Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen presented a request to the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, May 27, for the purchase of a digital Cassidian 4.0 911 phone controller to replace the county's current analog system.

"We're moving from analog to digital equipment," Jensen related. "The dispatchers' jobs are difficult if they get more than one 911 call at one time. The Cassidian digital 911 controller allows the dispatcher to wear a headset for both phone and radio, and it eliminates our current phone system, RescueStar."

Jensen also noted RescueStar's support is ending in 2015 and if the county goes ahead with the Cassidian 4.0, it'll probably happen within the next six to eight months because other entities are also trying to convert as well.

"With this digital upgrade, we're talking about being able to get text messages and emails through 911," Jensen added.

The sheriff outlined the costs of purchasing Cassidian and its three-year support package - the total for the equipment and the support package stands at $184,000 - and the sheriff's department has $272,000 in its 911 equipment account.

"By the end of the year, we'd like to have $300,000...that will allow us to keep a cushion. I struggle to fully explain everything about the equipment, but..." Commissioner Randy Dahl stated, "I think this is good. Kids can text faster than they can explain to a dispatcher what they need, and people don't have to verbalize an emergency, so if they're trying to hide from someone, they don't have to talk."

The commissioners approved the purchase and noted that they're awaiting further news from Jensen regarding the emergency response system.

Jensen thanked the board and then departed for the county DARE graduation held at Kingsland Middle School.

Recycling quandary

Solid waste administrator Jon Martin sat before the commissioners with a recyclable - or non-recyclable - quandary.

He told the commissioners that the Waste Management recycling bins in place outside of Spring Valley are there for rural patrons' recycling. However, these bins have been used as illegal dumping receptacles for "oil, computers, televisions" and more, and the bins were removed to deter any further illegal dumping.

However, citizens such as board visitor Benny Helgeson of rural Spring Valley, have registered complaints with the commissioners - specifically Chairman Chuck Amunrud - that they are unable to properly dispose of their recyclables since the bins were removed. The residents are actually afraid the county's ditches will become the next illegal dumping sites if the bins are not brought back.

Helgeson approached the board after the commissioners had spoken for quite a while with Martin about whether to replace the bins or install cameras to record people dropping off mattresses, televisions and computers.

Jensen observed that while installing cameras is a useful action, there are no trees next to the bins' dedicated site.

After the commissioners voted 4-1, with Commissioner Marc Prestby against, to replace the bins, Helgeson shared that having prepared for the meeting, the commissioners had "taken away my thunder." However, he was relieved to know the matter was one of importance, even though he'd been inconvenienced by the recyclables piling up in his shed.

He said he was not going to drive to Chatfield or Preston to deliver them to the alternate sites still available "because this is about conservation."

Zoning matters

Zoning Administrator Chris Graves asked the board to consider a conditional use permit (CUP) for the installation of a cell phone tower for Larry and Rose Sample in Chatfield Township, another CUP for Steve and Dixie Grebin for commercial use of property at 21257 Highway 52 and a resolution to approve the county's feedlot ordinance revisions.

The 200-foot tower is like two others approved for use in the county, and Graves related that it must be in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lighting rules.

Commissioners granted the Samples' and the Grebins' CUP applications and next heard about changes to the feedlot ordinance from Graves and county feedlot administrator Mike Frauenkron. Frauenkron cited there were "no concerns" expressed by towns or townships about the proposal to increase the animal units allowed without special county and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency permits from 500 to 1,000.

Dahl commented that Frauenkron has done a good job managing Fillmore County's feedlot permits and there have been positive responses to his oversight.

Social Services

Fillmore County Social Services manager Neva Beier and Director of Nursing Lantha Stevens brought forward requests for the purchase of 19 computer privacy filters for financial workers, as required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The filters would cost $81 each. The two also requested purchasing a new copier from A+ Imaging for $168.39 per month for 60 months and another for the Public Health department, also from A+ Imaging, for $201 per month.

All were accepted, as was the renewal of the Toward Zero Death (TZD) grant resolution for traffic safety projects set between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015.

The commissioners discussed at length whether or not to form a subcommittee to determine what the county's tobacco use policy would be.

Highway Department

Highway engineer Ronald Gregg presented bids for County Road 17 in Preston and for the purchase of a lowboy trailer.

First, the board passed a motion accepting a $294,012.01 bid from Rochester Sand and Gravel for the County 17 project. The other bid came from Winona Mechanical of $307,678.80.

The lowboy trailer will be bought for $20,000, with a trade-in credit of approximately $5,000 on a trailer the county currently owns.

An aging low-water crossing bridge in Preble Township will be replaced with culverts and a concrete deck, as Gregg pointed out that building a full replacement bridge on that particular road would not be sensible since the road is a dead end with little or no traffic.

Human Resources

Human Resources officer Kristina Kohn offered news on the hire of a full-time custodian with the commissioners passing a motion to allow the hire.

Kohn also updated the board on a proposal to hire a temporary summer information systems employee to handle the rollout of the new computers. These were authorized about a month ago. Since the board wishes to have the computers operational and in the county offices while their warranties are still valid, the new summer employee will help make sure that happens.

Kohn also updated the commissioners on the county's automated external defibrillator (AED) grant, as the county has distributed them and wishes to ensure that they are used properly. She shared a letter from the city of Rushford thanking the county for choosing to send two that will be installed in the public library and city hall.

Auditor, treasurer

Auditor and treasurer Shirl Boelter brought forward a resolution for the county to approve sponsorship of the Bluff Valley Riders, Mabel-Canton Trail Busters, Hiawatha I and II and Tri-County Trailblazers snowmobile clubs for the 2014-2015 season. The board approved the resolution, with Commissioner Duane Bakke stating that he is a member of one of the clubs, in order to maintain transparency.

Other business

Finally, the board held an election of officers since Amunrud announced his resignation during the May 13 meeting in light of his intention to retire.

Bakke was voted to be the new chairman and Prestby, the new vice-chairman.

Amunrud thanked his fellow commissioners and "past commissioners...these have been very good boards, lively, very prudent and functioning at the highest level."

He also extended his appreciation to the county staff and wished them the best of luck.

"It's been pleasant to work with the commissioners and staff," he remarked.

Bakke returned, "You've been part of the reason why we've been able to work together well. It's been pleasant having you here and we thank you for your service to the county and the Association of Minnesota Counties."