Fillmore County commissioners opted to take advantage of an offer from their neighbor to the north on Tuesday, Nov. 6, voting to purchase an electronic data management system from Winona County for $129,660. The total cost to the county will actually be less, discounted by 47 percent by a federal reimbursement, Community Services director Beth Wilms reported.

Wilms was joined by Winona County information technology director Mark Anderson. "When I started looking at the return on investment figures for this software program... including our investment and the time that would go into it, we had a 100 percent payback after reimbursement of nine months," he said.

Considering Winona County's $550,000 original investment in the e-docs system, that's saying quite a bit, Anderson added later. "It's pretty obvious how beneficial this is," he said. "If we can share expenses, our expenses go down and you are able to get a system that is very expensive for a lot less money."

"We can save 30-40 percent of a person's man-hours (with e-docs)," Anderson stated. Eliminating repetitive hard-copy paperwork is the key. "We never lose documents, and we never lose files... it's a great advantage."

Winona County will serve as the "hardware host" for the service. After the initial charge, Fillmore will need to pay ongoing costs of approximately $24,000 per year, Commissioner Duane Bakke said.

Bakke asked if Winona County has been able to allow open staff positions to go unfilled due to increases in productivity. Wilms said that she had only been serving both counties in a joint capacity for seven months, but had already seen a reduction in staffing, with three open positions replaced by one.

Social Services Director Gail Bunge added that with case-load increases of 130-200 percent, e-docs will be important in "not having to hire additional staff."

"I think this is the time to do this," Commissioner Randy Dahl said before making the motion to purchase. Seconded by Commissioner Chuck Amunrud, it passed by unanimous vote.

Wilms said that with a huge amount of paper documents to enter into the system, several months will be required to bring e-docs online, but Fillmore County can expect to be up and running in the first quarter of 2013.

Zoning amendment, other items approved

The board voted to adopt an amendment to section 606.01 of the county's zoning ordinance, which will allow the City of Whalan to "take over" zoning within its borders.

Also approved was an access permit for James and Iola Thompson of Section 7, Spring Valley Township to build a new lane to CSAH #8.

The board approved a final payment of $3,570 to Storms, Inc. for a box culvert project recently completed in Beaver Township. The contract totaled $73,811.

Commissioners approved a 1.4 percent increase in their annual agreement with the Community and Economic Development Corporation, boosting the 2013 payment to $36,134.

Several items were approved by consent, without discussion. They included the appointment of Dr. Ross Reichard as medical examiner for Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2013.

Secondly, Celeste Madar was hired as replacement Breast-Feeding Peer Helper at intermittent status effective Nov. 9.

Two payments to contractor Kane & Johnson were also included. The first was for professional services through Oct. 20, for the Highway Administration Building remodel project, for $1,268. The second was for asbestos abatement on the same project, for $1,026.