Fillmore County's board of commissioners met Tuesday, Feb. 11, with a "light agenda," according to Commissioner Chuck Amunrud.

The items discussed included Human Resources, citizens' input, Semcac, a land purchase for the Greenleafton sanitation system and an adjustment payment made for a county employee's retirement benefits.

Kristina Kohn, director of human resources, spoke about the office support specialist's position the board had reviewed at the Feb. 4 meeting.

She stated the human resources department was "unable to successfully hire" and because of that, the process would "normally mean we'd go back to the hiring committee." However, the difficulty in returning the matter to the hiring committee is the original members are no longer available.

"If we repost the position, all the individuals who applied and tested will stay on the list...if we aren't able to hire, that would be the process," Kohn explained.

Amunrud asked if the first round included internal postings, and Kohn replied, "We didn't do internal postings because this is an entry level position with no chance for someone to advance" if they already have a job with the county.

Commissioner Duane Bakke inquired whether the person the committee wanted to hire is no longer available, and Kohn answered that is the case. The position will be posted once more.

Semcac programs

Wayne Stenberg of Semcac updated the board on various programs the organization handles. He related information regarding Semcac's activities can be found on its website, on Facebook, Twitter and in the quarterly newsletter, the Semcac Sentinel.

Stenberg opened by observing that the "sequestration has had its effect" on the services Semcac can offer, such as Head Start in Rushford and congregate senior nutrition sites.

"Head Start in Rushford closed due to sequestration and we lost over 5 percent of our income there," he said. "The students we lost, we're hoping to put back in the program. There have been big cuts to senior services...approximately $97,000. Lewiston was affected and we lost Houston, too. We had to lay off people as well. From what we can tell, Meals on Wheels will be served, but we can't see any Senior Dining dollars replaced."

The commissioners asked Stenberg if communities are stepping up to replace the senior nutrition programming and he related that in some communities, local senior centers and care centers have taken on the task of providing congregate senior nutrition programming.

This winter's persistent below-zero temperatures have affected emergency and assistance heating funds, as the cost of propane has risen due to the shortage.

Stenberg said, "In energy assistance, for LP and oil, the governor has eased the income guidelines from 50 percent to 60 percent, and that means that 27,000 more Minnesotans can apply for assistance. In Fillmore County, that means about 1,500 people."

Approximately 550 people in Fillmore County depend on Semcac's heat assistance funds for their primary heat payments.

"We're looking for more money at the federal level, and we anticipate that the extra money coming from the state...will get us through the end zone. If a tank is less than 30 percent full, that moves someone up on the list into the 'crisis' category. We've raised emergency LP and oil from $500 to $1,000. LP is anywhere from $2 a gallon to $8 way up north."

He outlined the transportation available to Semcac area residents, noting "Rolling Hills Transit" is the brand given to the buses that serve towns such as Spring Valley, where anyone may choose to take a ride on the bus around town, to Rochester to medical appointments or to shop, to Head Start in Lyle and from one town to another, all for costs "lower than the cost of gas."

Stenberg also acknowledged the organization's networking, pointing out it has 772 different associations connected to the agency, and of those, 154 are for-profit, returning funds back to the communities in which they exist.

"And last year, we served nearly 33,000 unduplicated individuals - when they used one of our services - and 9,283 were seniors," he said. "The next group would be people 24 to 44, with nearly 6,500."

He listed the entities to which the agency is responsible, including the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Office of Economic Opportunity, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Minnesota Department of Transportation and more. "All of those watch our budget," he said. "We try to be transparent and we try to be excellent stewards."

Greenleafton

Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson and Greenleafton wastewater treatment project representative Sheila Craig requested permission to proceed with a land purchase for the Greenleafton septic system. The county is working to buy three acres near Greenleafton for $57,000, with $1,000 earnest money paid, to build a wastewater treatment station.

Taxes on the property must be paid in full by the land owner at the time of purchase and easements will be set up with owners whose land the pipes for the system will cross.

The commissioners approved the purchase agreement, and Amunrud said, "It's really starting to move now. I thank you for your work. Things are moving right along, and we're going to try to get things done this year."

PERA benefits

Auditor and treasurer Shirl Boelter asked for payment of $1,226.14 toward a part-time employee's PERA benefits, as the employee's status was mistakenly listed as temporary instead of part-time.

Once the error was noted, the employee was informed that his portion of the costs, $107, would have to be paid, but the remaining amount is the county's responsibility.

Kohn explained the system for determining an employee's eligibility for PERA is a confusing one that should be addressed soon by the state.

The commissioners approved paying the cost, but made a note to reexamine the issue at another time.

Other business

Consent agenda items included granting paid administrative leave for an employee, reappointing Jeffrey Brand as the county's surveyor for a four-year term and renewing the county's membership in the Southeast Minnesota Regional Radio Board at a cost of $1,000, the same amount as last year's membership.

It was also noted that the courthouse will be closed Monday, Feb. 17, in observation of the Presidents' Day holiday.

After the meeting's adjournment, the commissioners honored county employees during an employee appreciation reception.