On Nov. 5, commissioners were updated on last week's fatal plane crash at the Houston County Airport.

"It's kind of a wait-and-see situation," County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski said. "At this point the sheriffs' office is working with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) to investigate the accident."

"I'm not aware that this has anything to do with county property, equipment, or our fuel station... I'm hearing that it will be a few more days before preliminary findings are out. It's more my concern that if there's something (to address) on our end, that we make the adjustments or changes right away.

The facility was only shut down "for a short period of time" following Friday's incident, Pogodzinski reported.

Fair Board seeks assistance

Eldon Pohlman, president of Houston County Ag Society, told commissioners that his group (aka: the Houston County Fair Board) would like to replace adjoining hog and sheep buildings with a single structure.

"Those barns were built in the 1920s," Pohlman said. "They are in bad shape." The new structure would cover approximately 80x171 ft. and the project will probably cost approximately $225,000, factoring in demolition of the old buildings and hauling off debris.

"We cannot borrow money for this because we don't own the land that it would sit on," he told the board. The property belongs to Houston County.

Commissioners asked Pohlman to check with County Attorney Jamie Hammell on the Fair Board's tax-exempt status as a first step toward launching the project. After that, the society can make plans for fundraising, take more bids from contractors, and figure out options to finance the building. The board did not offer any specific financial support at this stage of the project, but asked Pohlman to come back at a later date to discuss the matter. No construction would take place before spring.

Block grant approved

Commissioners approved a Natural Resources Block Grant totaling $89,185 from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. The monies will help to pay for feedlot, septic system, local water management, wetland conservation, and shore land conservation programs.

Contracts approved

Commissioners approved two contracts. The first was a two-year extension of the county's medical examiner/autopsy services agreement with Mayo Clinic, which expires Dec. 31. Personnel/Facilities Director Tess Kruger reported that the agreement continues the current per capita charge to Houston County of $2.75 through 2014, and then raises it to $2.83 for 2015. Cremation permits will increase from $30 to $35 beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

The second contract will allow Houston County Social Services Supervisor Timothy Hunter to provide child protection and children's mental health program management and supervision to Wabasha County. The assistance will be temporary, Kruger said. Houston and Wabasha counties frequently share professional and technical services as a cost-saving measure.

Personnel votes

The board voted to hire Kirby Fitzpatrick as Human Services Case Aid, effective Nov. 18. The measure is contingent on successful completion of a background check. Fitzpatrick will take over at the front desk, Kruger said.

Other votes changed the employment status of Jason Quandahl from full-time jailer/dispatcher to probationary lead jailer/dispatcher. Matthew Mackie will move up from part-time to full-time jailer/dispatcher.

First interim use permit approved

Commissioners approved the county's first-ever interim use permit. It was for the Frydenlund Family Trust of Black Hammer Township to utilize non-commercial family cabins in an agricultural district. For full details, see Spring Grove Herald issue 44 (Oct. 30). A yearly renewal for Van Lind Orchards of Hokah to provide temporary agricultural housing was also granted.

Across the board cuts?

Commissioners disagreed over budget cuts. Chairman Justin Zmyewski argued that the fairest way to balance spending and income is to require each department to cut by the same percentage compared to previous budgets, while Commissioner Teresa Walter argued for cuts on a case-by-case basis.

Finance Director Carol Lapham reported that if the county levies the maximum state-allowed increase on property tax rolls (3.52 percent), the current 2014 budget deficit is now less than 1percent of total expenditures for 2014, including bond payments. That's because insurance premiums have not increased as much as anticipated, and the county also gained due to a sales tax adjustment. The proposed budget was originally $178,000 over the maximum levy increase, but now stands at $73,185 higher than income (a .7 percent deficit).

More Flood Repairs

The board approved final payments on two flood repair projects recently completed by Generation X Construction of Rushford. The first, (along CSAH 32) totaled $6,689, while the second (County Road 249) came in at $16,884.

Other News

Zmyewski reported that the recent Environmental Quality Board meeting in Wabasha which several members attended included plenty of opposition to frac sand mining, along with others who favored "tight controls" on prospectors, but no input from the mining industry.

He also reported that Curt Roverud of Spring Grove will pay for a second appraisal on the Roverud Construction facility, after totals from the county's appraisal came in lower than anticipated. The property has been under consideration as a new headquarters for the county's highway department.

Commissioners joined their Fillmore County counterparts in a meeting of the Fillmore/Houston Joint Board of Health. The session was conducted via conference call. Fillmore County Director of Nursing Lantha Stevens was appointed as interim director of the joint board, since Deb Rock has resigned as public health/nursing director of Houston County.