Fillmore County's seven libraries were well represented during the Feb. 25 Fillmore County Board of Commissioners meeting, as library directors from each attended the meeting to share what services the libraries offer and illustrate how county funds have made those services possible.

Chatfield Public Library director Monica Erickson spoke first, holding up a sheet of paper outlining patronage statistics.

"There are a lot of things that our libraries do that you can't count, but there are a lot of things that you can count, and they're on here. We have seven libraries in Fillmore County, and there are lots of folks in and out of our doors," said Erickson. "If we were all to tally them all year, we could have a better count, but there are folks in for different reasons - to meet formally and informally, to use the computers, to do homework...for all kinds of reasons.

"We check out all kinds of physical items to them, but we also have an increase every day in checking out electronic materials. Lots of folks come in whose children thought, 'We want to give Mom a tablet or e-reader, but she can go to the library to learn how to use it.' We don't mind helping with anything anyone needs to know. If we don't have a book or other material someone needs, we share with other libraries. If the other libraries in this region don't have what someone is looking for, we can order it from as far away as Duluth and have it in the next two days."

Erickson continued, "Computers are a big draw to our libraries - in our seven libraries, we have 47 computers, and wi-fi access. Some people don't even come into the library to use the wi-fi access - they can get things done just by sitting with their computers in their cars. We have programs...we work to educate and entertain people of all ages. We are hopping...just an estimated material retail value return on the investment in a year is over $4 million."

Commissioner Duane Bakke inquired as to whether the libraries receive Minnesota's arts Legacy funding automatically.

Southeast Libraries Cooperating (SELCO) assistant director Michael Scott explained that the libraries are "in their fourth year of receiving Legacy funds" and that the statewide total is approximately $3 million, with an estimated $300,000 being given to SELCO each year for libraries' use in engaging summer children's and adult reading programming.

"We're currently digitizing newspapers, and there are other programs for which we can apply for funds, like our traveling art exhibit and the annual poetry anthology - we've recently added a young adult poetry anthology to the programming since they seem to turn out quite a bit of poetry," he said.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud asked the library directors, "Are you seeing people coming in to use the library to sign up for insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?"

Spring Valley Public Library director Dianne Sikkink answered that the number of people using library computers for that purpose is "much improved" and that staff have lent assistance whenever possible, as is the case with any question patrons might ask.

Erickson added, "Not only do we provide those services and answers, but it's just as important how we provide them. We know our patrons, and they're so thankful for our libraries and staff. I think people have a sense of trust with us."

The directors closed their report with a quiz on what services are available and who's most likely able to help students with their science homework, direct visitors to the nearest chick hatchery, find the right tax return forms or predict the weather, depending on what the question posed.

"We will be here in the next five years - libraries are not going to go away just because of technology," said Erickson. "In fact, there's a lot of technology being incorporated into libraries."

In other matters, Fillmore County Zoning administrator Chris Graves appeared before the board to close out some grants that had been exhausted, including a feedlot grant. "We found that we've exhausted all of these," he told the commissioners.

Bakke wanted to know if this was the first time that feedlot funding hadn't been carried over from the year before, as "we've been carrying funds over, which has allowed us to do what we've been doing."

Mike Frauenkron, who manages Fillmore County's feedlots, joined Graves as discussion turned to the definition of what a feedlot is. He pointed out, "There's nothing to carry over from 2013. And crude illustration of what a feedlot is is if you were to put one cow in a creek...that'd be a feedlot. In dealing with the state, we have to remain cognizant that even though there are fewer feedlots, they are bigger and require more management."

The commissioners voted to close out all three grants as requested.

Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen presented purchase requests for two new vehicles through the state fleet contract and one used vehicle locally, beginning with a 2014 Chevy Impala.

"It's time to get vehicles ordered before the deadline, and for the last two years, I've come in here and said that I think this is the last year they'll make the Impala," he told the commissioners.

Discussion followed as to whether the county should purchase the cars on Jensen's requests through the state contract or buy them locally, as the dilemma the sheriff faces each time he orders new vehicles is the purchase price difference of anywhere between $300 and $2,000; he could obtain the same vehicle from Zeimetz Motors in Spring Valley for $1,370 more than one from a state-approved fleet contract dealer in Hibbing, Minn., but then would face the budgetary consequences of having done so.

He pointed out that the state fleet contract allows for the cars to be delivered for no cost to the Twin Cities shop where the county has its vehicles' logo and other graphics applied, and that traveling to the Cities to pick up the cars has not been a problem.

In spite of the county's wish to purchase vehicles locally, it has passed a resolution in recent years that states that if the state's contracted amount is the lower bid, it will use the state's contract. The county also granted the sheriff's department the purchase of a fleet contract Dodge Durango to replace a pickup that will be held as a backup vehicle and a locally-bought used car to be put into commission for investigations.

Jensen then updated the board on the efforts of the Southeast Minnesota Narcotics and Gang Task Force, citing statistics related to meth labs and heroin use. He also noted that Deputy David Dyke was at all of the eight meth lab interventions in 2013. There were 339 felony drug arrests and that 191 search warrants were executed last year - "one every other day."

The commissioners expressed their appreciation and how impressed they are with the task force.

Social Services manager Neva Beier and Community Services director Beth Wilms reported on activity within their department, asking for approval of an addendum to the 2014 CREST Initiative cooperative agreement, a source of funding for adult mental health issue mediation that allows counties to help people with a wide range of problems.

"It helps pay for drug co-pays, dental work, assessments, long-term and emergency housing...it gives us the autonomy to use as we see fit to meet the needs of the population," she said.

The commissioners approved the addendum, then considered accepting a proposal to allow a Social Services worker to telecommute three days a week. Wilms stated that she feels that "telecommuting is a privilege," and that it must be earned through increased production, the very purpose for which the county turned to providing telecommuting opportunities. The board approved the addition of the worker as the county's fifth telecommuter.

Commissioners' administrative items included finalizing the land purchase contract with the state of Minnesota for the veterans' cemetery, requests for Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) transportation funding and website publishing, an update of AMC committee delegates and representation, and reviewing a proposal for a campground.