Houston County commissioners considered a variety of grants on Nov. 12.

County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski brought a grant agreement from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to help pay for the recent re-paving of the Houston County Airport's runway and aprons.

Commissioners accepted the pact, which will pay a portion of the local match, which the Federal Aviation Administration requires. Costs wound up as 95.59% percent paid by the FAA ($447,988), 1.14 percent by MNDOT ($5,322), and 3.27 percent ($15,336) by the county.

A SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Program) grant from the Minnesota Department of Health changed the number of hours that two county employees will work.

Personnel Director Tess Kruger appeared with Interim Director of Public Health Mary Thompson, asking for additional hours for Public Health Nurse Mary Zaffke and Health Educator Heather Myhre.

The request was granted. Both will go from .8 to 1.0 FTE, effective Nov. 13, 2013, through Dec. 31, 2015.

Thompson said that SHIP requires a .5 FTE staff commitment by Houston County. "Both of their positions are pretty much covered by grants that we get from the state," she added. "The SHIP grant began Nov. 1, which represents an extra $50,000 until next June, and then there's additional (funding)."

Myhre will be devoting more time to the SHIP initiative, while Zaffke will take a few of her duties in addition to spending more hours on the maternal childcare program, which captures funds in the form of reimbursements paid to the department. "There is just a lot more money that can be had for these home visits," Thompson stated. "We may want to hire another part-time maternal childcare nurse down the line. Families do better when they have these home visits."

Road projects completed

The board voted to make final payments on four completed road projects, closing out the contracts.

Brennan Construction replaced a bridge on CSAH 22, which was damaged by floodwaters several years ago. The work cost $214,096.

Minnowa Construction replaced two flood-damaged bridges on Day Valley Drive. The cost was $435,868. Another contract awarded to the same company replaced a bridge on Swede Bottom Road (a scheduled upgrade - not flood-related) for $442,898.

The first three bridges received state bonding monies, while the fourth was a federal project.

A reconstruction/grading job from two years ago was finally closed after a question on labor compliance by a subcontractor was cleared up. Pogodzinski said the CSAH 5 project cost $2,018,461. The work was awarded to Griffin Construction of Chatfield and approximately 80 percent of the cost was covered by federal funds, he told the board.

Other news

Commissioners reappointed Robert Mierau to the Crooked Creek Watershed Board. His new term will expire Nov. 30, 2016.

Several members said they will travel to Winona on Dec. 3 to attend Houston County's presentation to the Minnesota Senate Bonding Committee. The county is seeking state general obligation bonds to pay 50 percent of a $1 million renovation of the historic courthouse. That building no longer provides court services, but is still used by numerous departments. The Minnesota House Bonding Committee has already seen the presentation.

Chairman Justin Zmyewski reported that attorney Jay Squires, who represents the county on land use issues, will appear on Nov. 26. He will update commissioners on recent frac sand mining developments. Topics may include suggested rules, the Environmental Impact Statement which the Environmental Quality Board is conducting for a series of southeastern Minnesota mines, the county's moratorium on new frac sand mines, and a request by landowner Tracie Erickson, who has applied to excavate sand for construction purposes from land he had agreed to allow Minnesota Sands LLC to turn into a frac sand mine.