Fillmore County rural residents' mailboxes show evidence of having mostly withstood the long winter, with the exception of those that were casualties of road maintenance. Highway engineer Ron Gregg came before the Fillmore County commissioners on Tuesday, April 22, to request permission to place an ad stating that swing-away mailboxes are available to rural residents through the county at a cost of $110 installed and approximately $75 if purchased by the box holder.

Gregg and county highway supervisor Brent Kohn related that fewer mailboxes are battered by snowplows than by farm equipment, but Gregg cited that if a box on a fixed post is hit, it can fly up through a driver's windshield and cause injury.

The swing-away boxes are already installed by the county when any road construction is done, so advertising them as available for purchase through the county makes sense, added Commissioner Duane Bakke.

Gregg also presented lease termination information for a lease that ITC has asked to end with the county at its substation - where it has fenced a gravel parking lot - and the engineer noted that even if the lease is ended, the improvements to the property "would be an asset to the county."

Next, a bid for micro-surfacing County Road 12, at a cost of $46,000 per mile, was awarded to the single bidder, Astec Corporation of St. Cloud. There will be a pre-construction meeting and certain repairs will be done by county crews prior to the project being started by Astec.

The commissioners also granted permission for Gregg to advertise for bridge replacements on Jet Road in Fountain Township and on Kind Road and Kodiac Road in Carimona Township.

Finally, the commissioners also approved the purchase of two trucks for snowplow use at a cost of $226,286.34, with the snowplow equipment being sold separately.

Computer upgrades

Systems administrator Jeff Cooper asked the board to consider replacing all 39 of the computers and several docking stations on the 2014 replacement list as soon as possible. Previously, the county chose to replace its hardware in sets every six months - meaning that some computers were purchased and then set on a shelf, their warranties in effect before they were put into use.

Cooper pointed out the entire list of items could be purchased right away for a total of $29,385, with $26,000 from the systems budget and the rest being paid by the land records office. The compatibility and updated software would be assured, making everyday operations within the courthouse easier.

The commissioners questioned whether the law library needs a new computer, as the information it is used to provide is updated only as laws are changed. Given that the law library's fund is low, they chose not to purchase a new computer for that department - instead deciding to rotate an existing computer into use.

Furthermore, Cooper asked that the commissioners approve the purchase of Virtual Graffiti backup storage software at a cost of $2,295, $50 more than the low bid from Amazon, because of the provision of a contact person not included in the Amazon bid. The commissioners agreed on the purchase.

Zoning issues

Fillmore County Zoning Administrator Chris Graves presented an amendment to the county's zoning ordinance to include conditional use permits (CUP) in the agricultural district for commercial use of buildings that are not necessarily useful for agricultural pursuits.

He explained the zoning commission had determined that along Highways 16, 63 and 52, allowing such CUPs would make way for enterprise and possibly encourage tourism. The variances would be allowed only for those along the specified highways, and the amendment was made effective immediately after the commissioners voted on it.

Graves then showed a map of Jerry and Rebecca Gingerich's property and told of their wish to expand their driveway access another eight feet, as the couple sells organic produce and often has delivery trucks arriving that have difficulty navigating their 12-foot driveway. The commissioners saw no problem with allowing the expansion.

Human resources

The county's human resources officer, Kristina Kohn, spoke about hiring a merit office support specialist who will start July 1. The county had advertised for a replacement and selected one who can begin before the current specialist retires on Aug. 1, creating an opportunity for the new employee to cross-train between duties.

The county is advertising for a part-time dispatcher after a resignation was submitted and accepted, and the position of a .5 temporary custodial employee hired for a four-month period was extended until that position can be filled.

EPA amendments

The commissioners discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed amendments to language concerning "United States navigable water," as the broad administration the EPA would incur would lack local oversight and cause delays in land use permitting processes.

Commissioner Randy Dahl pointed out, "Fillmore County has always been progressive, but we're not against the environment."

The commissioners concluded that a letter submitted to the Association of Minnesota Counties expressing their opposition to the EPA's proposed language changes should be drafted.

Other business

Bakke reported that the annual Fillmore County Task Force Law Day is set for this coming Monday, April 28, and that students from three schools will be participating in touring the jail, attending a real court case and hearing about how the county's law and justice system works.

The staff of Fillmore Family Advocates - the group formed after the dissolution of Fillmore Family Resources - will now have an advisor employed by the Rochester Women's Shelter stationed in Fillmore County who can receive advocacy funding through means other than just county contributions.

The consent agenda included payment of the second quarter invoice of $14,352.25 to the Mayo Clinic for the county's 2014 medical examiner and autopsy service agreement and the $52,649.25 payment of the second quarter Southeast Libraries Cooperating (SELCO) county patron support contribution.

The county board approved overnight stays for the county assessor and three appraisers to attend a seminar in St. Cloud and authorized an overnight stay for the auditor/treasurer, assessor and finance officer to attend a conference at Arrowwood Resort.

It was noted that social services employee Diane Strahl had successfully completed her employment probation, which warranted a merit increase to her salary.

The commissioners considered an appropriation request of $1,056.10 from Southern Minnesota Tourism Association - on which the commissioners voted favorably but on the condition that the association brings its request earlier in the fiscal year because this expense was not in the budget.

The commissioners also approved the signing of the Dodge-Fillmore-Olmsted (DFO) joint powers agreement.