For Houston County commissioners, Jan. 29 was a day for making plans.

The board decided in February by consensus to schedule workshops on strategic planning, goals and board policies for themselves, although dates and times were not set in stone.

Another topic that needs to be addressed as soon as possible is how to give some "direction" to the county's Human Services Department, commissioners noted.

A tentative date of Feb. 5 at 3 p.m. was set for a special meeting on that topic.

Commissioners noted that there will be a meeting in Winona on Wednesday, Feb. 6, to discuss the regional human services redesign with neighboring counties.

County staff and management will be represented at that session. The redesign gathering is a follow-up to earlier hearings on the possibility of cooperating with and even sharing staff on a regional basis in order to save money.

Frac sand meeting announced

Frac sand meetings will soon abound. Members agreed to tentatively schedule a joint meeting with the Planning Commission and the Houston County Frac Sand Research Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 12, from 4 to 7 p.m.

The topic will be the county's new mining ordinance, which Environmental Services director Rick Frank said is nearing completion. The county's land-use attorney is already reviewing provisions in the document and is expected to attend.

Frank explained that the purpose of the gathering will be to look over the evolving sample ordinance, but the meeting will not be a public hearing. Although open to the public, no time will be set aside for public input.

In order for the ordinance to become law, a public hearing will need to be held at a later date, he noted.

A regional meeting on frac sand mining was scheduled for Feb. 1 in Winona, Frank reported. Both Wisconsin and Minnesota counties would be in attendance, along with city and state officials. Several commissioners said that they would attend.

State asked to pay up

Commissioners voted to endorse a resolution calling on state legislators to "appropriate sufficient funds to reimburse the 55 participating (Minnesota) counties for the full 50 percent of the cost of their probation officer salaries."

The document states that Minnesota Statute 244.19 dictates that the state will share half of the cost of salaries for the state employees, but in 2012 the State of Minnesota only paid 31 percent of the cost.

According to the document, funding has steadily decreased from 50 percent in 1996 to the new low in 2012, forcing the 55 counties to absorb $2,963,000 in extra costs in 2012.

Houston County has two probation officers under contract with the Department of Corrections, supervising both juvenile and adult offenders.

The county had to pay $19,426 above its half of the associated cost for FY 2011 (payable 2012), according to documents attached to the resolution.