Houston County Commissioners voted Aug. 20 to accept the lower of two offers to appraise the Roverud Construction building in Spring Grove. The structure is under consideration as a possible new headquarters for the county's highway department.

Commissioner Steve Schuldt said that low-bidder Bi-State Realty & Appraisals of West Salem, Wis., offered to do the work for $3,000. The vote to accept was unanimous.

Another motion reaffirmed utilizing the county attorney's office to pursue estate collections and accept assets for debts owed to Human Services. Assistant County Attorney Sue Bublitz requested the motion from the county board. Thus directed, her office will continue filing for small claims as well as larger amounts, mostly relating to Human Services fees and State of Minnesota Medical Assistance claims.

"Right now we don't have any big estates," Bublitz said, "but we did settle a couple estates that were six-figure digits, and our collection fee was 25 percent... Our small claims efforts for collections have kind of blossomed more recently."

The board also voted to accept an agreement that will funnel $112,667 in state bridge bonds toward rebuilding a structure that spans Dry Run on County State Aid Highway 8. County engineer Brian Pogodzinski brought the request. He reported that June flood damage to roadways is still being repaired, but the process is "moving along pretty good." There are currently no issues with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) repair projects that are underway, although those require "a lot longer process," Pogodzinski stated.

Personnel/Facilities Director Tess Kruger asked commissioners to hire Human Services receptionist Maria Stemper as financial worker in the same department, effective Aug. 26. The vote to do so was unanimous.

Kruger asked that Stemper's job be filled with a case aide rather than an office support specialist. "The goal is greater efficiency," she explained, since a case aide can assist clients to a greater degree. The suggestion was approved on a second motion, which will allow the position to be advertised.

A third vote occurred when Kruger suggested that the county adopt Minnesota Department of Human Services Merit System Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EEO/AA) guidelines as Houston County's official Human Services Affirmative Action Plan. The motion to do so passed unanimously.

In other news, Houston County Auditor Char Meiners reported that last week's county auction was a success, raising "just over $21,000."

Commissioner Schuldt freely donated his time as auctioneer, and was aided by his wife, Meiners said. In addition, Sheriff Doug Ely, Chief Deputy Scott Yeiter, Treasurer Danna Trehus, Recorder Bev Bauer, and Meiners herself all helped out at the event, working for free.

Originally envisioned as a way to sell several vehicles belonging to the sheriffs' department, the auction expanded at the last minute when a slew of items combed from the building maintenance department were added, Meiners said.

Commissioners also voted to grant a $50 per month cell phone for network technician Jeremiah Shaver.

Director of Public Health Deb Rock appeared with Public Health nurse Mary Thompson, reporting on efforts to immunize both young and old in the area.

"Vaccinations save lives," Rock stated, "and offer the best-known protection against a number of devastating illnesses."

"I think we kind of think it's just for kids," Thompson began. "When I was in Tanzania last January where it is just for kids, and they mostly immunize only until about age 2, you see a lot of young women with cervical cancer, and people dying of tetanus."

"Ninety-eight percent of vaccine-preventable deaths occur as adults. We should all know our immunization status. There is a lot more room for improvement with adults and adolescents than there is for kids, although we're not about to ignore vaccinations for kids as well."

"I worked in a hospital for 30 years. I'm old enough that I have had the terrible misfortune to have to tell parents that their 4-year-old has died from measles, or meningitis."

Thompson urged taking "a scientific view" on vaccinations, noting that anti-vaccination sentiment exists, even in Houston County. On the other hand, she cited statistical evidence that Houston County vaccinations (non-influenza) cover over 95 percent of children from 24 to 35 months old. At the other end of the spectrum, Houston County adults aged 19 through 64 years who are believed to have their vaccinations number 95 percent as well. That places the county near the top for adult vaccination rates within the state. Only Olmsted County has a comparable (95 percent or higher) rate.