Personnel matters were the subject of lengthy discussion during the April 10 Fillmore County commissioners' meeting, held at the Fillmore County courthouse.

Human Resources coordinator Kristina Kohn presented the board with a request for the county highway department and the sheriff's department to share a mechanic to maintain county snowplows and squad cars. The reason is that the sheriff's department's custodian - whose job includes maintaining the squad cars - is retiring. The size of the fleet has doubled, as well as the size of the building he must keep clean.

Additionally, Kohn and highway maintenance super-intendent Brent Kohn (no relation) cited increased duties and reduced availability of truck and snowplow maintenance time as reasons the highway department might benefit from having a shared mechanic.

Currently, the county "farms out" some regular squad car maintenance, but jobs at the highway department are typically done by highway department employees, which means that if a snowplow needs repairs and the road also needs plowing, the same employees have to handle the repairs and plowing at a higher cost to the county, Kristina Kohn posed, than if a mechanic were to be available.

She stated rhetorically, "Would a mechanic be able to keep busy at the sheriff's department? Not necessarily. And would they be able to keep busy at the highway department? Not necessarily, either. But if a person were to be a mechanic shared between the two, they might be busy full-time."

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud asked, "Have we considered sending the sheriff's vehicles to be serviced at a local, private shop?"

Commissioner Randy Dahl said, "I'm actually in favor of this because if we start farming out everything, the sheriff's cars need to be ready for pursuit."

Commissioner Duane Bakke countered, "A lot of it is warranty work until they get to 100,000 miles, and it might cost more in gas to bring a car over here from Spring Valley for one of the prison inmates to wash it than it would just to wash a car in Spring Valley."

Regarding the custodial position, Kristina Kohn suggested that the county hire a .5 FTE (full-time equivalent) custodian who would not be required to have a boiler license or other special qualifications in order to free Fillmore County building maintenance supervisor Terry Schultz's time since Schultz has qualifications to handle such duties.

The board inquired of Schultz whether he uses full-time employees or part-time employees to fill in overtime and handle extra tasks, and he replied that he tries to avoid overtime by assigning extra duties to part-time employees.

The county presently employs a temporary custodian on a six-month contract, and Kohn proposed extending that position for another six months or hiring another temporary custodian to replace the retiring sheriff's department custodian.

The board voted to hire a temporary custodian as soon as possible, as the retiring custodian's final day is April 27.

Sexual assault awareness

Sarah Monroe of DFO (Dodge-Fillmore-Olmsted) Victims' Services brought a resolution before the board for the proclamation of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

She related, "The teal ribbons hanging on posts in each town are for raising awareness of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We - DFO Victims' Services and Fillmore Family Resources - spent two days hanging them, and people have asked what they're for, which is good... they're also remembering what they're for."

She asked the commissioners to observe Denim Day on April 25, in recognition of a court case in Italy in which the perpetrator claimed that since his victim was forced to help remove her jeans, he was innocent because it no longer constituted rape.

Commissioner Tom Kaase thanked Monroe and her co-workers at DFO and Fillmore Family Resources for doing their part to assist victims of assault, noting that it eases his job as a police officer (for the city of Rochester) in such situations.

Section 8 vouchers

The commissioners spoke about a conflict between the county, Bluff Country Multi-County Housing Rehabilitation Authority (Bluff Country HRA) and Southeast Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (SEMMCHRA), as an apparent request for the county to join a joint powers committee for the administration of Section 8 housing vouchers has caused upset with the county board due to no previous such recognition and also due to an amount the agency had billed the county.

The federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department's Section 8 housing program allows low income residents to obtain vouchers for rental property so that they may find suitable housing. Originally, according to the board, Bluff Country was assigned to administer the vouchers in 1991, but after a year of doing so, decided that it was unable to handle the tasks involved and turned them over to SEMMCHRA, which apparently has chosen to leverage a payment from the county as part of joint powers membership.

Kaase commented, "It looks as though if we don't pay SEMMCHRA's demands, we won't have any vouchers in the county. If somebody moves or doesn't need theirs anymore, SEMMCHRA can dictate where the vouchers go."

Bakke added, "So we pay the ransom...."

If the county strikes a new agreement, it would be as a joint powers member.

Bakke asked, "If the agreement is between SEMMCHRA and Bluff Country, why are we involved?"

The commissioners considered contacting the county attorney and sending a letter to SEMMCHRA and carbon-copying it to HUD to keep HUD officials apprised of the county's position on the administration of Section 8 vouchers.

Other business

• County highway engineer John Grindeland reported the highway department had received bids for two bridge replacement projects, one on County 12 outside of Preston and another on County 115 near Canton, both which had been deemed in critical condition during a 2010 bridge inspection. Minnowa Construction was awarded both projects, with bids of $108,493.20 and $131,631.80.

• In zoning news, the municipalities of Canton, Ostrander and Whalan are "almost" and "extremely close" to having their own zoning committees, as noted by Fillmore County zoning administrator Christopher Graves. Ostrander's system "needs small tweaks," but Whalan's is in need of "major changes" that will be made very soon. "They will likely follow Canton because they have the same city clerk as Canton," he said.

• The consent agenda included approving the April 3 meeting minutes; an application for a temporary on-sale liquor license for an April 21 event at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center; $600 for the purchase of pedometers as part of the county employees' wellness program; appointing Beth Wilms, community services director, to county community services and department head committees; and making a second quarter payment of the SELCO (Southeast Libraries Cooperating) appropriation of $51,611.75.