The Houston County Board will convene a public hearing on a hot topic on Tuesday, Jan. 28. That's when commissioners will let citizens weigh in on a one-year extension to the county's moratorium on frac sand mining.

Following a Jan. 7 session with Environmental Services director Rick Frank, commissioners decided to seek the measure, which would prohibit new mining permits for frac sand operations until March 5, 2015.

"We have just received, within the last couple of weeks, a draft ordinance that the state has come up with," Frank said. "We are presently going through that, but it's not set in concrete."

Since the state departments, which comprise the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, are now taking public comment on the proposed ordinances - that document will probably undergo a few tweaks in coming months, Frank added.

"The extension of our interim ordinance (moratorium) would give the county a little bit of time to look at that...," he said.

The resolution to continue the moratorium for another year states that county zoning ordinances and the comprehensive plan need to be addressed "to provide a thorough analysis of potential impacts on road and infrastructure maintenance and the effect on public services, public health, safety and general welfare generated by silica sand mining operations and supporting uses."

Personnel votes

Commissioners also voted unanimously to hire a new Public Health director, effective Feb.10.

Human Resources director Tess Kruger told the board that applicant Mary Marchel comes from Beltrami County in northern Minnesota. "She has over 28 years in Public Health...and most recently led a department with 135 full-time employees," Kruger stated.

The annual salary for the Houston County job was set at $85,529. Since the resignation of Deb Rock, the department has utilized an interim director. The job offer is contingent upon successful completion of a background check.

Commissioners also approved changing the employment status of jailer/dispatcher Samantha Hancock from a 67 day to a .5 FTE probationary employee. Kruger said that more 67-day candidates are being interviewed in order to maintain the temporary call-in roster for that position.

The board elected Commissioner Teresa Walter to serve as their 2014 chairman. Commissioner Steve Schuldt was elected vice-chair.

Other news

Printing bids were opened for the 2014 calendar year. The Caledonia Argus submitted the low bid, and will publish official notices.

A closed session was called to discuss initial contract negotiations with the county's newest bargaining unit. Kruger said that the International Union of Operating Engineers Local #49, AFL-CIO was the subject of the session.

Several committee assignments for 2014 were approved.

Commissioners Walter and Schuldt will serve on the Human Services Standing Committee. Commissioners Judy Storlie and Dana Kjome will serve on the Land Use Standing Committee. Walter and Storlie will continue on the Law Standing Committee. The Public Works Standing Committee will include Commissioners Justin Zmyewski and Schuldt. The Insurance Standing Committee will include Schuldt and Zmyewski.

The full board is named to the Finance and Budget Standing Committee.

The AMC (Association of Minnesota Counties) District Committees include Zmyewski on Environmental and Natural Resources, Kjome on Transportation, Schuldt on Human Services, Storlie on General Government and Walter on Public Safety. All five commissioners are on the AMC delegate assembly.

Kjome will serve on the Bee Creek Watershed Committee, as well as the Water Planning Committee.

The Bluff Country Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority will include Storlie as a representative.

The Board of Adjustment will require an alternate. Commissioners agreed by consensus that an excellent candidate would be Bruce Lee, who recently finished his term on the Planning Commission. The spot was left open until he can respond to the offer.

Kjome will continue on the Planning Commission, with the full board serving as alternates. Commissioners will discuss an opening on the PC next week.

The entire board serves on the Joint Board of Health, which includes Fillmore County.

The Houston County EDA will include Storlie and Kjome. The Highway Department Building Committee includes Zmyewski and Schuldt.

The Wildcat Park Advisory Committee will include Walter and Storlie.