On Oct. 8, Houston County Commissioners approved final payments for nine Federal road repair projects related to June flooding.

Contractors Griffin Construction (Chatfield) and Van Gundy Excavating (Houston) submitted bills totaling $363,022 for repairs to CSAH (County State-Aid Highways) 1, 21, 10, 11, 18, 20, 22, 23, and 31.

County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski said, "With all of these roadways, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Authority) has looked at them and agreed with everything that has been done... all of this should be covered."

Houston County will not need to contribute to the payments, since 75 percent of the costs will be borne by FEMA, while the other 25 percent has been approved for state aid.

Resignations approved

The board approved the resignation of Public Health Director Deb Rock, effective Nov. 1. Lead jailer/dispatcher Gary Bubbers' resignation/retirement was also accepted, effective Dec. 28.

Personnel Director Tess Kruger said that Rock would appear at next week's meeting, when an interim plan to fill the position as well as the search for a replacement will be discussed. In the case of Bubbers, an internal search for another lead worker was approved. Kruger and jail administrator Mark Schiltz said that they would bring a recommendation next week for staffing at the Justice Center.

Another closed session

Commissioners held another closed session to discuss "allegations or charges against an employee who is subject to the authority of this board," taking an additional two and one-half hours to further their deliberations. The first closed session on the matter was held Sept. 24 and lasted over an hour. When the Oct. 8 meeting reconvened, Personnel Director Tess Kruger reported that there was still no resolution. "We will continue the meeting at another scheduled time," she said.

CUP approved

Taking the advice of the Houston County Planning Commission, the board voted to approve a conditional use permit (CUP) that will allow Eric Johnson of Mound Prairie Township to move more than 50 cubic yards of material in a shore land district.

A second CUP was also approved. That was the yearly renewal of a CUP to allow the use of temporary agricultural housing at Old Hickory Orchard, La Crescent. (For more on the CUPs, see Planning Commission report in last week's Herald).

Frac sand update

Commissioners discussed a recent letter from the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB). Members noted that the EQB is holding a series of public input sessions on frac sand mining, since the agency is charged with assisting local units of government in drawing up regulations that will apply to the burgeoning frac sand industry.

Commissioners decided that they will try to attend one of the sessions, and placed the item on their next agenda.

In addition to those public input meetings, the EQB also reported that it would soon finalize a cost agreement for the "scoping process" that will apply to an environmental impact statement (EIS) on a cluster of proposed frac sand mines in Winona, Fillmore, and Houston counties. After the scope of the environmental impact statement is determined, the EQB will seek a separate cost agreement with the prospector or prospectors to pay for the actual EIS. Then the EQB will prepare a single document for all three counties.

Airport amendment approved, runway work done

Commissioners also approved an amendment to the professional services agreement that consulting firm Mead & Hunt has with the Houston County Airport. Pogodzinski said that federal guidelines required the county to develop and maintain a disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program for airport matters. The cost of that will be $4,856, he reported. The FAA should pay the bulk of the cost under the same grant agreement that is currently underwriting the paving of the runway and aprons. That project is rapidly reaching completion, Pogodzinski added.

Two inches of new asphalt has been added to the facility. As soon as a dressing of topsoil is placed along the edges of the new paving, the airport will be open for business. That should only take a few days, Pogodzinski said. New striping in two or three weeks will also shut down the facility for a day.

With the light weight of aircraft using the airport, the new surface could last up to 20 years, Pogodzinski said. The main wear and tear will likely be dependent on the effects of weather, he added.

Pogodzinski also reported that the roof supports of the county-owned Spring Grove salt shed have now been repaired, and once again meet state building code.

Other news:

The board voted to approve a grant application that will seek monies to make improvements at Wildcat Park through the MNDNR Park Legacy program.

Commissioners also voted to again offer the 22-acre parcel that was originally bought as a site for a new county highway facility for rent by farmers. A three-year lease with an "out" clause at the end of each crop year will once again be the terms.