The Houston County Board of Commissioners voted on several personnel matters at their meeting on May 21.

The first motion was to approve the hiring of up to six 67-day employees as a "bank of employees" to supervise court-ordered supervised parental visits. That passed by unanimous vote. The employees will be compensated at $11.23 per hour.

Also approved was a request from the Personnel Department to compensate interim home care coordinator Marcia Bauer at an initial placement of step 5 on the county's salary and wage grid with an annual salary of $63,918.

The adjustment was proposed as a way to reflect a change in employment status, finance director Carol Lapham reported.

Three seasonal boat patrol deputies were rehired. They include Bob Schuldt, Rod Humble and Mike Ernster. The cost of the program is borne by a state and a federal grant, Lapham said. The hourly rate for those duties is $23.32.

In other news, the board appointed Commissioner Teresa Walter to the Wildcat Park Advisory Committee.

Commissioner Justin Zmyewski will vacate his place on that panel, and take a place on the group that oversees Botcher Park.

Public Health talks cost savings

Public Health director Deb Rock introduced public health nurse Jan Lochner, registered nurse Marcia Bauer, and home health aide Eileen Meyer, who explained two program areas that they are involved in. The first is "long-term care consultation services," while the second is "home care services."

Both programs provide vital assistance to those with health issues who wish to remain in their homes, the employees reported. That's important for several reasons, including financial impacts on families.

Lochner said that the average cost of a nursing facility in Minnesota is now $5,900 per month. Bauer said that in-home care, including skilled nursing services, can be important for preventing future hospitalizations.

Citing home health aides, she said, "They're the eyes and ears for our nurses."

Meyer stated that she will make 23 visits this week. She related examples of the type of help that she provides, stating, "Our goal is to keep people healthy and safe and keep them in their homes."

"We are all really fortunate to have committed, caring, competent and compassionate people like this," Rock concluded.

Frac sand discussions continue

Elizabeth Reedy of Money Creek, Michael Fields of Winnebago Township, Rich Schild of Money Creek Township and Donna Buckbee of Yucatan Township spoke to commissioners about frac sand mining.

Reedy presented a report over 60 pages in length prepared for the Wisconsin Farmers Union by Donovan S. Power entitled "The Economic Benefits and Costs of Frac-Sand Mining in West Central Wisconsin."

"So little data exists on frac sand mines," Reedy stated. Referencing the study, she added, "There's a great deal of money involved. The anomaly is that money never seems to leak out into the communities."

Fields said that a report in the Spring Grove Herald that characterized a total ban on frac sand mining in Houston County as "a more radical approach" was false.

"Nothing could be farther from the truth," he said. "If words still have any meaning, you would have to agree that maintaining the status quo by a ban on industrial frac sand mining should have been described as 'a more conservative approach.'"

"The issue is about individual rights, but it's about everyone." Schild said. "I have the individual right to have our air and water quality protected. I hope you'll consider everyone's rights as well as the miners' rights."

Buckbee reported that she had joined a group who traveled to the Capitol recently, but Governor Dayton "refused to meet with us, but he did meet with industry lobbyists."

Buckbee said that current efforts to keep trout stream setback requirements out of frac sand mining regulations amounted to "plunder enabled."