BOARD OF WRIGHT COUNTY
MAY 17, 2022
DATE APPROVED: May 31, 2022
The Wright County Board met in regular session at 9:00 A.M. with Husom, Vetsch, Daleiden, Wetter, and Kaczmarek present.
COUNTY BOARD MINUTES 05-03-2022
Commissioner Darek Vetsch moved to approve the County Board minutes from Tuesday, May 3, 2022. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Mark Daleiden and carried 5-0.
Assistant County Administrator Clay Wilfahrt requested the addition of two items: Leadership Retreat Update and Discussion of the Government Center Open House.
Vetsch moved to approve the Agenda with the additions. The motion was seconded by Daleiden and carried 5-0.
Commissioner Mike Kaczmarek requested to remove Item E1 (Information Technology) for further discussion.
Kaczmarek moved to approve the Consent Agenda with the removal of Item E1 for further discussion. The motion was seconded by Daleiden and carried 5-0.
*Items removed for further discussion
1. Schedule A Personnel Committee Meeting On May 25, 2022
A. Hiring Of A Property Appraiser
B. Review The Creation And Recommendations From R.A.I.S.E. (Retain, Attract, Inform, Satisfaction, And Engage) Work Group
C. Discuss Process And Methods To Review And Analyze The Needs And Future Of County GIS Functions And Fit
D. Update On Highway Finance Centralization
E. Consideration Of Revision To Policy 310 To Include Sick Time Donation
2. ARP Broadband Grant Applications
3. ARP Grant Application And Program Request
B. Cokato Charitable Trust – Replace Furniture
C. Wright Academy Connections
4. Position Replacement Report
B. ADMINISTRATION – FINANCE
1. Approve Application Of Laestadian Lutheran Church For A Large Group Assembly Permit For An Event On June 29 Through July 5, 2022 Conditional On Applicant Following Any Recommendations From The Wright County Sheriff Office And Wright County Highway Department
2. Motion To Approve The Budget Amendment Below:
3. Approve 2022 Tobacco License For Amir, LLC DBA St. Michael Smoke Shop (St. Michael) From June 1, 2022 To December 31, 2022
4. Motion To Approve The Reimbursement Of The American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) Funds As Follows:
County ARP Funds:
Approval Of County Reimbursement Of $654.61 From 01-099- 493.6910 Transfer Out Into 01-100-493.5910 Transfer In As Follows:
$654.61 For Administrative Expenses-Staff Costs
5. Acknowledge Warrants Issued Between April 27, 2022 And May 10, 2022 (See Below, Item IX Warrants Issued)
C. AG & DRAINAGE
1. Accept And Sign The Multipurpose Drainage Management 2022 Grant Agreement For $210,000.00 On Joint Ditch #15
1. Approve And Authorize Signature On Agreement With BNSF For Removal Of The Automatic Flashing Light Signals At The Railroad Crossing On CSAH 39 (Elm Street) In Monticello. The Agreement Provides For BNSF To Remove The Existing Automatic Flashing Light Signals And Installation Of Crossbucks, Yield Signs, And Advance Warning Signs At The Railroad Crossing On CSAH 39 (Elm Street) In Monticello
2. Approve Schedule For Receiving Bids For CSAH 19 Reconstruction Project In St. Michael. Schedule To Receive Bids At 11 A.M. Tuesday, June 14, 2022: Contract 2205 – CSAH 19 Project; SP 086-619-035
3. Approve Date And Time For Receiving Bids For The Otsego Shop Building Expansion Project. Schedule To Receive Bids At 2 P.M. Tuesday, May 31, 2022: Wright County Satellite Shop Expansion (Otsego Shop)
E. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
1. *Approve Airfare And Hotel/Lodging Funds Be Allocated For Mark Kellogg And Jason Banick To Travel Out Of State To Las Vegas, Nevada For Cisco Live Training Event
ITEMS REMOVED FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION
E. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
1. Approve Airfare And Hotel/Lodging Funds Be Allocated For Mark Kellogg And Jason Banick To Travel Out Of State To Las Vegas, Nevada For Cisco Live Training Event
Kaczmarek questioned when the training is taking place and how long it will last. Information Technology Technical Services Manager Mark Kellogg stated the training will be held June 13 – 17. Kaczmarek requested Kellogg present an update about what was learned at the conference at a County Board meeting. Kellogg stated the county recently invested money in renewing networking gear and the event will be an opportunity to learn more about the new technology.
Kaczmarek moved to approve Consent Agenda Item E1. The motion was seconded by Daleiden and carried 5-0.
TIMED AGENDA ITEMS
SEAN DERINGER, SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Present Deputy Mitch Flemming His Retirement Plaque After More Than 30 Years Of Service To The Wright County Sheriff’s Office
Sheriff Sean Deringer stated Deputy Mitch Flemming is one of the most welcoming members at the Sheriff’s Office. Flemming has a wealth of knowledge and was the first gun permit expert the Sheriff’s Office ever had. Deringer stated Flemming has left a lasting impact on the Sheriff’s Office. Flemming has been with the Sheriff’s Office for more than 31 years. Deringer presented Flemming his retirement plaque. Flemming stated he is proud to serve the county and the community.
The commissioners thanked Flemming for his service and congratulated him on his retirement.
MATT TREICHLER, SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Resolution To Approve A 2022 Federal Boating Safety Patrol Grant
Chief Deputy Matt Treichler stated the grant will be used for additional boating safety patrols during high watercraft use periods. Kaczmarek questioned if the grant funds are limited to specific uses. Treichler stated the previous grant the Sheriff’s Office received allowed for broad uses. This grant only allows the funds to be used to pay wages for patrol.
Daleiden moved to approve the resolution for the 2022 Federal Boating Safety Patrol Grant. The motion was seconded by Kaczmarek and carried 5-0, on a roll call vote.
Schedule A Committee Of The Whole Meeting To Discuss A School Resource Officer Request And Supervision Span Of Control For The Unit
Kaczmarek questioned if the School Resource Officer rate will be similar to what has been offered in the past. Treichler stated the rate will remain the same and information will be sent to the commissioners prior to the Committee of the Whole meeting.
Vetsch moved to approve scheduling a Committee of the Whole meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 1. The motion was seconded by Daleiden and carried 5-0.
VIRGIL HAWKINS, HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT
Approve Resolution And MnDOT Master Partnership Contract No. 1050340. This New Master Partnership Contract (MPC) With MnDOT For 2022-2027 Will Replace The Current 2018-2022 MPC That Expires On June 30, 2022
Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins stated the Master Partnership Contract is renewed every five years and allows mutual aid with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
Daleiden moved to approve the resolution and MnDOT Master Partnership Contract No. 1050340. The motion was seconded by Vetsch and carried 5-0.
Award Contract No. 2207, CSAH 35/Dague Avenue Roundabout Project (Subject To Authorization Of Award By The MnDOT Civil Rights Office). We Recommend Award Of Contract No. 22-07 To New Look Contracting, Inc. Of Rogers, MN In The Amount Of $2,102,945.50
Daleiden stated there were only two bidders on the project and questioned if companies’ schedules are filling up. Hawkins stated the department is worried about having bidders for future projects. Vetsch stated he believes the current labor market is making it difficult for companies to complete for as many jobs as they normally would.
Vetsch moved to award Contract No. 2207. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Mary Wetter and carried 5-0.
EDWARD PETTIT, PLANNING & ZONING
Approve For Signature Updated Cooperative Agreement Between Wright County And Minnesota Department Of Agriculture For Hazardous Waste Pesticide Collection
Daleiden asked how much hazardous waste pesticide was collected. Environmental Health Supervisor Edward Pettit stated 6,558 pounds were collected in 2019 with a reimbursement of $1,639.50. In 2020, 6,277 pounds were collected with a reimbursement of $1,600. In 2021, 8,293 pounds were collected with a reimbursement of $2,073.25. The agreement doubles the reimbursement rate.
Pettit stated the waste is shipped out of state to an incinerator. The reimbursement helps cover the cost of disposal. Pettit stated he will provide the commissioners with information comparing the cost of removal and reimbursement received.
Daleiden moved to approve the updated Cooperative Agreement between Wright County and Minnesota Department of Agriculture for Hazardous Waste Pesticide Collection. The motion was seconded by Wetter and carried 5-0.
MATTHEW DETJEN, AG & DRAINAGE
Approve And Sign The Joint Ditch Drainage Policy Between Meeker, McLeod, Renville, Sibley, And Wright County
Agriculture & Drainage Coordinator Matthew Detjen stated the counties worked for approximately four years on the Joint Ditch Drainage Policy. Kaczmarek stated the process was smooth and Detjen is very knowledgeable.
Daleiden moved to approve the Joint Ditch Draining Policy. The motion was seconded by Kaczmarek and carried 5-0.
Approve Resolution Findings Of Fact & Order Regarding Redetermination Of Benefits For County Ditch 35 And County Ditch #17 Pursuant To Minnesota Statute 103E.351
Wetter questioned where the ditches are located. Detjen stated County Ditch 17 is in Buffalo Township and County Ditch 35 is in Maple Lake Township. Detjen stated both ditches have had previous requests for redetermination of benefits. Kaczmarek stated there is a price difference, but Detjen assured him that the lower price will not require more staff time. Detjen stated both ditches will be completed within one year.
Chief of Civil Division Attorney Greg Kryzer reminded the commissioners they are acting as the Wright County Drainage Authority on the matter. Kryzer stated staff has reviewed the watershed and the area is smaller than it should be. The watershed will be expanded, returning to proper standards. Vetsch added he would like the process to be thorough because the report may become contentious. Commissioner Christine Husom stated the process will change the number of benefitted landowners and emphasized the importance for the viewers to do their due diligence.
Daleiden moved to approve the resolution findings of fact & order regarding redetermination of benefits for County Ditch 35. The motion was seconded by Wetter and carried 5-0, on a roll call vote.
Daleiden moved to approve the resolution findings of fact & order regarding redetermination of benefits for County Ditch 17. The motion was seconded by Wetter and carried 5-0, on a roll call vote.
ITEMS FOR CONSIDERATION
BROADBAND COMMITTEE (5/9/2022)
Vetsch moved to approve the Broadband Committee meeting minutes from Monday, May 9. The motion was seconded by Daleiden and carried 5-0.
I. Grant Application Recommendations
Project Administrator Elizabeth Karels started the meeting by clarifying the eligibility requirements that were set forth for applicants. These requirements included the limit that requested county contribution could not exceed 50 percent of the total project cost, the maximum contribution could not exceed $400,000, projects must use prevailing wage rates, technology had to be designed to meet American Rescue Plan (ARP) requirements, project areas could not be identified as “winning areas” in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), providers must agree to enroll in a low-income subsidy program, grantees must demonstrate that their workforce meets high safety training standards, grantees must provide a certified document listing violation of federal and state employment laws, and the grantee must be eligible to receive federal funds. Of the 13 applicants, two of the applicants did not meet the eligibility requirements so those applicants were not moved on for scoring. Karels emphasized the committee needed to abide by the presented scoring requirements as they had been published. The scoring criteria included grant funding request amount, city and township contributions, Internet Service Provider (ISP) contributions, project readiness/proposed schedule, the number of passings and the only subjective scoring criteria took into consideration because the project would be best suited for the ARP funding source. Each of these sections had a scoring system that awarded points based on the applicants’ answers.
Communications Specialist John Holler asked if the applicants knew what the scoring criteria was when they applied. Karels confirmed that they did, and it was obvious based on how the questions were answered and the specific amount of funding the applicants requested. Holler asked if there was a way for the applicants to manipulate their numbers to be more appealing to the Committee. Commissioner Darek Vetsch explained that the scoring criteria was very cut and dried and there was no real way to manipulate the numbers. Karels added that unless they were lying on the application, this would not be an issue.
Karels outlined the review process that began with the application review done by Wright County staff, from there the eligible applicants would be scored based on the criteria previously laid out. From the scoring, County staff would then make their recommendations to the ARP Committee. The ARP Committee in turn would review all the ARP-SLFRF funded projects to ensure compliance with ARP-SLFRF and bring to the County Board with its recommendations. The County Board would then review the recommendations and grant awards. The targeted timeframe for the grant award is May 2022.
Karels showed a summary slide that illustrated where the proposed project areas were within the County. According to this information, the Board had the potential to affect 1,645 homes and businesses which included one city, one municipal provider, one co-op provider, and three private providers. The total request for funding from the County was just over $1.9 million. Karels then broke down each project proposal to include the criteria previously laid out. Ranked first was the City of South Haven which was the only city to put in its own funding in the application. Second was LTD Broadband for Middleville Township. Tied for third was LTD Broadband for Victor and Stockholm Townships, and LTD Broadband for Stockholm Township alone. Karels explained these are all non-ARDOF areas and LTD Broadband was the ARDOF winner and chose areas outside of the areas it was awarded. Tied for fifth was Windstream Lakedale for Southside and French Lake Townships, and Midco for Silver Creek Township. Karels explained that if the Board were to make the cut off at the $1.2 million in funding, it would make the cut after sixth place which was Midco for Silver Creek Township. She wanted to continue to explain the remaining applications so the Committee could take all the applicants into consideration before making a decision. Tied for seventh was Meeker Coop for Stockholm Township, and LTD Broadband for Middleville and Cokato Townships. Ninth was LTD Broadband for Victor Township. Tenth was Meeker Coop for French Lake Township. Lastly, eleventh was Buffalo Fiber, which was the city-owned provider, for Buffalo Township.
The Scoring Committee came up with two possible recommendations. The first recommendation was to fund all the eligible projects at $1.9 million, which was within the Broadband allocation. With the total cost of the projects being $6.6 million, the County would only pay $1.9 million which came out to 28 percent of total project cost and serve 1,645 homes and businesses. The second recommendation would be to make the cut off at the $1.2 million which would service six of the eleven applicants and bring the service population down to 1,095 homes and businesses.
Holler asked the two commissioners on the committee, Vetsch and Commissioner Mark Daleiden, if they knew if the Board had an idea of what they wanted to do regarding funding for this project. Vetsch said that it came down to doing this in one shot or breaking it up and having to go through this application process again in a second round of grant funding. He said that either way they will be doing this a second time. Karels recommended that they do all the applicants now as they have the interest from the ISPs, the time, and the funding available. Assistant Finance Director Heather Lemieux and Business Analyst Zach Breyen seconded this recommendation. Lemieux said that on the finance side of things she preferred that it was clean, and this could be accomplished by funding all the applicants at once. Information Technology Director Matthew Fomby expressed that his only concern was that the amount of funding per unit was so much greater in the Buffalo Township proposal than the rest of the proposals. Buffalo was asking for $7,400 per unit from the County, while the next highest request per unit was $3,000. Fomby added that Buffalo Township was only asking to support 25 houses and added that this did not sound like a good use of the funds. Karels pointed out that when this proposal was compared to the Dig Once project, this current proposal was a much better option. Fomby was still concerned that the cost per unit was simply too much higher than the rest to justify the cost per unit. Daleiden pointed out that there would be a development to the east of the proposed service area, and this brought the potential to service more houses in the future. Breyen added that during his conversation with the ISP, it expressed the potential that it could branch off and serve the rest of the future development of that area. Vetsch pointed out that if the committee took too much consideration into the high cost per until, a lot of the rural areas of the county would never be serviced. Karels added that Buffalo Township would never be eligible for state funding. Daleiden asked about utilizing towers in this specific area instead of fiber. Karels said it was not feasible in the area to use towers for this purpose. Assistant County Administrator Clay Wilfahrt asked if there was a way to fund this project for less money. Fomby responded that it was not likely based on how spread out the homes were and that the ISPs would not want to fund this because of how expensive it is per unit. Wilfahrt added that this was exactly why the Committee should consider including this proposal. Vetsch and Breyen both pointed out that this was what the funding for this project was intended for, these areas and homes that would never be covered due to the high cost. Vetsch suggested the Committee bring the funding cap down to $1.8 million. Karels said that cap was not a concern because the Committee was already underspending on the funds. Lemieux pointed out that the budget time frame would be coming up quickly and that there needed to be a decision made. There was a discussion about the likelihood for the land to the east of this proposal, in Buffalo Township, be built up and the fiber used in the future in this development. Vetsch noted that, from an economic development standpoint, this could be a great opportunity. Technology Services Manager Mark Kellogg asked about the potential of Buffalo Township coming back to the Committee to ask for more funding when this development was built up. Karels said this could happen and they would need to wait to see if it would have funding at the time that it asks for the additional funds. Vetsch pointed out that if the Committee waited for the development to start this project, they could be waiting six to seven years. He added that starting this project presumptively could spark the development to begin sooner and that he could justify the expense. Karels said that CenturyLink had a large service area north of Lake Constance, which was north of the proposed service area for Buffalo Township and that this could provide more opportunity down the road as well.
Assistant County Attorney Greg Kryzer asked County Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins if the large cost was due to the construction around the lake and asked if the roundabout would get in the way of the conduit. Hawkins explained that the Highway Department had just taken this project over and that he was not very familiar with that area. Daleiden asked if it was a good idea that the project wait for the road expansion. Hawkins said that this expansion would occur in 2024 and added that the conduit would have to be moved again if it was put in now. Vetsch suggested that there be more discussion on this proposal because of the need to align it with the Highway Department’s planning. Karels said that for the time being the Committee would not set up Buffalo Township in this round of grant proposals. She added that she would discuss this with Buffalo Fiber and try to plan the project in conjunction with the planned highway construction and road expansion. Karels asked if Hawkins knew the length of the plan. Hawkins said it was on the 5-year plan for 2024 but that the scope of the project was not a firm plan yet. Hawkins said there would be a highway plat done if the County does widen the road.
Vetsch added that he had been contacted by some areas of the County that wanted to know if the Committee would offer another grant application with a 60-to-90-day window. He explained that this was because it was difficult for the cities and townships to get together with the ISPs in the timeframe they had with the current grant opportunity. Karels confirmed that there are two Requests for Information (RFIs) posted with two-month turnarounds. She said she would be happy to connect with these individuals in order to help them navigate to the correct ISPs for their area. Karels said the upcoming RFI was not sent to cities and townships, just ISPs. Vetsch explained that there was a delay from the citizens getting their needs to the townships, and that this was where the issue with the 60-day window was. There was more time needed for the cities and townships to have a discussion. Karels requested that this be something the commissioners put out in their meetings with the cities and townships. Karels added that there was more opportunity to fund projects with the funding the Broadband Committee had available to allocate. Holler asked where the $1.2 million number came from for the current projects. Karels said this number was an arbitrary decision and it was reiterated that there could be more funding for other projects and proposals in the future.
Holler brought the conversation back to the road construction and asked Hawkins if the plan was to widen the road. Hawkins said that had not been decided but that he would like to see it widened and repurposed to provide shoulders. Karels asked when there would be a decision made on the scope of this project and Hawkins said a decision would be made within a year.
Vetsch asked about the Rockford Township application and why it was not on the list. Karels said it was mainly due to the areas they requested were in RDOF areas. She explained that the township could not connect with an ISP. Karels added that the township planned to apply for the Border-to-Border Grant. For now, the Committee could not address the RDOF areas since they do not want to potentially duplicate benefits. Daleiden read the article Holler had handed out at the beginning of the meeting and pointed out that it raised some concerns. The article talked about the ISP chosen and some of the follow through issues other communities had previously had with this specific ISP. Karels said that LTD Broadband was the ISP winner in the county and that this provider was traditionally a wireless provider. This project for the county would be the ISP’s first fiber installation of this scale and that was where the concerns stemmed from. The current grant would be a reimbursement grant, which would allow more auditing of work before the funds would be allocated. Karels said the committee could write language into the grant to address a longer expiration period but that it needed to be obligated by 2024 and spent by 2026. If the ISP were to sit on the money and draw out the construction period, it would not get the funding reimbursement. This process would safeguard against LTD Broadband dragging its feet and allow the committee to re-encumber it if this happened. Daleiden asked when RDOF projects would happen and Karels responded that it would be within 10 years. It was restated that the RFIs that were sent out were due back to the committee by Tuesday, July 5 and Tuesday, July 12.
Buffalo Township would not be added in the grant funding, due to the potential for road expansion in 2024. Karels will meet with Buffalo Township to provide options and discuss coordinating with the highway expansion for this project.
II. Dig Once Recommendation
Karels wanted to confirm that everyone understood the recommendation they would be making to the County Board for the first round of funding with the intention of dropping the CIP. Vetsch agreed with this recommendation, and it was thought that the cost outweighed the potential benefits of putting in the conduit. Daleiden thought that the dig recommendation is too expansive and did not want to put something in the ground that no one will use. He thought there needed to be better conversation when new roads were being constructed so the ISPs can be aware and a part of the conversation to utilize this timeframe. Breyen added that directional drilling may be a more cost-effective and safe way to go about this project was there was no guarantee that people would utilize the conduit them. Daleiden asked if Sherburne County has had anyone using the fiber that it put in the ground. Fomby argued that someone would use the conduit and fiber because it is cheaper to have it there when it is needed rather than start from nothing when it is needed. He thought that if they put it in the ground, it would potentially be used in the next 5-10 years. Fomby added that his thought is that everything would eventually be wireless.
Karels suggested revising the Dig Once policy. Daleiden agreed and reiterated the need to talk to providers as well. Breyen said the ISPs would need to be the one to lay it down in the future and agreed with Daleiden on this matter.
RECOMMENDATION: Not go forward with Dig Once policy until the language in the policy is revised.
III. Fiber Infrastructure RFI Update
Holler asked Karels if she was concerned about the article he had referenced earlier. Karels had not had a chance to read it but did express a concern that the negative input may have come from competing ISPs. Daleiden thought it would be a concern but thought this could be mitigated by requiring LTD Broadband to provide receipts in order to be paid. Karels suggested implementing more site visits and other operations to mitigate this concern. Vetsch suggested adding in a deadline of December 2023 and thought adding an audit would be helpful. Kryzer suggested partnering with Buffalo’s ISP. Vetsch suggested that the committee tie the grant projects together and Karels expressed a wish to add language into the grant that allowed the county to back out at any time. There was a need to confirm whether this would be legally allowable. Daleiden suggested only approving the 2022 and 2023 projects and Vetsch added that they could tell the rest of the applicants that had subsequent projects to reapply in the next round. There was discussion that applicants would need time for planning before implementation of grant funds and cutting those projects would create unrealistic timelines. Fomby suggested that the committee add language to the grant that specified the applicants would need to at least start by 2023.
Kryzer suggested accepting another round of grant applications in September through December. Karels pointed out that eliminating the 2024 applicants would eliminate two more applicants. Karels said it was $400,000 the committee would be saving by creating this deadline. Lemieux suggested that these funds could be reallocated. Karels added that the committee knew it had obligated funds already for Broadband Committee projects in the future. Fomby pointed out that if there were projects that did not meet the 2022 or 2023 deadlines the committee would then know the applicants could not complete the 2024 projects planned. Fomby asked if there was a legal hold up due to the need to wait and see if the applicants broke ground or not to withdraw funding. Kryzer confirmed this was a legal issue and there needed to be proof of breaking the timeline to break the contract. Vetsch pointed out that if the committee saw that the 2022 projects were not on track, the committee would not be able to do anything to pull funding for the 2024 projects. It would then have to wait years to break contract and reallocate the funds. Lemieux pointed out that it was $400,000 and this would not be a major concern as it was a small amount of funding in comparison to other county projects. Kryzer suggested only approving projects done by 2023. Karels argued that this was an unrealistic timeline due to supply chain issues. Vetsch suggested getting started on another round of grant applications in the fall of 2022.
Schedule the next Broadband Meeting for 11:00 am Monday, June 6, 2022.
Formalize the second round of grants for the Fall of 2022.
COUNTY BOARD WORKSHOP (5/10/2022)
Kaczmarek questioned if Wilfahrt has heard any more from BKV. Wilfahrt stated there has been some conversation with BKV and there is a willingness to attend a future board meeting. Kaczmarek stated he spoke with Bruce Schwartzman of BKV. Kaczmarek stated Schwartzman went on tours with county staff and found the spiral airflow worked better than what was installed in the county’s range. The panel that was installed requires programming the night before to set up for the next day’s training. The proposed panel option would be ready for shooting in a matter of minutes. Kaczmarek stated it seems more practical to have the proposed option, leaving less opportunity for someone. Kaczmarek added Schwartzman stated he believed the technology was available when the county’s range was being planned and designed. Kaczmarek stated BKV agreed the spiral airflow and different control panel would work better than what the county currently has. Kaczmarek stated he does not think the county should be paying for any of the changes because BKV was hired to design and engineer the best option. Kaczmarek stated the county should pay for the quicker shipment of the parts.
Vetsch stated he agrees with Kaczmarek that BKV was hired as experts to provide a workable system.
Kaczmarek moved to approve the County Board Workshop meeting minutes from Tuesday, May 10, excluding the recommendation from Item VII. The motion was seconded by Daleiden and carried 5-0.
Vetsch moved to schedule a Committee of the Whole meeting with BKV to discuss and negotiate a solution. The motion was seconded by Kaczmarek.
Husom emphasized the urgency of getting the range operational. Facilities Services Director Alan Wilczek stated shooting can currently take place in the range with the controls that are installed and does not require pre-programming. The controller that is being put in has a red or green indicator light to let the shooter know if airflow parameters are being met. Wilczek stated the components have not yet been ordered because the minutes and recommendations have not yet been adopted. Daleiden questioned how much the spiral airflow parts cost. Wilczek stated approximately $21,000.
Daleiden suggested having administration contact BKV to determine availability. An item will be placed on the May 31 County Board meeting agenda to discuss meeting date options if BKV is not available to come to a coming Board meeting.
The motion carried 5-0.
I. Schedule Meetings as Needed
County Administrator Lee Kelly asked to petition a pair of items to the workshop agenda – discussion concerning the Wright County Sheriff’s Office Training Center and discussion concerning Senate File 4062 related to a drainage registry. He said there were no new meetings to schedule but is still looking to lock down a date for a board retreat that was postponed from its initial May timeframe.
II. Medical Examiner’s Annual Report
The annual report was delivered by Shane Sheets, Director of Midwest Medical Examiner (MME). He stated MME is the medical examiner for 32 Minnesota counties, including Wright County and conducts autopsies for 42 counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Sheets stated the fee charged by MME is $2.46 per capita – a fee that will not go up this year.
Sheets said MME assumed jurisdiction on 117 cases in 2021 – an increase from previous years. It also declined jurisdiction on 488 cases. Declined cases are deemed to be natural cause deaths and the Death Certificate can be signed by the individual’s physician. MME took jurisdiction on 19 percent of cases, which is similar to the national average. In 2021, MME performed 68 autopsies, which is an increase of 14 from 2020. Sheets added that there have been increases statewide in 2021 similar to the increase in Wright County. There were three homicides in 2021 – an increase from zero in 2020. Aside from the three homicides, there were 54 accidental deaths, 42 natural cause deaths, 17 suicides (an increase of one from 2020) and one death deemed to be of undetermined causes.
Sheets pointed out that in the “accidental death” breakdown, there were 15 deaths attributed to drugs/substance abuse, up from nine in 2020. This is another trend that increased statewide, with many of the drug-related deaths involving fentanyl. There were 13 vehicle-accident deaths in 2021, up from six in 2020.
Commissioner Christine Husom asked Sheets about the use of a Lox Statscan. He said MME is the first in the Midwest to utilize the body scanner. The Statscan was developed by engineers in South Africa as a way to combat the theft of diamonds as smugglers would swallow the diamonds to avoid detection. The Statscan provides low-radiation X-ray imagery that can provide instant analysis of all bones and many soft tissues. In a traumatic injury death, a full examination isn’t required with this piece of equipment, which can conduct a full-body scan in less than 13 seconds. Husom said it is beneficial for county commissioners and staff to access the data provided by MME to learn more about the trends that rise and fall in the number of deaths attributed to a specific cause.
Commissioner Mark Daleiden asked what the typical reason given for a local physician declining to sign a Death Certificate was. Sheets responded that there has been an exponential increase in physician-declined death certificates. He attributes the increase to lack of education when physicians are in medical school as to the protocol required when determining a cause of death. Sheets said MME provides a report to the physicians explaining what was discovered and the cause of death determination in hopes of reducing that number, but the number of physician-declined Death Certificates continues to climb. He said another factor is that some patients haven’t seen a physician in months or even years prior to their death. Sheets said that top staff at MME teach classes at the University of Minnesota and MME hosts fourth-year residency students and use both opportunities to educate medical students on signing Death Certificates.
RECOMMENDATION: The consensus was to accept the 2021 Midwest Medical Examiner Annual Report
III. Permitting and Ordinance of Gravel Pit Discussion
Kelly said this topic was added to the workshop agenda at the May 3 County Board meeting. Commissioner Darek Vetsch said this has been a topic recently in his district but has been an issue that has arisen numerous times throughout the county over the last two decades. Currently, Rockford Township is the only township that has an ordinance stricter than the county ordinance, Silver Creek Township currently has a gravel pit moratorium and Buffalo Township is considering putting a moratorium in place. Given that townships are taking action themselves, Vetsch questioned whether it is time for the county to revisit its gravel pit ordinance in a holistic approach to dealing with issues that arise throughout the county. Vetsch said his concern is that Wright County Planning & Zoning may find itself facing 10 or more sub-ordinances from townships at some point, which is difficult to manage through so many jurisdictions.
Planning & Zoning Administrator Barry Rhineberger said the first mention of mining and extraction in a county ordinance was in 1967 and most of the language in the current version dates back to 1979 – clearly reason for updating and modernization of the ordinance language. He said much of the verbiage in the ordinance is what gets submitted and what conditions are placed on them. For example, the Rockford gravel pit ordinance limits the number of open pits that can be in operation at any given time. Rhineberger said any decisions on the county ordinance end up in the hands of the Planning Commission, which is charged with placing conditions on the use of gravel pits.
Husom said that the use of an Interim Use Permit (IUP) is more straightforward than a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) because an IUP has a sunset date when the operation needs to be completed, while a CUP can remain in place if there aren’t any violations by the pit operator. Vetsch stated that a CUP renewal provides more rights for the operator, since the burden is on the Planning Commission to find something that has changed that would disallow the CUP from being renewed. With an IUP, Vetsch said, it much better states out the conditions in place and, once the term expires if work is to continue in that gravel pit, a new application needs to be submitted – effectively restarting the process from scratch as if it was a first-time application. Rhineberger said that, with a CUP, the county has the burden of proof to sunset a project, while the burden of proof is on the operator with an IUP.
Assistant County Attorney Greg Kryzer was asked to weigh in on the subject and said there is a difference of opinion of what is the best approach to take. An opinion from the Minnesota Attorney General differs from that of the county, but Kryzer said in discussion with counsel for the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust (MCIT), the county’s position is a safe one because there hasn’t been a challenge made yet to the Attorney General’s interpretation of best practices. He said many attorneys are operating in the dark because there is an Attorney General opinion that is contrary to those of practitioners that actually work in the field.
Vetsch said it is a complex subject because a stricter CUP/IUP process has a risk/benefit analysis that miners have to consider. If put on a short timeline, many miners won’t undertake operations because there isn’t the time to recoup costs and make the operation profitable. Rhineberger said there isn’t a lot of communication between the county and townships, adding that he found out about one township’s gravel pit moratorium 11 months after it was enacted. Vetsch said the discussion that has taken place in Silver Creek Township is delineating the different mining operations – gravel mining, a cement plant, an asphalt plant, etc. They all fall under the umbrella of gravel mining, but, depending on which operation it is, it can have very different impacts on the communities where it is located – the operation of mining gravel is very different from the operation of a hot mix bituminous plant.
Daleiden asked if the discussion should take place as a Committee of the Whole or as a sub-committee similar to what took place when a solar moratorium was enacted. He suggested getting pit owners and environmentalists involved in the conversation. Vetsch said he agreed with the concept but felt that, if there is a work group, it should be narrowed down. He used the example of the solar work group, which he said was too large and became toxic at times with contentious discussions taking place between the county and those in the group in the solar industry. If a committee or work group was to be formed, Vetsch suggested that it should have no more than nine members. Kryzer asked if it was the wish of the board to place a moratorium on new gravel pit applications. Vetsch expressed concern that, if the belief was that a moratorium was pending, the Planning Commission could get flooded with requests for permits before a potential moratorium could be enacted. Kryzer said if the potential was to enact a moratorium, notice would have to be given in the official county newspaper and a public hearing would need to be conducted. The earliest that could happen would be at the May 31 board meeting.
Commissioner Mike Kaczmarek stated the selection of a committee to work on updating the ordinance needs to be done carefully. He noted that many members of the solar work group were members of the industry that were in line for additional regulation. Vetsch said the county doesn’t have to enact a blanket moratorium, but rather a moratorium on pits on land designated as Ag-Residential or bordering Ag-Residential areas. Kaczmarek said he would like to see the scope of a potential moratorium narrowed, adding that he received little in the way of concerns from residents of his district but got plenty of feedback at Planning Commission meetings about projects north of Buffalo.
Husom said she would prefer to see a moratorium that wouldn’t last one full year. Rhineberger said the biggest issue with a short moratorium is that he is shorthanded on the staff that would take the lead on updating an ordinance, adding that a yearlong moratorium would be more appropriate. Kryzer agreed, saying that when the solar moratorium was in place, the group had several meetings and were trying to expedite the process and it still took one year to complete. Kryzer said when he drafts the public notice for publication in the official county newspaper, he will intentionally leave the language broad and the scope can be narrowed at the May 31 board meeting. Daleiden added that, since the ordinance was last updated in 1979, revisions need to be made.
RECOMMENDATION: The consensus was to move forward with having Kryzer draft the language for publication in the official county newspaper outlining the intent of the county board to consider a gravel pit permitting moratorium at its Tuesday, May 31 board meeting and to conduct a public hearing at that meeting.
IV. Opioid Settlement Discussion
Wright County Public Health Nurses Ellie Vanasse and Becky Graham made a PowerPoint presentation dealing with the $26 billion opioid settlement between numerous governmental jurisdictions and AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson and Johnson & Johnson. The Minnesota Attorney General signed a Memorandum of Understanding Feb. 25, 2022 that will bring $303 million in settlement funds to Minnesota over the next 18 years. Of that total, 75 percent will go to local communities for opioid education and programs and 25 percent will remain with the state. The funds will be overseen and distributed by the Opioid Epidemic Response Advisory Council (OERAC), an organization that Wright County Public Health Director Sarah Grosshuesch is a member. Local Public Health Departments have been named the chief strategists for how the funds will be used and all funds must be used for opioid mitigation activities, including treatment, prevention, recovery, harm reduction, research and training. Wright County’s allocation is $3,770,945.
Vanasse said Wright County Public Health has been doing opioid prevention work since 2018 to open lines of communications and partnering with communities, health professionals, law enforcement and stakeholders to see what opioid misuse looks like in Wright County. She added that in a 12-month period between May 2020 and April 2021, more than 100,000 Americans have died from an overdose, including 75,000 as a result of an opioid overdose. By far the most significant spike in opioid-related overdose deaths have been synthetic opioids, which increased from approximately 5,000 deaths in 2015 to almost 60,000 deaths in 2020. In Minnesota the number of opioid-involved overdose deaths has increased more than tenfold from 2000 to 2020 – 54 in 2000 to 678 in 2020. The 678 figure is almost double the number from as recently as 2018 (343).
Graham stated that John Hopkins-Bloomberg School of Public Health has developed guiding principles for spending the settlement funds. These guiding principles include spending money to save lives, use evidence to guide spending, investing in youth prevention, focusing on racial equality and developing a fair and transparent process for deciding where funds will be spent. There are also numerous core abatement strategies that have been developed to help jurisdictions identify evidence-based strategies shown to save lives from prescription opioid misuse and illicit opioid use. These include broadening access to naloxone (Narcan), increasing the use of medications to treat opioid use disorder, improve treatment in jails and prisons, enrich prevention strategies, support data collection and research, provide treatment/support during pregnancy/postpartum periods, fund warm hand-off and recovery services, expanding services for Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome and expanding harm reduction programs.
Vanasse said Public Health would like to see the creation of an Opioid Advisory Council (OAC) to educate on best practices related to opioid treatment/recovery/prevention, identify the process for applying for funds, determining funding buckets and forward recommendations to the county board for approval. She said the OAC membership should include county and local law enforcement, one or more county commissioners, schools, recovery/treatment facilities, a peer recovery specialist, an addiction medical provider, community members, primary caregivers, emergency management employees, Public Health representatives, a medical examiner and Human Services staff.
Vetsch asked if the four cities in the county that signed off on the lawsuit – Buffalo, Monticello, Otsego and St. Michael – receive a specific amount or are funded directly. Public Health Director Sarah Grosshuesch said only cities with populations over 30,000 receive direct payments and no set amount has been earmarked for any of the four cities. Grosshuesch said efforts will be made to reach out to all cities, perhaps having a staff member attended a Wright County Mayor’s Association meeting to get feedback from cities. Vetsch said he is concerned about having a task force that has too many members and expects that there will likely be sub-groups within the task force. Grosshuesch said the first objective of the task force will be to come up with a timetable given the length of time that funds will be received from the settlement. Vetsch said each commissioner could select a resident from his or her district to represent a cross-section of the county population. Grosshuesch suggested that the initial meetings should be public meetings so any interested community members can attend and there would be transparency in the process. Veteran Services Officer Greg Pickard asked that a veteran organization representative be considered for task force membership, pointing out the opioid abuse and addiction is a significant issue among veterans.
Grosshuesch said that there is no firm timetable as to when the funds will be coming to Wright County because the settlement allows for payments over an 18-year period. However, she added that the county should create a separate dedicated fund for the settlement money to be placed. Vetsch asked that when funding applications are made that they be done by commissioner district so the funds can be distributed equitably throughout the county. Commissioner Mary Wetter asked if it was determined if there were going to be reporting requirements. Grosshuesch said there will be annual reporting of how funds are expended, but, as with other aspects of the settlement, it is still in the early stages, but she did add that expenditures of more than $25,000 will require outcome-based documentation. Grosshuesch said there will be a learning curve with this settlement because the funds Minnesota received in the 1998 settlement with several tobacco companies were simply placed in the state’s General Fund and not earmarked specifically for use in tobacco-related public health programs. Much has been learned from that experience and these settlement funds will be more directly earmarked for specific uses from the beginning.
Daleiden mentioned that in 2018 Wright County was one of two counties to receive SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Partnership) grants for a pilot project, so the county should benefit from the experience gained over the last four years in identifying the issues involved and having the benefit of understanding how the settlement funds can best be used.
RECOMMENDATION: It was the consensus to continue the process of lining up members for a task force to oversee the expending of funds and compile a list of interested names and organizations to present to the County Board at a future meeting prior to Aug. 1.
V. Fairgrounds Roof Follow-up Discussion
Kelly stated staff has met with the Wright County Fair Board to discuss the status of the roofs on multiple buildings. Facilities Services Director Alan Wilczek said there was storm damage to roofs at the Fairgrounds last summer. He said the Fair Board is looking to install a metal replacement roof on the Dairy Barn and would pay the additional cost above the funds received from MCIT for the damage claim out of Fair Board fund reserves. The Fair Board is also looking for a metal roof for the restroom area. The schoolhouse and the Octagon Building will move forward with asphalt shingle replacement. Wilczek added that proposals will be revised because of price increases from last year. Two log cabins on the property were damaged. One will not be repaired and the other will be repaired by the Wright County Historical Society. The county will be responsible for roof repairs to just the schoolhouse and Octagon Building.
RECOMMENDATION: The consensus was to have Wilczek continue to work with the Wright County Fair Board and MCIT to resolve the situation and get the damaged roofs repaired.
VI. Meeting Room Guidelines Discussion
Kelly stated that since the new Government Center opened, staff have fielded requests about using the facility’s conference room for meetings from various entities. The county has a meeting room guideline policy that was written in 2012, which is good starting point. However, given the difference in size of the old and new Government Center, the potential uses of the new facility are significantly different from the availability of meeting room space in the old Government Center. Kelly and Assistant County Administrator Clay Wilfahrt reached out to other cities and counties to see what policies they have place for meeting room guidelines. One of the keys to the current policy is that a group much have a direct affiliation to the county and there is a desire not to set a precedent by allowing outside organizations with no affiliation to the county to access county facilities for private functions.
Wilfahrt presented the board with the current policy. He stated other groups, non-profits and for-profit organizations can use county meeting room spaces if there is an affiliation with the county or if the organization is being funded by the county. Use of the facilities is predicated on expressed consent from the county board and/or the Leadership Team. Wilfahrt said the policy as written has worked well because, to date, there haven’t been requests from groups outside those affiliated with the county. He said Sherburne County doesn’t allow any for-profit use of its facilities without a prior affiliation. Dakota County prohibits commercial uses entirely. Stearns County has no policy in place. After review by staff, the policy is working well. The only concern raised was a provision requiring board approval, which could put a commissioner in awkward position in a public forum if asked to approve or deny a request.
Vetsch said the new Government Center is a different scenario because of its size. He said he could envision an affiliated group like the Wright County Economic Development Partnership (WCEDP) hosting an event that could include 100-150 people that would require setup, bringing in a catered meal, etc. He asked if large-scale events would take place would there be a fee structure. Wilfahrt said that, as an affiliated group, WCEDP would be eligible under the policy. Kelly said there weren’t nearly the number of available large conference room in the old Government Center so it wasn’t as much of an issue for outside groups to request meeting room space that was extremely limited in functionality. He added that the anticipation is that there will be requests coming in the future and this is an opportunity to vet that before it becomes an issue. Kaczmarek asked if the county has a facility fee schedule. Wilfahrt said larger counties have fee schedules primarily because they have facilities specifically available for public gatherings. Wright County doesn’t have a fee schedule for facilities, but does have areas in the parks system that can rent out spaces for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Vetsch said he wanted this brought to the workshop meeting to have a robust conversation. He doesn’t envision that it will become a pressing issue, but added that having the discussions now can help staff prepare for what might be coming. Husom said she would anticipate the Township Officers Association having a meeting in the new Government Center, since it has conducted previous meetings at the Justice Center and the Sheriff’s Office Training Center after both of those facilities opened. Kaczmarek said there should be a written waiver agreement in place for outside entities looking to use rooms in the Government Center and should be part of the next updated meeting room policy.
Wilczek said that if an affiliated outside entity were to have a meeting in the Government Center, it would be in contact with a county department, which would be the conduit to assure that the building is opened and locked if the meeting is conducted outside of regular business hours. Wilfahrt cautioned that if one outside non-affiliated group is given permission to use the facility meeting rooms, it would set a precedent that could make it difficult to deny others making similar requests. Daleiden asked how an evening meeting would be treated if technology is needed or maintenance staff needs to open and close the building since there are personnel costs involved with have employees on-site after hours. Wilfahrt said there is typically a department that hosts after-hours meetings, and those department representatives are responsible for making sure the building is secured when the meeting concludes. Kaczmarek stated when local businesses hold meetings there is a potential for profit from food, beverages, or space usage.
RECOMMENDATION: It was the consensus that the policy as currently written serves the general purposes for meeting room guidelines. Wilfahrt was directed to work through issues as they arise and update the policy to incorporate language about opening and closing the Government Center for after-hours meetings.
Wright County Board minutes 5/17/22