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County Board Meeting August 17

Posted: 08/18/2021

Author: Julie Anderson

Category: County Board, Departments, Public Works

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Every year the Douglas County Board of Commissioners hears funding requests from a variety of agencies doing great work to assist the residents of and visitors to Douglas County. In addition, elected officials learn their annual salary, and salaries are set for commissioners. All of this and much more occurred at the August 17 meeting.

Jeff Schiffman, Director of the Douglas County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) was up first. He reminded the board of the housing HRA provides to lower income residents and the costs of providing it. He said his office has been extremely busy. Douglas County is one of the few counties in Minnesota to be offered 15 emergency vouchers in 2021. He said lack of affordable housing in our county remains a big problem.  

The board approved a resolution to set commissioners’ salaries at $29,800.00 which is a 3% increase. Board members have not had a raise in several years. Per diems will remain at $100.00.

The board set elected officials’ salaries for 2022 as follows:

  • County Auditor Treasurer Vicki Doehling $92,500.00
  • County Attorney Chad Larson $128,910.00
  • County Recorder Mary Skillings $67,500.00
  • County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen $130,500.00

The board also approved the following new positions in the county: All positions are in the budget for each department.

  • Full time deputy sheriff funded by a DWI enforcement grant
  • Conversion of 4 correctional officer positions, one bailiff and two transport officer positions from 80% to full time.
  • Assistant county attorney
  • County attorney legal administrative assistant
  • Security analyst in IT
  • Office support for Extension and Land and Resource Development
  • Full time technical writer for Land and Resource Development
  • Environmental planning technician for Land and Resource Development
  • Seasonal engineering technician in the public works department
  • Two new full time social workers in social services
  • Additional full time office support specialist at Public Works

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tara Bitzan explained how the chamber’s focus is on the entire county and how its businesses benefit from the work being done by marketing efforts to encourage residents and visitors to buy local.

Central Minnesota Elder Network Executive Director Wendy Hyatt shared how her organization works to care for our senior citizens by reducing loneliness and providing respite for caregivers. She shared a letter from a family who had benefitted which clearly showed the need for this important program.

Douglas County Fair Board President Don Kleine requested funding so the county could continue to put on a fair that appeals to young and old and provides top notch entertainment.  

He said it costs about $300,000 a year to host the fair which provides a $3.5 million economic impact.

Douglas County Historical Society Director of Operations Brittany Johnson shared how she doesn’t wait for people to come visit her, she did dozens of education and outreach events in 2021. In 2022, she says she needs county funding to assist in her work to start a cemetery repair fund and do work on the Knute Nelson House.

Douglas County Water Quality Legacy Fund Chairman Steve Henry, along with Gene Rose, says the deteriorating water quality in Douglas County lakes is obvious. They rely on donations and currently need $9,000 just to stay solvent. They also requested funding for future water projects. Commissioners granted part of their funding request and will look into whether ARPA funds could be used for additional work on our lakes and rivers.

Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District Coordinator Jerry Haggenmiller shared a summary of accomplishments and asked for a slight increase in funding from 2021, noting it is the first increase since 2016.  

Lakes Area Humane Society Executive Director Christin Klimek said the appropriation her organization receives in 2022 will be used to replace an air conditioning unit, replace and repair dog kennels, work on plumbing issues and ventilation. She said the cost per pet was $340 in 2018 and is now $546.

West Central Initiative is the federally designated planning organization serving Douglas County. The presenters shared they are reviving the Live Wide Open workforce development campaign in 2022 and they look forward to the county continuing to support their economic, community and workforce development efforts.

There were a number of other items on the agenda for commissioners to consider:

Commissioners approved the first request for county American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Miltona Township officials requested $450,000.00 for the proposed Krohnfeldt Sanitary Sewer Extension project which will initially serve 28 properties on the south side of Lake Miltona. The funding will keep the proposed assessments for homeowners under $36,000. Miltona Township is also contributing its ARPA funds to the project.

Sheriff’s Office

Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen asked for a resolution to accept a $300 donation to the sheriff’s honor guard from the Lion’s Club of Carlos.

Public Works

County Engineer and Public Works Director Tim Erickson asked commissioners to move ahead and officially support an application for Transportation Economic Development Funding. The county has committed $510,000.00 to a future roundabout near the Pilot Travel Center west of downtown Alexandria. 

County Coordinator

County Coordinator Heather Schlangen thanked employees for their assistance in a $153,767 dividend from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust (MCIT). The dividend came primarily for low workers compensation claims.

Commissioners approved the 2022 PrimeHealth Insurance premiums while noting this is the final year of the county’s contract with PrimeHealth. They also approved the final lease with school district 206 which uses the county’s gymnasium for gymnastics and Shenanigan’s play area.

Library

Library Director Dawn Dailey asked to fill a fulltime position.   

Auditor Treasurer

Vicki Doehling presented the annual Tax Increment Financing (TIF) disclosure for the city of Evansville.

Social Services

Community Human Services Director Laurie Bonds asked commissioner to approve $4,709.00 in Children’s Mental health Respite Grant funds; approve a contract with Lutheran Social Services to provide community-based services including in-home, child therapeutic support services, family resources and independent living skills; approve a contract with Mended LLC which provides parent education and supervised visitation and family group decision-making conferences.

Bonds also asked to hire a licensed alcohol and drug counselor at a step greater than one based on the experience of the candidate.

Land and Resource Management

Director Dave Rush presented for approval the final plat of the West Lake Thompson Addition which is a plan to subdivide a large rural lot that fronts Thompson Lake in Holmes City township and the final plat and developer agreement for Pilgrim Point Shores which is a development of residential lots on Lake Ida.

Finance

Finance Director Jill Frisell presented a resolution for the board which is titled Declaring the official intent of Douglas County to reimburse certain expenditures from the proceeds of bonds to be issued by the county. It continues, the county proposes to undertake the construction of various capital improvement expenditures in 2021-23 which have an estimated total of $7 million including:

  • Water Patrol building and additional county property to construct 5th Avenue.
  • Construction work on a road, parking lot, and trails for Pilgrim Point Park.
  • Public Works facility addition.
  • Chippewa Park property and bridge.
  • Remodeling costs of courthouse and services building.
  • Brophy Park building.

The Alexandria Area Economic Commission annually selects a recipient of the Business & Industrial Appreciation Day (BIAD). This year it selected Viking Bank and its employees. Abby Strom, Community and Workforce Development Coordinator asked commissioners to support a resolution making November 3 Viking Bank Day in Douglas County.  The newly created Legacy Award honors a past BIAD recipient which continues to make a positive impact in the community. This year Alomere Health will receive that award. The county owned hospital first won the BIAD award in 1988.

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