At the March 27 Houston County commissioners' meeting, Environmental Services director Rick Frank presented a list of people who have agreed to serve on the Frac (Silica) Sand Study Committee.

They include: county commissioners Justin Zmyewski and Jack Miller; township officers Arlyn Pohlman of Caledonia and Dick Gulbranson of Spring Grove; Planning Commission members Glen Kruse and Bruce Lee; county employees Pogodzinski, Frank and zoning administrator Bob Scanlan; and public representatives Rich Schild, Kelley Stanage, Steve Beach and Eric Johnson. Member alternates were listed as Allen Schulze, Tom Lisota and Ron Garrison.

"I haven't set a meeting schedule yet, but we'll probably include some daytime meetings," Frank said. "What I tried to do was bring a cross-section in. I tried to avoid stacking the committee."

Commissioner Teresa Walter was not present, but the rest of the board with the exception of Zmyewski voted to accept the panel.

After the meeting, Frank said the "nay" vote stemmed from the failure to adopt his proposal last week to set up a two-tier study committee, with a small working group and a larger panel including all township officers.

The "executive committee" would have met to study issues more frequently, while the larger group would have come together less often for updates from that panel.

"This is a fact-finding committee," Chairman Jack Miller said, "not a voting committee. We're going to have a wealth of stuff to look at. At some point you've got to lean on the facts."

Closed session for strategy

The board went into closed session for a conference call with its land right's attorney, Jay Squires, who is representing Houston County in federal court in a land-use (zoning) lawsuit.

After the session, Miller reported that Squires recently made a motion for dismissal of the suit, and that the judge would likely come back with a ruling within 60 to 90 days, although there is no set time limit for a verdict on the motion, Frank added.

Section 8 vouchers frozen

In other legal matters, the board noted the receipt of a resolution passed by the board of SEMMCHRA (Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority), which on March 21 placed a freeze on any new Section 8 vouchers for Houston and Fillmore counties.

The document states that since Fillmore County and Houston County did not approve "the request to cover... Section 8 administrative shortfalls," no new vouchers will be accepted.

Houston County was asked to pay an additional $6,415, while Fillmore was billed $1,910.

In addition, the resolution demands that Houston and Fillmore counties "become a part of the SEMMCHRA organization."

"It's definitely a power play," Miller said. "Joe Wheeler (SEMMCHRA executive director) has frozen our vouchers until we pay the money that we supposedly owe them... It's not going to affect our vouchers immediately, but if somebody dropped out of the program, we wouldn't get that one back."

Currently, the five counties that utilize SEMMCHRA are looking into legal issues involved with changing administrators for Section 8.

"There is a need," Commissioner Tom Bjerke said. "We should get this resolved. If we lose one and somebody else needs help, we can't get that back."

Other news from the board

County EDA coordinator Jordan Wilms brought a proposal from the AVS Group, La Crosse, Wis., for layout and design of a Houston County Visitor's Guide. The amount was $2,750. Commissioners approved the expenditure, which Wilms said was included in his budget.

County engineer Brian Pogodzinski reported that MnDOT lifted its spring road bans on March 27.

With the exception of gravel portions of CSAH 22 and 5, all county road bans will likely be lifted on April 3, he added. The last bans will probably go out a week later, Pogodzinski said.