By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

On August 27, Houston County commissioners moved forward on a grant-funded program which they originally approved last fall. That’s when the board originally approved the application for some added dollars to pay for a new system of home visits to assist certain at-risk families.   

During Tuesday’s session, commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding with program host Rice County, which will allow evidence-based home visits from county staff to serve “families in need.” The visits will target specific outcomes, which include bringing about reductions in low birth-weight babies, better childhood health, better school readiness, reducing juvenile delinquency, reductions in child mistreatment, improved economic self-sufficiency for at-risk families, and more.

Houston and Fillmore Counties - which have a joint board of health - could receive up to $654,248 in support over the next 3 ½ years for the “Evidence Based Family Home Visitation Program,” funded through a  Minnesota Department of Health grant.

Other votes:

With 2020 elections looming, the board also approved the purchase of 10 “poll pads,” devices which will eventually eliminate the need to print out bulky rosters of registered voters. Auditor/treasurer Donna Trehus said that 75% of the $13,015 cost will be paid out of grant funds, leaving Houston County to pay a 25% match totaling $3253 for the new devices. And with more grant money likely available next year, the purchase of another eight units should cover polling places throughout the county, Trehus noted.

The “Knowink” poll pads are reportedly able to quickly check in voters, eliminating long lines and confusion. Trehus said that the units support same-day registration, and will save hours of labor for election workers.

The board also accepted the terms and conditions of a grant agreement aimed at “reducing bacteria from southeast Minnesota feedlots.” The total available for that work is $27,337. 

Commissioners also accepted – with one condition - an extended warranty offer covering parts and labor for the diesel generator that backs up power for not only the Houston County Justice Center, but the historic Houston County Court House and  now-vacant Houston County Jail building as well. For a one-time payment of $11,160, the seven year old generator will be covered for 60 months. The board made their vote conditioned upon confirmation that the warranty offer does not include a deductible. Personnel/facilities director Tess Arrick-Kruger was charged with confirming that the contract meets the board’s condition.

Finally, the county board accepted the August 29 resignation of highway maintenance specialist Joseph Allen with thanks for his 8 ½ years of service. Commissioners approved a plan to utilize a recent pool of applicants for the same position to fill the vacancy

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