Houston County commissioners approved a new mobile records management system for local law enforcement agencies on Aug. 19.

Minnesota-based software developer LETG will provide the platform for $38,149 in annual fees (through 2018), plus an additional $28,398 in yearly maintenance. After 2018, the software package will be paid for, but the maintenance charges will continue. In addition, the county will need to pay $74,800 for one-time hardware and related software costs, plus $7000 in other yearly expenses to make the squad-car based program work.

Chief Deputy Scott Yeiter said that the new system should be up and running in about six months. He told commissioners that all Houston County cities have now opted to participate. Sharing of data is also possible with Winona and Fillmore counties, which are also going to the LETG system, Yeiter added.

“This project brings all of the cities together like we've never had before,” he said.

Yeiter outlined a plan to pay for the system which incorporates several funding sources, including E-911 monies, existing line items in the Sheriff's Office budget, budget savings due to keeping a forfeited vehicle for county use, and more.

Commissioner Justin Zmyewski praised Yeiter's resourcefulness in keeping the costs off the tax levy, something he specifically asked for the first time the project was proposed (on June 24).

“This shows some hard work...” Zmyewski said. “I just want to commend Scott for following my request to a tee...  When departments ask for money and we say we don't have it I expect (them) to get kind of creative to find it, and that's what Scott did.” He added that finance director Carol Lapham was also impressed with Yeiter's efforts.

Public comment suspended

Earlier, Commissioner Steve Schuldt read a statement when the meeting reached the time set aside for public comment.

He said (verbatim): “On the advice of counsel, I move to suspend the public comment period temporarily. Slanderous comments accusing a Houston County law enforcement officer of capital crimes have put the county in a position of litigious jeopardy.” The motion was seconded by Commissioner Judy Storlie.

“I'm against it, because I don't believe in not allowing public comment,” Zmyewski said.

Board Chair Teresa Walter said that the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust (MCIT) advised her that public comment is not required “except at a public hearing,” and ordinary county board sessions can be treated as a “business meeting.”

The measure passed 3-2, with “no” votes from Zmyewski and Commissioner Dana Kjome.

Court appointed attorney approved

District court administrator Darlene Larson presented the lone bid for court appointed attorney services, which was accepted. 

Pflughoeft, Pederson, Johnsrud & Knuesel, LLP of Winona will continue to provide the service to the county from Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2016, and at a lessor rate than the current contract. The annual cost will be $44,000  ($4000 less per year). Attorney Kurt J. Knuesel attributed the savings to somewhat fewer court cases.

By “zealously defending our clients,” the firm has discouraged litigation, Knuesel wrote in a memo which accompanied the offer, adding that “Funding for personnel and services involved in just one CHIPS (Child in Need of Protective Services) case is stunningly high.”

Personnel votes

Commissioners approved changing deputy auditor Carol Sherburne's hours from .8 FTE to full-time. “We're always short staffed,” auditor Char Meiners told the board.

John Dollar's job title was changed from automated systems manager/custodian to building maintenance foreman. Personnel director Tess Arrick-Kruger said that the new position and duties will entail a raise in wages, since Dollar's banding will go from B-23 to C-41.

The board approved allowing a professional services agreement that will permit Kari Klug to help out at Public Health as a certified lactation consultant.

Another vote extended a phased retirement for Public Health nurse Mary Thompson for a third year at .5 FTE.

Arrick-Kruger also reported that health benefit costs for county employees will stay the same next year. The “0 percent increase” came about in spite of a 6.25 percent statewide increase in health care costs that had to be factored in, she added.

“By the way, that (0%) was city/county wide, of all city/counties in the Southeast Cooperative Pool,” Arrick-Kruger stated.

CUP vote

Commissioners approved a conditional use permit that will allow Jim and Tom Welscher to perform “substantial land alteration and mineral extraction” in Section 30 of Caledonia Township. That CUP requires an annual review.

Closed session

The board went into closed session with land use attorney Jay Squires to discuss “pending litigation.”

When the meeting resumed, commissioners approved an agreement between the county, landowner Lucille Omodt-Crow, and contractor JB Holland Construction. Under the terms of the document, JB Holland will pay Omodt-Crow $19,999 to settle a dispute over the use of a borrow pit on her land.

Houston County approved a CUP for a bridge replacement project on Perkins Valley Drive in November of 2012. Omodt-Crow subsequently charged that the county did not follow proper procedures in regards to that permit, and had a further dispute with the contractor.

Houston County was held blameless in the settlement, and will pay neither party. The document further states that each litigant will pay its own legal fees.

Other news

Commissioners were told that MCIT will pay the county a dividend of $101,228 for 2014. The board has discussed utilizing those funds to help pay for a new highway department headquarters building.

County engineer Brian Pogodzinski asked the board to approve $5,327 in additional bills from airport consulting firm Mead & Hunt, which they did. The “project closeout” coordination and documentation cited in the billing relates to last year's runway and apron rehabilitation work at the Houston County Airport.