Houston County commissioners heard Mark Casey, loss control consultant from the Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust (MCIT), give a yearly report on the organization April 3.

Casey said that the county is hardly alone in utilizing MCIT for property, casualty and worker's comp insurance, since 81 of Minnesota's 87 counties now belong to the joint powers entity. Houston County joined in 1980.

Overall, property/casualty rates were down 11% for 2012, while workers' comp was down 8%, Casey said.

Due to claims history, Houston County was charged over $40,000 more for workers' comp in 2012 than in 2011, going from $21,365 below the base rate of $147,983 to $25,749 above ($173,732).

Casey offered a long list of suggestions on how to control costs, as well as free seminars and workshops that member counties can attend. The county received a $213,192 dividend for 2011, he added.

Personnel hiring allowed

In other news, commissioners approved the hiring of Jacquelyn Hauser as case aide in the Human Services Department, contingent upon completion of a required background check.

Three probationary employees were granted regular status. They include Office Support Specialist Maria Stemper, Financial Worker Carrie Allen and Automated Systems Manager/Custodian Fred Lee.

Historical donations approved

The board approved donating several items from the old courtroom to the Houston County Historic Society.

The items were given to the county in 1963 and were used at that time, having come from the U.S. District Court in Winona.

The items include a judge's bench, judge's chair, counsel table and several leather-bound casebooks, which have been copied for the new courtroom.

Boat patrol grant received

Chief Deputy Scott Yeiter reported that a federal boat patrol grant of $5,000 had arrived for approval.

Commissioners signed the agreement, which will be used to pay for boat patrol wages.

Zoning matters reviewed

The board approved a one-lot subdivision rezoning application from Josh Ross of Union Township to convert the former Jehovah's Witness Hall just west of Hokah into a dwelling.

Ten already-issued zoning permits were approved. They included one home with garage to replace buildings destroyed by fire, two grain bins, two sheds, two pole buildings and one lean-to, and a shop and garage.

Gravel bids opened

Maintenance rock bids for the county's Highway Department were also approved.

The low bid for applying rock to six gravel roads came from Bruening Rock Products at $107,415 ($6.14 per ton).

All bid offers for stockpiled gravel were accepted. That gives the county the flexibility to go to the nearest site to pick up gravel, County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski said.

Those bids came in not only from Bruening Rock Products, but Milestone Materials, Botcher and Van Gundy.

Botcher Park upgrades?

Commissioner Teresa Walter reported that good things may be happening at (county owned) Botcher Park.

"There are grants that could possibly be used to put trails in, and we're also looking up plans for a parking lot," she said. "It won't happen overnight, but possibly within a year."