Commissioners discuss roads, technology and staff training

By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Fillmore County’s commissioners dealt with several housekeeping items during the Tuesday, May 14, board meeting.

Highway Engineer Ron Gregg had bridge projects for the board’s review, including replacement of the one-lane bridge on County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 4, a half-mile west of Washington, that has entertained or vexed motorists for years. awarding the project to the low responsible bidder. He stated, “We received the bids yesterday, my recommendation is to award to Alcon Construction out of Rochester at $261,485.80.”

The engineer’s estimate for the bridge was set at approximately $395,000, he cited, just before the board voted in favor.

Gregg also suggested buying a VRS technology upgrade for the highway department to use in gathering survey data at a cost of $8,303. This purchase was approved by the technology, land records and GIS committee using unallocated funds.

He said he feels this technology could improve his department’s efficiency. “The VRS technology helps us to be able to access the MnDOT stations through a hotspot without having to set up additional equipment, and to help us move along and be more accurate, faster,” he added.

The board concurred that the technology would be useful.

Finally, Gregg brought forward a request for the board to advertise for a bridge on CSAH 1 north of Ostrander.

Commissioner Mitch Lentz asked, “The reason we’re doing this is it needs to be done?”

Gregg replied, “It’s on the priority list.”

Lentz then asked, “Are we bumping this one up?”

Gregg answered that the project is on the county’s bridge replacement priority list, and Lentz agreed as the board came to a vote, “So it is in the pecking order.”

Sheriff’s request

Sheriff John DeGeorge came before the board with a list of items, beginning with permission to purchase a 2019 Dodge Charger police package squad car and a 2019 Dodge Charger SXT administrative car through Enterprise Fleet.

Additionally, he sought funding and purchase of equipment and setup costs, noting that the cost of equipment and installation for the administrative vehicle would be significantly less due to no need for a cage, dash camera and other items.

All were approved.

DeGeorge thanked the board for its attention to his requests and for equipment to help maintain the vehicles in top condition.

Personnel issues

Human Resources Officer Kristina Kohn asked to hire a temporary summer office support specialist for the veterans’ services and Extension office effective May 21.

Kohn reported that Annalisa Pendl would be the candidate chosen for the summer office support specialist, and Commissioner Randy Dahl and Lentz made the motions to accept.

She also gave updates regarding the department head evaluation form and asked the board for comment on the form. Commissioner Duane Bakke gave a quick review of the language used in the form, making suggestions for changes. Dahl questioned whether there were any questions included in the form that measured the degrees of whether a department head is an example for employees, or what is acceptable and not acceptable.

Conversation turned toward how non-elected department heads carry out their roles, with the commissioners as the body that oversees all county operations.

The board passed a vote to proceed with the evaluation form and its accompanying language changes.

Finally, Kohn needed permission to advertise for a full-time registered nurse in the public health department at the director of nursing’s request.

County coordinator Bobbie Vickerman shared that there have been leaves in the public health department and the director of nursing, Jessica Erickson, has been covering a large amount of the caseload and staffing has been reduced in the past years through departures of individuals that have not been replaced.

She said, “The clients still need to be seen and the programs still need to be followed.”

Motions carried to advertise.

Staff trainings

Administrative items encompassed granting a request for Vickerman to attend a data practices training provided by the Minnesota Counties IT. This led to a discussion regarding all-county trainings and computer usage for that purpose.

Vickerman reported that she would be bringing more information to the May 28 meeting regarding the trainings and which she felt might do well to be required to ensure that staff has been educated on important issues.

DeGeorge registered that due to the unique nature of his department’s operation, there might be difficulty in gathering law enforcement employees to attend required in-house trainings, even though they might be able to complete online trainings easily enough.

Lentz pointed out that having an accurate list of those who have finished their trainings – including commissioners – would be vital to improving the county’s functioning.

Vickerman remarked that efforts have been made to review the list of trainings and to offer trainings more than once to afford employees opportunities to attend.

Other business

The 4-H coordinator’s position came up next. “We hope to have someone in place in the 4-H program coordinator’s position before the fair, but we can utilize Kristi (Ruesink) but she’s been pulled in different directions. If she can step in…we should be OK,” Vickerman said.

Social Services Manager Kevin Olson outlined his department’s need for the Fraud Prevention Investigation program 2020-2021 cooperative agreement and presented a request to approve a resolution authorizing the acceptance and execution of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency’s Homeless Prevention & Assistance Program.

Zoning Administrator Cristal Adkins brought forward an access permit request for Jerome Taubel of Pilot Mound Township, which was approved.

The consent agenda included approving closing 1st Ave. SW/County Road 35 between Center Street W. and 3rd St. SW for Harmony’s annual Fourth of July activities – DeGeorge and Gregg had given their nod to the closures.