Houston County will host a group of state legislators again this summer/fall, and they're hoping for a more promising result than the last time they invited them for a visit.

On June 18, county commissioners voted to hire Spring Grove firm Pathfinder CRM to "prepare preservation services planning documents" on the county's Historic Courthouse building.

The goal is to apply for 2014 Minnesota State Bonding monies to pay approximately half of the estimated $1 million needed to make repairs to the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Personnel/Facilities Director Tess Kruger asked the board to approve up to $4,000 for Pathfinder to complete the documents, as well as help the county's EDA to seek a $7,000 MN Legacy grant to cover courthouse planning costs.

A larger Legacy grant, as well as the state bonding matching money will be sought for the actual repairs and restoration of the building.

Several repair projects were outlined for the structure. First, the county has already saved $300,000 towards replacement of an already-failing roof. Air conditioning units (also dating from the 1970s) are also cited as needing replacement, as well as a set of crumbling exterior steps on the east side of the building.

In addition, the replacement of security doors and some windows was discussed, as well as renovation of some interior flooring and steps, and the installation of security and fire system upgrades.

The last time legislators associated with the state bonding process (the capital investment committee) visited Houston County was on Sept. 2, 2009, when the county requested help to pay for the Justice Center and a new Public Works Facility. Neither of those applications was accepted. Kruger said a 50 percent local match would be necessary if state-bonding money becomes available.

The resolution came none too soon. The deadline for 2014 State Bonding applications are June 21.

Board votes to hire more jailers

Kruger also asked the board to approve the hiring of three .5 FTE jailers, which was approved.

She explained that the move would actually save the county money in the long run, since one opening from last fall was not filled, resulting in additional hours for part-time help.

When upcoming benefits associated with the Affordable Care Act are added to the equation, it's best to keep part-time employees at less than the 30-hour threshold, she said.

Another of the three positions is to replace .5 FTE Jailer Jessica Siminski who is resigning as of June 26. Kruger said that two of the openings might be filled from existing 67-day employees who are already trained and qualified.

Commissioners then voted to have Kruger initiate a competitive internal search for a Home Health Care Coordinator in the Human Services Department. That's part of a realignment, which will result in a .2 FTE reduction through attrition, she said.

The board also approved moving social worker Erin Cognac from probationary to regular status effective July 2.

Public Health/Nursing Director Deb Rock reported on a $3,000 state grant that her department is currently using to look into "cross jurisdictional sharing."

Houston and Fillmore counties already utilize a joint Board of Health and "working together makes the process easier," she stated.

EDA loan approved

Houston County EDA Coordinator Rick Howden brought a revolving loan application for Alpine Nursery of Houston, which was approved.

The $30,000 loan will be for seven years at 2 percent interest, paying half the cost of a project that includes the construction of a new 36 ft. by 88 ft. building to store equipment and merchandise.

Alpine is expected to retain two full-time positions. Commissioner Steve Schuldt asked if the loan was secured, and Howden said it was not.