On July 16, Houston County commissioners made an additional application for funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection program, naming Ron Meiners of the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District (RRSWCD) as the person authorized to sign program documents on their behalf.

Meiners said that the NRCS required an authorized point person to take care of the program paperwork, which made the second resolution necessary.

So far, only one Houston County project is in the pipeline for aid. Meiners said that a homeowner in Brownsville is seeking help to stabilize an embankment near his home.

Estimates for the earthmoving job currently range all the way from $54,000 to $80,000 with EWP funds taking care of 75 percent of the total. The program will not pay for any actual work on the house foundation, so concrete repairs would have to be done first.

Commissioners voted to decline to pay for the 25 percent local match, but will allow the county to act as a pass through entity to help the homeowner get assistance from the NRCS. The property owner would need to pay the local match himself, which Meiners said he is willing to do.

Custodian hired and grant filed

Commissioners voted to hire John Dollar as automated systems manager/custodian at the Justice Center with a start date of Aug. 1. Human Resources Director Tess Kruger brought the recommendation. She reported that 15 candidates had applied for the job.

Kruger also reported that paperwork for a $10,000 Legacy Grant was filed last week. The no-match state grant would be used to pay for a "historic structures report" on the Historic Courthouse building.

That documentation needs to be done in preparation for an upcoming capital bonding request for repairs to the building, she stated.

Kruger said that state legislators Sen. Jeremy Miller and Rep. Gregory Davids have been invited to tour the historic building next week, in advance of a visit from the capital bonding committee.

No date for the latter tour has been set, she added, but it may occur in August. A presentation on the project is under development, which will also be provided to the City of Caledonia.

Airport grant affirmed

The board voted to approve the terms and conditions of the annual Federal Aviation Administration airport improvement grant, which the Houston County Airport receives from that entity.

Waiver contract signed

The board voted to approve a contract for Clara House (formerly known as Claddagh House) Customized Living facility in La Crescent to provide services for residents through home and community-based wavier services.

Public Health/Nursing Director Deb Rock brought the agreement to the meeting. She stated that next year, the State of Minnesota will begin signing contracts for program services, so commissioners will no longer need to review those documents.

Land sale approved

Commissioners approved a land sale in Jefferson Township that will eventually add approximately 76 acres to state forest property.

Chad Bloom of Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever said the parcel lies along Winnebago Creek. The conservation groups will buy the land and transfer it to state ownership, he explained.

"From our perspective, this is truly a natural resource treasure," Bloom stated.

"This project will be one of the longest contiguous preservations of good trout habitat in Minnesota."

Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever doesn't typically focus on trout streams, but "we like to find projects that we can acquire that are multi-benefit," he noted.

"Things that work for erosion control, clean water, which work for public access, and work to enhance and protect our landscape for multiple species."

Landowner Paul Whalen appeared with Bloom. He said that the parcel was originally part of a 215-acre family farm.

"My dad was heavily involved with the preservation of wildlife," Whalen added, noting his involvement with early efforts to re-establish wild turkeys in various areas.

Val Green of MnDNR Forestry said that PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) will pay $22.50 per acre, which will result in more money for the county, but less for the township.

That's due to the PILT pass-through formula, which townships may want to address with legislators, she noted. In 2013, the land generated $13 per acre in property taxes, Green stated.