On July 9, county commissioners approved two part-time (.5 FTE) hires for the post of jailer/dispatcher, effective July 14. Both Michael Rasmussen and Kelsey Connor were already qualified in the position, having served as 67-day roster employees, personnel director Tess Kruger said.

Additional 67-day (call list) employees will be sought, and an outside search for a third .5 FTE jailer/dispatcher is drawing to a close, she reported.

Grant may help area vets

Veteran's Service Officer Rob Gross (VSO) told the board that an Emergency Storm Relief Grant for local vets is now available through his office, provided by the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

The board did not need to approve the measure. Gross said that recent storms, which caused "uninsured or unmet needs" to veterans will qualify for the program, which will cover up to $500 worth of food losses (such as from a flooded basement freezer) or $1,000 in other damages.

"Many people we know had damages," he told commissioners. Both wind and flooding damages are covered with a sign-up date between now and Sept. 30.

"It's not a windfall, but it will certainly help some folks," Gross concluded.

CSAH 8 bid accepted

Engineering Supervisor Gary Bolstad presented two bids for a sizable highway-grading project on CSAH 8.

Commissioners approved the lowest offer from JB Holland Construction of Decorah, Iowa. Bolstad said the work is a federal project, and the engineer's estimate was $2,440,566. Holland's bid was $2,356,756.

Public still weighing in on CUP

Public comments highlight both sides of the recent conditional use permit (CUP) decision for the Bonanza Grain sand mine near Caledonia. During the public comment period at the board meeting, these comments were heard:

Donna Buckbee of Yucatan Township objected to the board's July 2 granting of a six-month CUP.

Buckbee said that Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan's presentation of CUP issues to the board sounded very different from the information he gave to the Planning Commission at the first public hearing on an expanded footprint for the facility.

"When I looked at the YouTube (recording) of the meeting, I see Bob Scanlan telling you that there had been no violation, when there had been a violation. He talked about due process for the mine, but what about due process for the Schroeders?

"What about due process for the citizens of this county when there's a mine next to them? I guess the mining company can do any kind of damage and encroachment and violation, and you will just renew these permits."

On the other side of the issue, Houston Township resident Eric Johnson thanked commissioners for "coming to a fair, common-sense decision on the Kruckow mine."

"They've been in business since 1950," Johnson said. "Their mistake on going past what they were permitted for was an honest mistake. It wasn't close to any 1,000-ft. mark (setback) whatsoever, so I feel that the Planning Commission did their job and came up with a solution, and I feel that you guys did your job."

On July 2, the board voted 3-2 to permit one more blast at the facility with several conditions. After the explosion, the CUP will automatically come up for review with the understanding that seismographic data and inspections of nearby homes will be looked at to make sure no damages to neighbors have occurred.

Other news from the board

The board approved a lengthy series of budget amendments for the Human Services, Public Health, Information Technology and Highway departments.

Finance director Carol Lapham explained that the documentation doesn't change budgeted spending, but "are just to make the budget accurate."

An example would be updated reporting of various funding streams for mandated Human Services programs.

Lapham reported that the county will be limited to a 3 percent ($301,167) increase in the tax levy next year. However, items such as increases for bond payments and economic development that are considered special levies and do not fall under the limitation, she added.

The board also reviewed current 2013 spending and revenues with Lapham and county treasurer Donna Trehus.

"It's really not bad. Unexpected expenses really haven't occurred this year," Lapham added after 20 minutes of fund-balance and line-item reporting.

A request from Caledonia area resident Dean Foltz asking the county to vacate an abandoned road off Highway 44/76 was tabled for study.

Commissioner Steve Schuldt said he had been looking into the matter, and "I'm not finding much of a record for that little stretch of road. We need to talk to the State of Minnesota on this."

Under the consent agenda, commissioners acknowledged emails from three residents requesting term limits for members of the Planning Commission.