The Fillmore County Board of Commissioners convened this past Tuesday, March 25, with a busy agenda that included a highway project bid approval, consideration of a veterans support program and several retirements.

The county's highway engineer, Ronald Gregg, presented bid results for the upcoming County 1 improvement project in Spring Valley. Griffin Construction Company bid $656,977.31, and Doyle Conner Company bid $688,800.13. The commissioners voted to approve the acceptance of Griffin Construction's bid contingent upon the city of Spring Valley's acceptance of it as well.

He also requested that the commissioners authorize final payment for the County 23 project near Highway 52 and Lenora in the amount of $51,181.23, explaining that it was an overrun on the allotted budget because once the project was begun, the deteriorated road caused need for further repairs.

The county also passed a resolution to set land values for the purchase of temporary and permanent easements for properties affected during road construction - permanent easements will be paid at 130 percent of the county's assessed per acre value, and temporary easements will be paid at 200 percent of the countywide average rental rate according to the Extension office.

Finally, in highway news, the commissioners thanked Gregg for helping the county to obtain a $50,000 grant to be used for highway repair, such as intersections that pose safety hazards, throughout the county.

County Veterans' Services officer Jason Marquardt, Community Services director Beth Wilms and Social Services manager Neva Beier shared information about the Yellow Ribbon County program, a support program for veterans and their families through social services, education, veterans' services and more. The trio appeared before the board to ask permission to form a steering committee to organize and apply for the program. Marquardt cited that the program was originally set up to assist families when military spouses were deployed, but has since been extended to make the transition home easier for both.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud pointed out that "with the wars winding down, this is even more important."

Marquardt related that he hoped to include a workforce development advisor, as helping veterans find work is crucial.

Amunrud offered the opportunity for the other commissioners to represent the board on the steering committee, but they referred Marquardt back to him since he first volunteered and is also a veteran.

The commissioners approved a motion to explore the possibilities the Yellow Ribbon County program features, then heard Marquardt's inquiry regarding using Minnesota Department of Veterans' Affairs grant funds to attend a week-long national conference in Grand Rapids, Mich. The remaining grant funds - approximately $5,000 - must be used by June 30, and Marquardt informed the commissioners that attending conferences and training sessions was included in the grant's parameters. However, the cost of his flight to Michigan, plus his lodging, exceeds the county's allowed $500 maximum overnight stay allowances, so the board noted that it will refer to the policy before making any decisions.

Wilms commended Marquardt for providing outreach to veterans through invitations to an end-of-life, estate and funeral planning seminar. "He sent out 200 postcards, and he had 54 people attend it, which is pretty good response. He did an awesome, awesome job providing information about a sometimes difficult thing to talk about. My thanks to Jason."

She also reported that the Social Services department is no longer going to provide income maintenance services to Winona County, as Fillmore County's income maintenance worker had resigned. Additionally, the vacancy will not be filled for another six to nine months because she feels that the reduction in work, combined with the installation of a new telecommuting Social Services employee - who is obligated to handle more work due to the telecommuting arrangement - would help determine whether doing so is necessary.

Human Resources officer Kristina Kohn brought forward retirement requests: Highway department employee Roger Sanford after 11 years of service: Robert Engen following 30 years of service in the highway department; Community Services Social Services department employee Charlotte Zeyer - after eight years of service; and Public Health division Social Services department employee Karen Regelman following six years of service. The commissioners thanked all the retirees for their dedication.

Kohn then told the board that within the highway department, replacements will be sought for two positions - the head mechanic and a maintenance specialist. The union seniority list was consulted, and Kohn noted that two employees would like to transfer within the department, incurring a voluntary demotion and lower pay for one and a promotion for the remaining open position. After some discussion about where the positions should be posted, Kohn and the board determined that posting the head mechanic position should be postponed, but that posting for the maintenance specialist could be done internally and externally.

Public Health employee Regelman's position will also not have a replacement, and the commissioners approved to eliminate one of two office support specialists in compliance with a policy to keep staff numbers in correlation to work availability.

Kohn concluded by thanking everyone who made the county's receipt of the Occupational Safety Award from the Minnesota Safety Council possible.

Fillmore County Feedlot Officer Mike Frauenkron asked the commissioners to sign two documents - the 2014-2015 Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), county feedlot program and delegation agreement work plan and the 2013 annual county feedlot officer and performance credit report - and review the 2013 year end feedlot report.

The consent agenda included approval of the March 11 board minutes, payment of the second quarter invoice of $89,823 to Olmsted County Community Services for the DFO Community Corrections appropriation in accordance with the joint powers agreement, renewal of the Preston Golf Club consumption and display permit and its 3.2 malt liquor license for April 1, 2014, through April 1, 2015, approval of a tobacco license for Preston's Family Dollar store from April 10 through Sept. 30, 2014, granting a merit step increase for financial assistance supervisor Deb Ristau, authorizing overnight stays for the county auditor-treasurer and finance officer to attend a regional conference and for the county's Public Health educator to attend a conference.

Administrative items included hiring attorneys Briggs & Morgan as the bond counsel for the Greenleafton wastewater treatment plant project, granting an appropriation request of $1,041.70 to Southeastern Minnesota Historic Bluff Country, recognizing April as National County Government Month, and saving county building maintenance coordinator Terry Schultz some work by allotting funds to purchase three new event tables to be kept at the courthouse.