4/16/2013 2:02:00 PM Dodge County discusses acquiring more office space, transfer station repairs and the ice arena
By Gretta Becay
Dodge County commissioners discussed options to develop more office space for county employees at their meeting April 9, 2013.
Options discussed included building to the south of the annex on county property, purchasing more land in Mantorville to build on or - if a suitable building were available - to renovate it, or building on county land near the Fairview Care Center. The group scheduled a closed session April 23 after their regular meeting to further discuss negotiations.
Costs for the options discussed range from $13.4 million to $13.75 million.
Environmental Services Director Mark Gamm told that plans have been finalized for completing the repairs to the transfer station. The facility was damaged in September 2011 by a fire. Gamm said the county's insurance would pay for the repairs. Beginning April 29, the support structures including beams, purlins, and girts will be cleaned by using a dry-ice blasting technique. Those structural components will then be painted. Beginning about June 1, siding and roof metal will be replaced on the entire building. Gamm said he expects the transfer station to be fully repaired by the end of June.
Customer service should not be affected but operations will be confined to the old transfer station and recycling center. This will create additional work for the staff. Gamm said the county's insurance would pay for any required overtime costs and extra expenses.
Kasson city administrator Randy Lenth and Steve Howarth "Howie" from the Dodge County Ice Arena presented the unaudited 2012 financial statements for the arena to the commissioners.
The arena showed a $13,327 loss for the year on an operational budget of about $233,000. Commissioner David Erickson asked that the men make the different years' financial statements easier to compare.
Lenth said the good news is that the arena is "...bursting at the seams," with youth skaters.
Commissioner Lyle Tjosaas said, "The way the girls played last year didn't hurt us any." (The Dodge County Wildcats girls' hockey team advanced to the Section One, Class AA finals this year.)
Fees will probably have to be raised this coming season said the men. One highlight of the year was a tournament between the Southern Minnesota Elite and a team from Norway who came here and stayed a month and played on this ice.
The city will be moving the skateboard park to give the arena more space for outside performance training for skaters during the summer, said the men.
Commissioner Rod Peterson said he had met with members of the Fair Board and representatives from Kasson to discuss the possibility of the county fair using the arena during the fair. Peterson said there were already events scheduled in the arena for this year but he would appreciate knowing what it would cost to not use the arena for two weeks and let the fair use the facility for vendors or exhibits.
Peterson said it would be nice to "...get both entities to have at least a zero-balance budgets at the end of the year," instead of both the fair and the ice arena losing money.
Howie said the arena purchased 200 tickets from the fair for the use of hockey players during the fair so they would always be assured of having a place to park.
Human Services Director Jane Hardwick gave the commissioners an update about the possible multi-county human services delivery authority.
This project began when Governor Pawlenty put on the table the possibility of having only 15 human service agencies in the state instead of one in each county. Hardwick said some counties would like to work on the consolidation process themselves instead of having it mandated by the state at a future time. When she came to Dodge County in 2008, she said, "I was astonished at the amount of collaboration here," in southeast Minnesota. The counties would consolidate training, for example.
Why can't they just continue with that type of consolidation, asked the commissioners. At some point, Hardwick said, the counties need to share a document management system, a financing plan, and a governing model to eliminate duplication of efforts and to develop specialists, which could cut down on expenses to the counties.
The Bush foundation was interested in helping financially and a committee was launched to hammer out the ways and means for such an authority. The group originally included 12 counties in the region but eight of them dropped out along the way. Some left because they wanted to keep their service levels the same and were worried the levels would drop in the consolidation process. Some worried they would lose their autonomy and be absorbed into the conglomerate.
For the four counties that continued - Dodge, Steele, Mower, and Waseca, -the time is almost here when the county boards will have to decide if they're still in the group or if they're pulling out.
There will be a meeting from 9 a.m. to noon April 30 in the Wenger Room at the History Center, 1700 Austin Road in Owatonna and all the county boards have been invited.
The commissioners tabled modifying the summer work schedule for some county equipment operators and engineering technicians.
Kevin Balfanz from the county's insurance provider, Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust (MCIT) spoke to the commissioners. The MCIT is a joint powers group that includes governmental entities pooling resources to provide property, casualty and workers' compensation coverage to members. Balfanz said the Dodge County 2013 aggregate rate changes dropped by 5.5 per cent for property and casualty and 5.6 per cent for workers compensation for 2013.
County Administrator Jim Elmquist reported that the county would have to shoulder the cost of demolishing the old building on Front Street in Claremont that came to the county through default on property taxes. There is no money in this year's budget for the task, said Elmquist. The county will have to budget for the demolition next year.
The commissioners also approved:
- An interim use permit to allow a dwelling on 40 acres in the Ag District in Milton Township. Kathleen and James Curlee are the applicants and Grace Hancock is the property owner.
- Waiving the $600 variance fee for a feedlot that is building a new concrete manure storage pit to replace an unpermitted earthen manure storage pit that needs to be properly closed.
- Leasing the 10 acres of tillable land south of the demolition landfill to Luke Elias for $200/acre.
- Changing the amount the county would pay for a new walking trailer for the transfer station because the old trailer was sold to Erick Stank for $20,000 whereas the dealer had penciled in $10,000 for the trailer's trade-in value.
The commissioners will meet again at 9:30 a.m. April 23 at the courthouse.