On April 9, Houston County Commissioners voted to take the recommendations of their Planning Commission, approving three conditional use permits (CUPs).

The first was for Shelley Ellingson of Mound Prairie Township to operate a home occupation.

Called "Touching Moments Animal Assisted Activities," the business will include a therapeutic riding center and horse stable.

The second CUP was for Gary Skree and the Skree Family Trust to locate a hardship dwelling in Sheldon Township.

Finally, an exhibition permit for Leonard Jr. (Jake) and Holly Wieser of Yucatan Township was approved with a lengthy series of conditions originating from the Planning Commission, including a 1,500 person upper limit placed on music events held at the Outback Ranch.

Complete details on all three CUPs can be found in the April 2 Spring Grove Herald (online at www.springgroveherald.com).

Four already-issued building permits were also approved. They included a new home with garage in Mayville Township, a home addition in Sheldon Township, a four-season porch in Money Creek Township and a pole barn in Wilmington Township.

CEDA staff heading up EDA

Finance Director Carol Lapham introduced the board to Community and Business Development Specialist Rick Howden of CEDA (Community and Economic Development Associates).

Howden will be providing a variety of services that Houston County EDA (Economic Development Authority) Coordinator Jordan Wilms had been responsible for. Wilms formally left county employment on April 5.

"I'm very excited to start this," Howden said, adding that he was familiar with the area, having worked for Congressman Tim Walz during the aftermath of flooding in Houston County in 2007.

On a related note, commissioners appointed Kelley Stanage of Houston to a six-year term on the county's EDA.

Update on SEMMCHRA given

Commissioner Teresa Walter reported that the latest indications from persons in contact with Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (SEMMCHRA) are that the agency will not try to levy in Houston and Fillmore counties, but will attempt to tax residents in Winona and Dodge counties.

"We haven't heard a thing (from SEMMCRA)," Walter said. "We're very happy with Bluff Country HRA and Semcac."

"I'm still waiting for financials from SEMMCRA," commissioner Steve Schuldt stated. "I sent a reminder to them requesting that information."

Schuldt added that he had received a one-page document in the mail from the agency, which he did not consider adequate.

"I was wondering if everyone had gotten that," chairman Justin Zmyewski added. "I thought, 'this is a nice flyer,' but it was not a true professional report."

"Come in and talk to us. Don't just send us a flyer in the mail and say, 'Here it is.'"

Jail inspection goes well

Under the consent agenda, a state Department of Corrections (DOC) annual inspection of the Houston County Justice Center only found one "essential" and one "mandatory" compliance issue. That left both areas with 99 percent approval ratings by the State of Minnesota.

The first category had to do with dangerous materials. "Sharps" such as knives will need to be kept in a lockbox in the kitchen office and an additional inventory system implemented. Corrosive cleaning chemicals will also need secure storage.

The second area of concern was for kitchen staff and others who have daily contact with inmates to have 40 hours of orientation training during their first year of employment.

Definition of adequate funding?

A note from State Representative Greg Davids to commissioners asked what the board meant when they asked for "adequate" funding for roadway maintenance in a recent resolution.

It was answered by County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski. He stated that Houston County would need an additional 40 percent in state funding to maintain "a sustainable roadway system."

"Houston County needs roughly $4 million in state aid funding annually versus the $2.8 million we currently receive," Pogodzinski wrote, citing the fact that Houston County is responsible for 190 centerline miles of paved roadways and 60 miles of gravel roadways (separate from state and township roads).

In addition, Houston County oversees 180 county and township bridges. At current rates, only one medium sized bridge can be replaced and 6.8 miles of pavement receive a mill/overlay each year.

Pogodzinski said that in order to keep up, an average of 2.25 bridges need to be reworked each year, along with 5.5 miles of full depth mill/overlay and 5.5 miles of partial mill/overlay.