By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

On June 11, Houston County commissioners accepted a grant reimbursement from the Minnesota License and Registration System (MNLARS) totaling $32,023. Those dollars are intended to make up for added costs to the county related to the troubled computer system, which was intended to help issue documents such as vehicle titles and license plate tabs, but all too often failed to work. The resolution that the board signed specifically mentions a $13 million reimbursement program aimed squarely at additional costs borne by deputy registrars.

In other grant news, the board approved a resolution authorizing their director of Public Health & Human Services to submit an application to the Towards Zero Deaths program. Director John Pugleasa said that the grant requires no county match, and – as the name implies - is aimed at traffic safety. Houston County will be asking for between $10,000 and $15,000, he added. From 2013-2017, Houston County averaged 6 traffic-related serious injuries and/or fatalities per year. The upcoming fiscal year for TZD is Oct 1, 2019 through Sept. 30, 2020. The program is funded through the Office of Traffic Safety, Minnesota Department of Public Safety, and depends on dollars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (a division of the Federal Department of Transportation).

Don Hauge, executive director of Southeastern Minnesota Emergency Medical Services, gave the board a full report on the support his agency provides to EMS programs in 11 counties. He asked commissioners for $5000 in support in 2020 to help keep the organization going, since State of Minnesota funding has actually declined since the 1990’s. Certain funds originating from seat belt fines also support the group, but those have also seen a decline, Hauge reported.

Following the recommendations of their planning commission, the board also issued an interim use permit for a new seasonal storage facility to be located in an agricultural district. Hokah Township property owners Mark and Dana Cairns applied for the IUP. The document will allow the start-up business to get going, and the couple will offer customers storage for large items such as boats, RVs, and cars at the site. The permit will expire if not renewed at five-year intervals, and is non-transferable if the property is sold.  

Commissioners approve the low bid for a box culvert replacement on Dotseth Road in Caledonia Township. Minnowa Construction will do the work for $199,977. Members asked county engineer Brian Pogodzinski to contact the company and request that the job be done as late as possible this year, so that local dairy farmers won’t have to use a required detour too much while hauling crops.  

Invoking attorney-client privilege, the board also went into closed session once again.  

“At this time, we’ve decided to deal with the issue on remand,” county attorney Samuel Jandt stated as the meeting reopened. 

The case (28-CV-18-477), was brought by plaintiffs Kruckow Companies, LLC; Bonanza Grain, Inc., and appeals a 2018 decision made by the Houston County Board of Adjustment. District Court Judge Carmine Sturino ordered that the matter be remanded for rehearing by the BOA without member Brian Van Gorp participating, but denied disqualification of members Larry Hafner and Ken Visger (also sought by the plaintiff) when the topic is revisited.

The issue involved the Schutz Quarry in Winnebago Township, which county staff had deemed “open and usable” in 2008, but later (after a review in 2017 and early 2018) decided no longer met local non-conforming status. The crux of the matter was whether or not the mine had retained it’s usable status  “due to discontinued use,” Sturino noted in the court decision. As a “grandfathered” operation, the mine did not have a conditional use permit. Sturino also noted that Van Gorp’s participation in the matter was improper due to his stated views (which were on the record), and that necessitates another BOA hearing without him.

Later, Commissioner Eric Johnson said, “I just feel that as a board, we should sooner rather than later look into Bryan Van Gorp’s role on the Board of Adjustment... given what’s happened.”

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