Houston County Commissioners briefly discussed enacting term limits for Planning Commission members on Oct.1 - one day after dozens of citizens voiced their views at a public hearing on the topic.

"We're not ready to make the decision yet, because there are lots of options," Commissioner Teresa Walter said.

Some of those may include changing the number of Planning Commission members, altering the way appointments are made to ensure that each of the five commissioner districts is represented, and combining term limits with the length of each term to ensure that the majority of the Planning Commission will continue from any one year to the next.

Commissioner Dana Kjome asked Chairman Justin Zmyewski what kind of timeline the board should adhere to before making a decision.

"I would say we certainly have to do this before the end of the year," he replied, "but sooner than later."

Commissioner Judy Storlie said the board should consider their decision carefully, since it could have a long-term impact on the Planning Commission. She suggested taking the time necessary to complete a "policy study."

By consensus, the board agreed to individually work on ideas to address the issue and bring them to the Oct. 8 regular meeting.

Flood repairs approved

Commissioners approved an aggregate (gravel) shouldering contract to repair remaining damages to county roadways from June floods.

Engineering Supervisor Justin Conway brought the bid, reporting that the only company that responded to advertising was Bruening Rock Products. The firm offered to do the work for $223,455.

"That bid is 6.93 percent over our estimate," Conway said. "At this point we are trying to get FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to approve our shouldering work... we're trying to provide information to them on work needed on our shoulders, and trying to get them to cover costs."

Conway said that with farmers preparing to use shoulders to get to fall fieldwork, and winter snowplowing to follow, the edges of some roadways have no protection from damage. "I think either way (with FEMA assistance or not) we need to get it done," he stated.

The board agreed. Commissioner Steve Schuldt said that he'd spoken with County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski about the project. "It needs to be done... (even) if we have to pull it out of the sealcoating budget."

Pogodzinski later confirmed that FEMA is reviewing the project. If approved in total, that agency would provide 75 percent of the necessary funding. The other 25 percent (local match) has been approved for funding from the State of Minnesota.

"FEMA is still trying to determine if the missing rock is (all) flood related," Pogodzinski explained. One likely scenario is that the agency would pay the bulk of the cost, but withhold the $20,000 that the county had budgeted for shoulder rock in 2013. That work hadn't been done prior to June floods.

Other news:

In other voting, commissioners approved allowing the Houston County Fair Board (aka Houston County Ag Society) to apply for a grant using the county as a "pass through" sponsor. Finance Director Carol Lapham did not object, but asked commissioners to encourage agencies which want to apply for grants through the county to bring those forward before approval is needed. That's because financial reporting (the state audit) now treats such grant applications like county projects rather than "pass through" events.

A closed session to continue discussions on "allegations or charges against an employee who is subject to the authority of this board," was dropped from the agenda and rescheduled for Oct. 8. Personnel/Facilities Director Tess Kruger requested the change, and gave members a comprehensive review on the procedures, which commissioners are - by law - expected to follow. Kruger stressed that no wrongdoing has yet been proven in the case under review. Commissioners spent over an hour in closed session last week on the same as-yet unidentified matter.

Kruger also reported that she and Houston County EDA Coordinator Rick Howden will appear next week before the Minnesota House of Representative's Capital Investment Committee in Rochester. The county is seeking a 50 percent match in state bonding funds for a $1 million renovation of the county's historic courthouse.