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County approves $150K for gravel pit

MORRIS - After criticisms from citizens about the condition of the county road system at a meeting early in August, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved $150,000 to open a new gravel pit in Horton Township at their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 18.

"As I look at [the gravel situation] and we start negotiations with the landowners to open a new pit, I thought it would be wise to bring forth to the board the idea of opening and crushing this pit this fall," said County Engineer Brian Giese.

Giese added he hopes to double the county's gravel hauling in the next couple of years, from 25,000 yards of material a year to almost 50,000 yards, in order to "get ourselves in some good shape." The county usually crushes about 40,000 yards of gravel each year.

"If you project that out, we'll be crushing every year for awhile, alternating pits, as we deplete resources in each one," Giese explained. The county currently has one working pit and is in the process of closing another.

Although the $150,000 is not a budgeted expense for this year, Giese told the board "the price we have for crushing this year is pretty attractive."

By crushing its own gravel, Giese estimated the county saves about 20 percent over commercial gravel. Stevens County also remains in the bottom three to five percent on the cost of gravel when compared to the rest of the state.

At a meeting on Aug. 2, Giese told concerned citizens that snowy winter and rainy spring and summer had made road maintenance difficult.

State impacts on Human Services

Health and Human Services Director Joanie Murphy presented the board with her interpretations of the impact laws passed in the most recent legislative session will have on human services. Murphy characterized the session as "the good, the bad, and the ugly" in terms of impact.

Murphy told the commissioners the legislature had directed the state Department of Human Services to simplify and streamline the various income maintenance programs the department administers, as well as look into electronic processing and verification procedures.

"I think that will be a work in progress, but I'm at least encouraged that [the Department] finally has a legislative charge to do that and begin to do some administrative simplification," said Murphy. "I think it will make our lives easier."

However, much of the fallout from legislative discussions will be less positive. Small cuts to various programs like state child support incentives, chemical dependency programs, the rates paid to childcare providers, and other changes are like "a thousand paper cuts," said Murphy.

"It's not one huge cut, but there's all these little nicks and you start to bleed from that," said Murphy.

Viking Library System budget request remains flat

Peg Werner, director of the Viking Library System, presented the 2010 annual report to the board. In 2010, libraries in Stevens County (Hancock, Morris, and the bookmobile) circulated 126,164 items, third highest circulation rate in the Viking Library system. However, Werner said circulation is not always reflective of library use.

Werner asked that funding for the library system remain flat for the fourth year in a row, asking for $53,439 in 2012. This money is used to provide automation, technical support, and county-wide services like interlibrary loan and the bookmobile. The budget request includes no staff wage increases, and will result in less discretionary funding for all system libraries, explained Werner.

Melissa Yauk, director of the Morris Public Library, told the board her budget is increasingly being used for building maintenance while also trying to provide more library materials in multiple formats (large print, ebooks, and audio books, for example).

"A wide variety of people use the library, and every one has different requests and different ways they like to receive materials," said Yauk. "What I am working on now is just trying to maintain where we are."

The board will consider the request as part of their 2012 budget discussions.

Other business

  • The Board unanimously approved participating in a new Business Lien Services system that revises the UCC filing process with the Minnesota Secretary of State's office.
  • The Board unanimously approved a liquor license for the Pomme de Terre Golf Course. The license is contingent on a state inspection of the golf course.
  • The Board unanimously approved a joint powers agreement on behalf of the Sheriff's Department with the State of Minnesota, Department of Public Safety, and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to receive funding for an adapter for eCharging in the county. The eCharging system will allow deputies to file parking tickets and other documents directly from a squad car.
  • The Board also unanimously approved the purchase of a slightly-used pup trailer for about $16,000 for the Highway Department.

The board will next meet for a budget work session, tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 8 a.m. in anticipation of passing a preliminary budget at their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

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Correction: The originally posted version of this story had Melissa Yauk's name spelled incorrectly. We regret the error.