-year plan for the roads and funding scenarios for each one. Gregg and Bakke updated the board on the progress of several projects throughout the county.

Social Services

At the recommendation of Social Services director Beth Wilms, the board approved the hires of one office support specialist, one new eligibility worker and the replacement of one eligibility worker at 75 percent federal reimbursements. Wilms explained the hires will fill out their office support in preparation for an increased workload of 390 additional cases once the Affordable Care Act is implemented Oct. 1.

The board approved the enhancements of child support and appointment units through the electronic document management system. Wilms explained EDMS has improved their efficiency by 20 to 30 percent.

The board approved the continuance of the chemical dependency pilot project through July 31, 2015. Wilms said not many in the county are eligible, but it would be helpful in the event of someone being eligible.

Public input

Bonita Underbakke, Holt Township, asked the board to support increased efforts to address soil erosion. She felt the SWCD has not been initiating corrective actions because they have to maintain good relationships with landowners. "It's left to the neighbors to file a complaint," she said. She recognized soil erosion was a complex issue influenced on many levels, which will require creative approaches. "I appreciate any efforts made in that way," she concluded.