Bobbie Jo Vickerman, the new county coordinator/clerk of the board, called the first Fillmore County board meeting of the year to order on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Commissioner Chuck Amunrud was elected chair of the board and Commissioner Duane Bakke was named vice-chair.

Amunrud thanked the board for their vote. He mentioned that the county would be looking seriously at their part-time positions and seeing how the Affordable Care Act would impact the county being able to provide healthcare to those who work under 30 hours per week.

Amunrud also said there were concerns about the future of home health. He noted that most counties have already chosen to suspend their home health services. "I'm not saying we should end this, but I would like to see real numbers," he explained, adding it would give the board an idea on what options they had regarding its future. He said the county was looking at how it could do a better job within home healthcare. He also noted if the county did decide to stop providing home health, the process to do so would take at least 18 months.

Amunrud also suggested to the board that it look at developing a policy for a future wheelage tax approval. The county had foregone adopting the tax in 2013 because no such policy had been drafted. Tax revenue taken from vehicle owners in the county would go toward funding roads and bridges that receive insufficient state funding. Amunrud pointed at three-digit roads and bridges as county highway improvements needing the most financial attention.

Preparing for 2014

The board handled and discussed several items typically addressed at the beginning of the year.

New Social Services manager Neva Beier visited the board meeting for the first time since taking over for longtime county employee Gail Bunge. She shared her excitement at working for the county, while recognizing she still had a lot to learn. With her were Beth Wilms, Community Services director, and Lantha Stevens, director of nursing. They received board approval for several agreements for 2014.

An agreement between the county and Semcac for medical assistance and transportation services was discussed. Administrative costs per driver were down in 2013. The county pays half of the cost of unloaded miles out of the levy.

Wilms told the board there are concerns being raised about rural nonemergency medical transportation services through Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Blue Cross is now working with Medical Transportation Management to provide rides to Medicaid patients and there have been problems around the state with patients 65 and older being able to make it to their appointments.

The board approved an independent contractor agreement with Lisa Stensrud for physical therapy services.

The 2014 non-union and merit pay plans were approved for one-and-a-half and two percent increases respectively. Highway contract salaries were also approved.

Sheriff

Sheriff Daryl Jensen received approval for the re-appointment of Chief Deputy Sheriff Anthony Webber for 2014.

The sheriff's office will be donating 22 non-narrowbandable radios to the Austin Amateur Radio Club for ham use. The radios were non-compliant with the sheriff's office switch to a new radio system.

Jensen requested that the boarding rate at the jail increase from $9.50 to $10. He said contracting through a local restaurant had not worked out and working with a professional vendor would make providing meals more expensive. The board approved the increase.

A discussion took place on the county looking to share a jail nurse with Houston County. Jensen said the inmates who have medical needs are usually taken to the nearby Olmsted Medical Clinic. Jamie Fenske, jail administrator, informed the commissioners that the county was lucky nothing had happened with the risks it is taking.

He explained that through Advanced Correctional Healthcare, a healthcare provider that contracts with other area counties, the county could have a nurse visit one day a week, a doctor visit once a month and mental health services provided.

The county currently spends almost $15,000 in inmate health care per year, which Fenske said was low. Working with ACH would drive up costs to roughly $37,000 per year.

The option with Houston County would have its jail nurse work in Fillmore County for eight hours a week in two four-hour shifts. This contract would cost the county roughly $20,000. The board determined it would continue its discussion on the matter at a future meeting.

Public input

Merwood Storhoff addressed the county board relating to the Sorum Quarry. Storhoff has made several visits to the board in recent years concerning what he feels are non-compliant issues being raised by the operation of the Sorum Quarry. He told the board he had serious issues with county officials, specifically the county attorney and zoning administrator. He claimed his case was being obstructed.

Amunrud told Storhoff the board couldn't do anything and suggested he visit the county attorney and look into taking the matter up in court.

Amunrud then closed the public input session.

Bakke explained the county had obtained legal advice from the MPCA that the Sorum Quarry operations are in complete compliance with state law.

Other business

In other business, the board handled the following matters.

• The board approved printing bid awards for legal, delinquent taxes and financial statements to go through the Fillmore County Journal.

• Minimum salaries for elected officials were set at 90 percent of the current salary. Per diem rates were also increased to $45.

• Reimbursement for expenses relating to veteran organization ceremonies on Memorial Day was set at $75 per ceremony.

• The county website was authorized to be used as a way to disseminate bids.