Houston County commissioners elected second district representative Justin Zmyewski chairman of the board on Jan. 8. District four commissioner Teresa Walter was named vice chair.

Newly installed commissioners Judy Storlie (District 1) and Dana Kjome (District 5) took on a variety of committee assignments.

Kjome will join Zmyewski on the Land Use Standing Committee. He will also serve on the Transportation Committee for AMC District IX, as an AMC Delegate Assembly, the Bear Creek Watershed committee, the county's Economic Development Authority (EDA), the Joint Board of Health (Houston and Fillmore counties), the Extension Committee, the Southeast Minnesota Water Resources Board (a joint powers board for water planning), the Criminal Justice Center Committee, the 7 Rivers committee, and the county's Water Planning Committee. He also is listed as an alternate for the Planning Commission.

Storlie will serve on the Law Standing Committee, the Human Services Committee for AMC District IX, as an AMC Delegate Assembly, the Joint Board of Health, the Houston County EDA, the Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center Committee, the Personnel/Negotiating Committee, the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) Committee, the Southeast Minnesota Radio Board (as an alternate), 7 Rivers, and the Wildcat Park Advisory Committee.

Other standing committee assignments include Commissioners Steve Schuldt and Teresa Walter on Human Services, Zmyewski on Land Use, Walter on the Law Committee, Schuldt and Zmyewski on Public Works, and Schuldt and Zmyewski again on the Insurance Committee.

Another key assignment was the Board of Adjustment, where commissioners confirmed the re-appointment of Garland Moe for a three-year term.

Schuldt will take over Jack Miller's position on the Frac Sand Research Committee.

Planning vacancies tabled

The Planning Commission has two vacancies with the expiration of terms for Glenn Kruse and Terry Rosendahl, both of whom have volunteered to continue. The board discussed options before tabling the appointments.

"Due to the fact that we've got some pretty interesting things coming down the line that are historic events such as frac sand, should we have two commissioners on that board instead of just one?" Zmyewski (who serves on Planning) asked the board.

"Just so we have a little better representation and understand what's going on?"

Kjome said he would be willing to serve on the Planning Commission if asked.

"My suggestion would be to eliminate Terry Rosendahl and put Dana in his position," Zmyewski said. "To be blunt, I have issues with two people on that board that I don't think are serving the best interests of the community."

"You serve on that commission, so you know what's going on," Storlie said. "They have to be able to work together as a team."

Zmyewski said that both Rosendahl and Charlie Wieser have been "insubordinate" and "unprofessional" and are "not looking out for the best interests of the citizens" of Houston County.

"We should have people who are looking at things based on fact rather than based on opinions," Zmyewski said.

"And when there's a conflict, not bad-mouthing those they don't agree with. When I look at all of the things that have been going on, there's some big issues coming up, and not just frac sand."

Those issues include lawsuits involving feedlots, an aggregate mine, which is in conflict with a neighbor, and a wide range of possible regulations in regard to new frac sand mines, Zmyewski stated.

By having two commissioners at every meeting, the board would not have to rely on just one member's report.

Storlie asked if the Planning Commission is supposed to have a set number of representatives from each part of the county?

When members decided that they should find out more on that as well as if two members of the county board can sit on the panel, the appointments were tabled.

Committees discontinued

Three committees were discontinued. They included the Committee for Combining Soil & Water with Environmental Services, the Countywide Policing Committee and the Lawrence Lake Marina No Wake Zone Committee.

Per diems amended

On the advice of the county auditor, the board tightened the language on per diem payments they will be able to receive.

Under the policy statement, the sentence "Per diems will also be paid for meetings and events which pertain to and are directly related to county business." was removed.

Tuesday board meetings and in-county meetings on Tuesdays, when the board meets, are ineligible for payments.

A paragraph, which re-stated rates was also struck from the document.

Commissioners will be paid the same rates as last year: $40 per day for in-county meetings, $65 per day for out-of-county meetings and $100 per day for Planning Commission meetings.

Personnel matters discussed

The board voted to hire Wylie Steele as a 67-day Seasonal Maintenance Specialist effective Jan. 8. County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski said that Steele is qualified for snow plowing.

Another unanimous vote conferred regular employment status to two probationary social workers. Wendi Ruesgen and Heather Fee have both performed their duties very well, Human Services Supervisor Karen Sanness reported.

Also approved was a $50 per month mobile computing device (smart phone) stipend for Human Resources Director Tess Kruger.