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Commissioners consider 2014 ditch levies

MORRIS – On Tuesday, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners took a first look at the proposed ditch levies for 2014.

Auditor/Treasurer Neil Wiese told the board that only two of the county’s 30 ditches have major levy increases planned.

County Engineer Brian Giese and Wiese proposed increasing the levies for CD2 and CD3 up to $20,000, from $5,000 and $4,000 respectively, to pay for planned and completed projects. 

Although there are no firm plans in place for CD2, Assistant Ditch Inspector Dan Lissick has been doing a comprehensive inspection of the system that Giese said will likely lead to about $30,000 in work next year. This fall, county staff have been working in CD3 to remove trees and repair culverts for a cost of about $40,000.

The proposed levies also include pay down of loans for CD1 and CD15. The board will have to approve the levies before the end of the year.

Another ditch decision coming before the end of the year is a proposed improvement project for CD30. In October, the board, acting as the county drainage authority, held a hearing on the project, which includes about 2,000 acres in Scott, Darnen, Horton and Synnes townships.

If the project is approved, the county will need to take out a bond for about $2 million for the ditch system. The board will likely make a final decision on the project at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 10:30 a.m.

Veterans Service Office will see temporary staffing changes

While Stevens County Veterans Service Officer Hugh Reimers is out of the office on medical leave, the Stevens County Veterans Service Office will have limited hours with other staff and volunteers stepping in to help fill the gap.

County Coordinator Brian Giese told the board Tuesday that a representative from the state Department of Veterans Affairs will be in the office in Stevens County every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Staff in Swift County will be on call to respond to any immediate needs, and Veterans Advocate Kayci Wendland to help check phone messages daily. Transportation services will be coordinated by Tommy Tomlin.

“Hugh particularly wanted to make sure the board was aware of what would be happening over the next few weeks,” said Giese.

Agencies want to simplify human services program requirements

The Minnesota Association of County Social Service Administrators is hoping to simplify the rules and regulations that govern program requirements to improve customer service, Human Service Director Director Joanie Murphy told the board Tuesday.

In 2013, MACSSA and the Association of Minnesota Counties lobbied for money to help improve the computers systems that run many of the programs that social workers use on a daily basis.

But in order for the technology to work effectively, the rules for assistance programs need to be aligned so, for example, eligibility is consistent across programs, Murphy said.

“There are so many rules, and the rules are different for each program,” said Murphy.

A 2007 study by the Office of the Legislative Auditor found that many of the eligibility rules are too complex to even automate, which wastes resources and creates barriers for clients.

One of the first goals is to focus on setting up the same eligibility criteria for income and assets across all programs, Murphy said.