On March 20, Houston County Commissioners were reminded that state statute requires low bids to be accepted for purchases. The law also rules out favoring local auto dealerships over companies offering state bid prices, County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski said.

"I went back and re-read the statutes and talked to the county attorney," Pogodzinski told the board, "and the statute clearly states that we need to accept the low bid unless you determine up front that one vehicle (being offered) is worth more than the other...

"Also, the statute requires that the state bid be considered for any purchase over $25,000, so we can't just bid local dealerships without the state bid."

On March 6, commissioners asked Pogodzinski to offer local dealerships the chance to match state bid prices for vehicles, after Chuck Schulte of Caledonia objected to the practice of simply buying from state bid offers.

The purchase in question, a 2012 GMC Sierra with optional equipment for $26,527 plus tax (state bid price), is already in the budget.

Pogodzinski said Ellingson Motors of Caledonia offered a similar Chevrolet pickup to the county, but could only get to within $223 of the state bid price. State bid autos and pickups come from Nelson Auto Center, Fergus Falls.

"At least we did the research and looked at both of them," Commissioner Teresa Walter said before making a motion to approve the state bid offer.

"We would like to go local," Chairman Jack Miller said, "but we are under the guidelines of the state statute."

"At least they had the opportunity," Commissioner Steve Schuldt said before seconding the motion. The vote to accept was unanimous.

Airport does require contract

Pogodzinski reported that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials told him that Houston County will be required to sign an up-front contract for any consulting work at the Houston County Airport.

"Any projects or day-to-day operations that require consultants for assistance must be done by having an agreement in place," Pogodzinski said. "This does not mean we need to lock the county into one firm for large projects, and we can get out of it."

The board was told last week that only two consulting firms applied when Houston County jumped through another federal hoop, a required search selection process for a new consultant every five years.

The current consultant, Mead & Hunt, was one of the applicants. The Houston County Airport Commission recommended staying with them.

The issue was tabled until next week's commissioners' meeting. Future plans for the airport will be discussed at a public hearing at the Justice Center on March 26.

CSAH 5 agreement signed

Commissioners approved a cooperative agreement with the city of Caledonia to re-construct CSAH 5 from County 249 to the Caledonia city limits.

Pogodzinski said that the Caledonia City Council already approved the pact. Roadwork will take place in 2013, he stated.

Water plan extension requested

Ron Meiners of the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District asked the board to request more time to complete a mandatory five-year update of the Houston County Comprehensive Local Water Management Plan.

"It spells out the goals and plans that they (the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources - BWSR) want to be adopted," Meiners said. "Right now we have four staff members trying to fill five positions."

Commissioners adopted a resolution requesting a two-year extension from BWSR.

Golf carts on highways?

Robin Danielson of Money Creek asked the board to have county law enforcement officers stop golf carts from operating on CSAH 26, calling the current situation "a safety issue."

It was Danielson's second visit to the board on the issue. She originally appeared last September.

Danielson said that township officials have refused to address the problem, and that a local campground is the source of the vehicles.

"They should be restricted to the campground," Schuldt said.

"I believe Money Creek Township voted to refer the issue to the county," Commissioner Justin Zmyewski stated.

Commissioner Tom Bjerke said that some communities have local ordinances allowing golf carts to legally operate on roadways, but "We cannot force (Money Creek) township to pass an ordinance to allow it."

Danielson also asked that golf carts be excluded from Money Creek residential streets.

"It's an enforcement issue," Walter said.

Miller agreed. "We will begin with the sheriff and see where it goes," he stated.

Other news from board

Commissioners accepted the resignation of Social Worker Andrew Melde and approved a search for a full-time replacement.

They also approved the hiring of Cassandra Buehler as an on-call (67-day temp) jailor/ dispatcher.

Kruger told commissioners that after county staff made a deep search through old records, blueprints from the work done at the Historical Courthouse elevator in the 1970s were found, and the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry has approved the "safety jack" that was originally installed.

According to a document from State Elevator Inspector Gary Reeves, the county is now in compliance with all elevator codes.

Kruger said that a new safety jack could have cost taxpayers from $30,000 to $40,000.