On June 11, Houston County engineer Brian Pogodzinski told commissioners that his department will opt for a different kind of sealcoating this year on county roadways.

"This work is primarily up in the La Crescent area," Pogodzinski began. "In the past, the county has always done a straight sealcoat where you put down oil and put aggregate over it. Being that it's in a more populated area, we're going to do a fog seal where you put down oil, aggregate and oil on top of that.

"It's similar to what the state did last year on Highway 16, and it does a couple things. One is that the oil on top adds waterproofing to the top of the pavement. It increases the life of the pavement a little better.

"It also makes the pavement black. Most residents like a black surface. It shows up striping better and snow melts off better.

"The third benefit is it makes the road a little less rough. This is in an area where there are skateboarders and rollerbladers."

Pogodzinski presented two bids for the jobs, both of which were over the $399,169 engineer's estimate for covering scheduled roads in the northeastern portion of the county. Low bidder Fahrner Asphalt Sealers offered to do the work for $423,521.

"Our budgeted amount was $400,000," Pogodzinski stated. "I will be sitting down with them (Fahrner) to try to get that cost down, but I'd like the board to approve the full amount. With sealcoating, it's about $20,000 per mile.

"Our estimated state aid came in $56,000 higher than we'd budgeted, so if we can't get that cost down, I'd like to utilize some of that state aid money."

The board approved the low bid and the proposal to use CSAH funds if necessary.

Commissioners also approved a right-of-way plat for a CSAH 5 project within Caledonia. The roadwork will take place from near the intersection with County 249 to the Caledonia city limits.

County waits on frac sand

Chairman Justin Zmyewski reported that the county's new mining ordinances are currently "in kind of a standstill (mode)" while land-use attorney Jay Squires has the documents under review.

"Jay's looking at some of the stuff that the state is doing," he added, "Looking at some of the state departments. The EQB (Environmental Quality Board) is doing some things (that could affect the ordinances)."

SEMMCHRA financials

Commissioner Steve Schuldt reported that he had just received a packet of financial statements from SEMMCHRA (Southeast Minnesota Multicounty Housing and Redevelopment Authority).

The documents cover two years and were released approximately three months after requests for the information were made, Schuldt said.

On March 21, 2012, the SEMMCHRA board of directors placed a freeze on any new Section 8 vouchers for Houston and Fillmore counties, after those governmental bodies did not approve funding requests to "cover administrative shortfalls" for vouchers, which SEMMCHRA controls.

Both counties have also declined demands to join the organization as a member.

Jail staffing studied

Personnel director Tess Kruger said that she, other county employees and union representatives are conducting a review of staffing practices at the Justice Center.

One of the county's concerns is how the Affordable Care Act may affect the status of employees where health care benefits are concerned.

Kruger said that employees with at least 30 hours per week will be eligible for certain benefits. "We're taking a broader look than we initially planned," she told the board.

Although the department does not have a shortage of staff at present, questions on how full-time, half-time and 67-day employees are utilized to cover regular shifts, vacations and additional hours such as sick leave will be looked into, Kruger said.

"We don't want to over-staff, but we certainly don't want to under staff," she stated.

Commissioners review finances

The board reviewed county finances, going over a multitude of line items with finance director Carol Lapham, Highway Department accountant Sheila Schroeder and fiscal officer Heidi Hankins, who addressed the Human Services budget.

Lapham explained how cash flow (including tax receipts) affects county fund balances while Schroeder noted how her department has to hold substantial fund balances for upcoming roadwork.

Hankins went into the sometimes complex series of program reimbursements that Human Services budgets need to plan for.

Historic Jail plan approved

The board approved a preservation plan for the Historic Houston County Jail under their consent agenda.

No decision on whether to demolish or save the building was made, but the plan recommends completing an Historic Structures Report (estimated cost $20,000-$25,000) and an Adaptive Reuse Study ($30,000-$45,000).

Possible grant funding for those steps is outlined in the report. The plan also mentions some of the measures that would be expected, if the county demolishes the building, including a mitigation plan and architectural recordation, consisting of measured drawings, high-resolution photography and written data.