Fillmore County commissioners took the opportunity to express their thanks toward coordinator/clerk Karen Brown at their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 13. Brown has made the decision to retire from the office effective Dec. 31, and announced that fact during the meeting.

"It has been the highest honor of my life to work with Fillmore County," Brown expressed with emotion. "I will continue through my tenure to make sure there is a smooth transition."

Brown has worked as the county coordinator/clerk for 20 years. Commissioner Marc Prestby made the motion to accept Brown's request to retire while also giving her thanks for the years of service.

Commissioner Duane Bakke seconded the motion, noting that he did so with great reluctance.

Following the affirmative vote, Commissioner Chuck Amunrud said it had been a real pleasure working with Brown. "You kept our heads on our shoulders," he stated.

Human Resources Officer Kristina Kohn said it had been a "distinguished privilege to work with Karen," in the Human Resources office. She recommended the board of commissioners figure out how to deal with the position before it is left empty.

Commissioner Tom Kaase said the board should put the issue on the burner and think seriously about it. Kohn reminded the board that it took them four and a half months to fill the county engineer position.

Commissioner Randy Dahl said the county shouldn't wait. Fillmore County is one of only three current counties in the state of Minnesota that has a coordinator. The rest have administrators, which have different job descriptions.

Dahl recommended the board take a look at the job descriptions of both coordinators and administrators to see which would better fit the county going forward.

Kaase said there hadn't been any discussion about the county changing to an administrator. The commissioners will take up discussion on this issue in the coming weeks.

Economic development

Cris Gastner from the county Economic Development Authority gave an update on the happenings in the department. Several projects with cities are in the works.

The city of Mabel is considering getting a new grocery store and 100 people showed up to a recent meeting to discuss the possibility.

Gastner said Historic Forestville had been approached by an anonymous donor who said they would do a dollar-for-dollar match up to $150,000 in order to set up an endowment fund.

Relating to the future veterans' cemetery to be constructed near Preston, the county EDA has been looking at acquiring a building and property owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The building would be used in relation to the cemetery to serve various functions.

Gastner also said the county is looking at holding parenting programs put on through the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. The program visits parents at their workplaces or a community center during the normal lunch hour and teaches parenting skills. The program would cost $500 per session.

Budgets

Most of the time during the commissioners' meeting was spent discussing the proposed 2014 budgets from seven county departments. They included surveyor, sheriff, recorder, attorney, economic development, coordinator and information systems.

Sheriff Daryl Jensen commented that with the new sales tax exemption laws going into effect for 2014, unmarked squad cars would not be tax exempt. Dahl called the new law "smoke and mirrors."

Jensen said the plan was to replace three squad cars in 2013, but that it would end up being done next year. Bakke commented that unmarked cars should still be tax exempt since they are still only used for county business.

Jensen said the state's recapturing of 911 funds from cell phone providers was not going great. He hoped the 911 revenue would go up next year because expenses will increase due to the new ARMER radio system and LETG record management system. Jensen said costs would go up in 2014 and that there hasn't been too much happening in 2013.

The county jail is also considering having a Public Health nurse work there. Jensen said the county could work with Houston County or continue to go through Olmsted. Dahl said the county may not have the staff to have someone cover the jail.

Jeffrey Cooper from information systems said that technology expenses would continue to increase into the future. He explained how Microsoft would be starting to make major updates to systems every 18 months. The life cycle for technology support in purchases made today would last four years, he estimated. Brown reported that the sales tax savings for the department would be roughly $6,000, one of the highest in the county.

Brown briefly went over several budgets for the coordinator's office. Amunrud suggested that it was time for the per diem rates for the commissioners to increase. He said they were among the lowest in the state and had stayed the same for the past decade. The board did not make a decision, but determined to figure out exactly how much the per diem would need to be increased.

County recorder David Kiehne gave proposed budgets for equipment, geographic information systems and un-allocated recording.

County surveyor Jeff Brand reported on his budget, showing no major changes besides a step increase in salary. The board cut spending on gas/diesel for the surveyor's truck.

County Attorney Brett Corson reported that fees had gone down $7,000 and revenue had decreased by $4,200.