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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • Watonwan County code red fails its first test

  • All members of the community that signed up for the Code Red weather alerts before September would have had to have gone back after that time and added the winter weather alert to their preferences. As it stood, only 87 people received the warning.
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  • Emergency Management Director Julie Peterson brought new Emergency Management Handbooks to the regularly scheduled March 5 meeting for the commissioners to look over.
    The handbooks are similar to emergency management material passed out in the past, with only a few changes.
    The four phases of emergency management have turned to five phases with the addition of recovery, which was added to include timely restoration, strengthening and revitalization of an area affected by a catastrophic event. The other phases of the emergency management plan are prevention, preparedness, response and mitigation.
    With this new manual, a NIMS policy refresher will be required for the ten departments of emergency management.
    The County Board also accepted a bid by MSpace in the amount of $1,046.94 which was presented by Peterson. This bid was for continued maintenance of the county’s camera/video equipment. This equipment is used monthly by the Emergency Management department for satellite meetings, and is available for all county entities.
    Also in Emergency Management news, some concerns were raised regarding the Code Red warning system.
    “I was very concerned because this is the first time we had an emergency snow warning – we should have gotten a Code Red warning and we didn’t,” said Peterson.
    All members of the community that signed up for the Code Red weather alerts before September would have had to have gone back after that time and added the winter weather alert to their preferences. As it stood, only 87 people received the warning.
    “Fair assessment as an outsider looking in would be that the system failed,” said Commissioner Scott Sanders.
    Sanders asked when the contract with Code Red expired and was disappointed with the problem. The county can opt out of the contract with 30 days notice, but has signed into a three year agreement with Code Red.
    There was a resignation in the Human Services department as Dave Christiansen is leaving for new position with the state.
    “Dave carries a particularily high behavioral caseload that really we need to get under control quickly,” said Human Services Representative Amy Pluym.
    Christiansen’s last day will be March 15. The Watonwan County Board approved the Human Services request to advertise the position internally, and fill any other positions that might open up as a result of the resignation.
    The duties of the treasurers office will be assigned to Auditor Don Kuhlman, this was the decision the board reached at the Tuesday meeting.
    With Treasurer Carol Johnson retiring early, the position will remain vacant until the 2014 elections. Until 2014, Kuhlman will take over those responsibilities. The Auditor and Treasurer positions will then be merged and voted upon. Kuhlman said he would not like any pay raise for the added responsibility.
    Page 2 of 3 - “A lot of people have been picking up slack and there have been a lot of cuts – It’s not necessarily fair for me to be getting paid more,” said Kuhlman.
    Two properties were sold in a public bid during the meeting. A parcel of about three acres was sold to Mike Brandts for $7,500. A parcel containing about five acres was sold to Lon DePoppe for $5,000.
    There was a discussion among the Watonwan County Commissioners regarding who would wash the Vet’s Van and Take Me There busses. Currently, the busses are cleaned by 4-H for $100 per day. The busses are cleaned monthly, but the Vet’s Van, which is in the same shed, doesn’t get cleaned.The commissioners would like to request that the Vet’s Van also gets cleaned.
    The Juvenile Sentence to Serve program will also be cleaning the busses on days that don’t interfere with the 4-H cleaning.
    “Our plan is to have our deputy supervise these kids while they get as much done as they can,” said Watonwan County Police Officer Jeremy Nachreiner.
    The Sentence to Serve Program is looking for projects for the kids to work on without placing them in potential harm. Some ideas are raking, painting, picking up sticks and cleaning. All supplies will be paid for by the county.
    Public Works Director Roger Risser reported to the commissioners of a new project that is likely to take place in Watonwan County. Xcel Energy is planning a Powerline Route moving west to east through Butterfield, St. James and Madelia.
    Risser said there could be some possible issues with the projected route if the county ever wanted to expand the right of way on a few highways, specifically focusing on County Road 116 from St. James to Madelia.
    “The ordinance is written so that if we ever need to widen the right away we would have to move [the powerlines] at our own expense,” said Risser.
    The County Board is planning to draft a new ordinance to address these issues.
    The commissioners approved the amended water plan which was brought to the table by Environmental Services Officer Bruce Johnson.
    Johnson said the plan is required by the state and was drafted in 2008. This plan was amended and accepted by the county board.
    Johnson also reported on some deficiencies in his department.
    “There were some deficiencies in the report specifically regarding inspections,” said Johnson. “We do a number of inspections, but they don’t end up in the computer and that resulted in those deficiencies in their report.”
    The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reviewed the 2012 county delegated feedlot program and Watonwan County only achieved 77 percent of the non-inspection minimum program requirement, with a zero-percent inspection rate.
    Page 3 of 3 - Johnson claimed the inspections were done, but the documentation wasn’t completed because he couldn’t figure out how to complete the documentation.The commissioners accepted the report, and further action may be necessary when reviewed by the MPCA.
    Other business:
    The Ipads ordered for use by the commissioners have arrived.
    The Watonwan County Board went into a closed session to discuss developments on litigation involving the Human Services roof.
    The second county board meeting for the month of March has been rescheduled for Friday, March 22 due to scheduling conflicts for both Commissioners Mark Rentz and Scott Sanders.
    Past meeting’s minutes were approved.
    The board of equalization will be meeting Monday June 17, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.
    The commissioners accepted a $10,000 ECN Grant.
    All personnel requests were accepted.
    Training requests for Roger Risser and Marjorie Smith were approved.
    The following companies solid waste hauler licenses were approved: LJP enterprises, Waste Management, Riverview Sanitation, Hometown Sanitation Services and Madelia Sanitation.
    AMC delegate appointments were made.
    Road tour date was set for March 22, with the public hearing taking place April 2 at 10:30 a.m.
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