At Tuesday's meeting, the Watonwan County heard a presentation from Menno Schukking, a transportation planner with SRF Consulting.

Schukking is working with MNDot, Southern Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Mankato/North Mankato Area Planning Organization on a planning process to establish a regional transportation coordinating council.

"In rural Minnesota, there's a regionalization of transportation needs," said Schukking. "People need to travel further and further to access certain healthcare or shopping options."

"With the current public transportation services, sometimes you run into a barrier where services can only serve you to the county line, for example."

The planning costs are currently being covered by an MNDot grant.

The planning process is scheduled to end at the end of September. Applications will be sent to the state in November. 

The plan is to roll out the new format starting on January 1st, 2021.

MNDot would fund the first year 100%, and each year following would be funded 90%, with counties that accept the resolution combining to pay the remaining 10%.

The approximate budget for the project is $150,000 annually. With MNDot covering 90% each year following 2021, the remaining local partners interested in the plan would have to cover the remaining $15,000.

The basis for paying the remaining 10%— by county population, the amount of rides, etc.— will be decided by the board once it is formed.

The new plan also focuses on private taxi services and other types of rides that have specifics on usage, such as healthcare or grocery shopping.

The board will consider a resolution of support for eventual implementation at the next meeting, as TMT Coordinator Allison Karau was unable to attend Tuesday's meeting.

In order for the implementation of the plan to take place, four out of the nine targeted counties in south-central Minnesota must accept the resolution.

"We currently are at four resolutions— Brown, Martin, Nicollet, and Le Sueur counties have passed resolutions for it."

"A resolution of support just states that you are supportive of the goals of the RTCC and it does not commit the county to any financial commitment. It would just allow the RTCC project to move forward and get implementation started."

The RTCC is aiming to:

- Identify and understand all available transportation options in the region.

- Improve coordination between transportation providers.

- Identify opportunities for consistent communications for customers of all ages and abilities.

- Support the identification of additional funding sources.

- Increase access to services, education, and centers of commerce.

- Identify opportunities to improve the efficiency of existing transportation service and associated resources.

Schukking also stressed that TMT would not be negatively affected by the implementation: 

"This does not take away from your local transportation provider. It would compliment it and hopefully provide more rides."

The RTCC will not provide any transportation itself, it will just provide support for the existing transportation providers 

The RTCC also hopes to get two representatives from each county to be on the RTCC board.

Following the presentation, the county dove into the separate "buckets" that CARES monies would go to, small business grants, public health outreach, community resiliency, county infrastructure, and COVID-19 expenses. 

The first round of small business grants was passed out to county businesses, and the county is considering raising the grant amount up to $10,000.

In the first round, only $147,000 was handed out to small business, less than half of what was originally allocated.

Joe McCabe and Nancy Goodwin are actively going to businesses to prompt them to apply for the grant.

Public health will be allotted an extra $5,000 to get information out to the public regarding COVID-19.

Under community resiliency, nonprofits will get assistance. The application to apply for assistance for nonprofits is still in the works. The community resilience "bucket" will be given $75,000, with the potential to add more. Housing assistance and economic support are also under community resiliency. 

The county now has allocated $305,000 of CARES money.

The county will also look into funding payroll expenses IT work.

$25,000 was requested for personal protective equipment to keep county buildings open.

$10,000 will be used for elections to update voting booths.

The next county board meeting is scheduled for September 15th inside the Watonwan County Human Services Community Room. 


Other items:

- Dispatch wireless headsets- covered by E911 funds 

- Training request for body cams for Jared Bergeman


Annual step increases for Amanda Stradtman, Bill Coleman, Becky Semph

- Recommend Laura Quiring for district technician for soil and water