Fillmore County Veterans' Services Officer Jason Marquardt updated Fillmore County commissioners during their regular board meeting last Tuesday, July 1.

Marquardt presented a review of his attendance at the National Veterans' Conference and also spoke about the free legal clinic for veterans held at the courthouse late last month, distributing comments he received from the dozen participants to the commissioners. Marquardt noted that the clinic received the support of county departments such as Social Services, and that he hopes to hold another clinic next spring since veterans can obtain legal services to draft a will and power of attorney for free through the clinic.

Regarding the national conference, he related that presentations focused on changes to veterans' benefits and how they are delivered, such as in the case of funeral benefits.

"Benefits for widows and widowers...if their spouse is service-connected, the $300 they receive will automatically be sent to them instead of them having to come to me. It will cut down on some of the extra paperwork that has to be done," he told the commissioners. "Another big change is that if they're 100 percent disabled, they'll automatically get $2,000. If they're buried in a state cemetery, they'll get the plot for free, but the whole funeral is not paid for."

Commissioner Duane Bakke pointed out, "That's interesting, because the discussion about the state cemetery all along has been that the whole funeral is paid for."

Marquardt acknowledged that the $300 funeral benefit paid to spouses doesn't begin to pay for the average funeral, which he said can cost $12,000. They get their marker and headstone for free, and they can also get upright or flat granite, he added, but a lot of people want the family plaque. Something else new is that funeral homes cannot receive the money for a family - the check has to be sent to the family.

Marquardt said that the National Veterans' Conference held an election of officers and that a Minnesotan was chosen as president of the organization.

Commissioner Randy Dahl shared that he had received a call from a constituent in his district who thanked the veterans' services office for its assistance in arranging transportation for her to the veterans' hospital in the Twin Cities so she could be with her husband.

"There are many aspects of Jason's job that touch veterans' quality of life," he observed.

In other matters, county coordinator Bobbie Vickerman asked the board to consider accepting an updated county fee schedule.

"The goal is to get this put into one living document that we can update every year instead of several from different departments," she said. "It went through department heads and many vetting processes, and the finance committee recommends approval."

Some discussion arose regarding the proposed fee schedule, as Dahl questioned what the $25 charged for a temporary liquor license accomplishes through the sheriff's department - whether it covers the cost of a background check for the requesting party.

Sheriff Daryl Jensen replied that he didn't think the sum was "unreasonable."

Vickerman cited that there are a limited number of temporary liquor licenses available each year, and that after they're expended, requests must be made for a catering license with permission to serve liquor, and proper insurance must be provided for the event.

Bakke asked why town temporary liquor licenses are transferred by the county.

Commissioner Marc Prestby elaborated that it's for occasions such as when a Veterans of Foreign Wars post is hired to serve liquor at a wedding that is held someplace other than the post's home.

Jensen explained, "When you see a city of Preston liquor license going to a wedding outside of town, that's what we're dealing with."

Vickerman brought discussion back to the fee schedule itself, saying that each department had its own fee schedule, and this will bring them together in one document.

Dahl asked whether any fees had been changed between the time that they were listed for departments and the time they were put into one document for approval.

Jensen cited that one of the fees his department deals with "hadn't been changed in years."

Work continues on the updated fee schedule.

The next order of business Vickerman brought forward involved a classification review of the county attorney's paralegal's position into a paralegal and office manager's position with Bjorklund Consulting as recommended by the county attorney.

Human Resources officer Kristina Kohn told the commissioners that the intent was to review the current paralegal's position to determine whether it had changed 25 percent or more, warranting reclassification, and that doing so is possible because the request was filed on May 14, a day before the deadline. Further examination of the review process sheets revealed that the last review of the paralegal's position was either done in 2007, or done in 2011 and not noted as having been completed.

The commissioners then talked about whether the language included in the position's description and review fit the county's needs and the actual position - the language included a four-year bachelor's degree instead of requiring a two-year associate's degree - and how the higher requirements might discourage good potential candidates with an associate's degree, should there ever be a need to hire.

Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson joined Kohn for the discussion regarding the paralegal-office manager job description change, telling the commissioners that the paralegal who serves his office handles more than just paralegal duties - essentially, she handles office management as well due to the size of the office.

Corson, Kohn and the commissioners agreed that language basing education requirements on skill level might prove more useful and that changing the language to reflect that would be prudent.

Corson outlined a proposal for cleanup of clandestine drug labs that were discovered in the past year, one in an outbuilding and another in a recreational vehicle. He asked the board to proceed with approving the lowest bid for cleanup, based on the "precursors for methamphetamine" found at the outbuilding site, adding that the property owner had inquired about hiring his own cleaning crew.

Bakke stated that he felt that the county should begin the cleanup and "get it done," doing the work first and then billing the property owner so that if the bill isn't paid, the charges can be assessed to his property taxes.

Corson then spoke of the dilemma of what should be done if a property owner finds a mobile meth lab on his property, because any county acknowledgement of a meth lab would mean that a property would have the lab listed against the landowner.

The commissioners voted to approve the low quote from West Central Environment Consultants for clandestine property testing.

Corson went on to inform the board that the county courts are experiencing a return to transcription of cases, even though audio and video have been made part of the courtroom. The mandated transcription will cost the county because, as the attorney pointed out, the court no longer owns the equipment to do so.

Dahl asked, "Is there a penalty for not complying? Do they sanction you?"

Corson answered that "you don't get your transcripts in and you lose the case, with a lot of officer time invested."

Bakke commented that he would bring the matter to the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) the next time he had the opportunity.

Administrative items included one matter placed on the agenda by Commissioner Tom Kaase, who wanted the board to consider "taking a look at strategic planning with the department heads, the commissioners, or the department heads and commissioners" to examine county efficiency, strategy and structure. He suggested a retreat or day session and obtaining resources and/or facilitators from AMC.

Bakke countered that he felt that waiting until the Third District commissioner's seat has been filled might be best, and Dahl suggested that they wait until numerous transitions in department head positions are finished.

Kaase related that that was his intent when broaching the subject.

The consent agenda included approving the June 24 county board meeting minutes, the June 24 board of appeal and equalization minutes, and payment of an invoice to Stantec, Inc., for $7,657.88 for the Greenleafton sanitary sewer project.