By Craig Moorhead
The Caledonia Argus
Houston County Commissioners marked the passing of county recorder Susan Schwebach with a moment of silence on Tuesday, May 4. Board members unanimously expressed their sadness over the death of their friend and colleague, which had occurred the previous day.
In other news, Houston County Public Health director John Pugleasa reported that local COVID-19 vaccinations are at 63% of those over the age of 16, and 51% of the county’s total population.
Houston County also ranks fourth in Minnesota among those 65 and older, with 95% of the persons in that age group having received a COVID vaccine.
And with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine once again approved for use, Houston County may be able to move closer to herd immunity through its use, the director stated.
“Our plan is, if it’s offered, we will take it.” Pugleasa said. “There was significant interest in J & J at that one clinic that we did several weeks ago...
“Really, this is a question of how do we get from 51% to somewhere in the neighborhood of 75% for herd immunity? And not just us, (but) our neighboring counties, our neighboring states, the region, the country?
“Another part of that is school-age children,” Pugleasa stated. The director noted that the Pfizer vaccine may soon be available for use with 12 -15 year old children. And although Houston County cannot utilize the Pfizer vaccine due to it’s ultra-cold storage requirement, some local health providers may be able to move numbers forward with that vaccine.
Pugleasa said the Moderna vaccine, which his department has primarily used, is currently allowed to go to those 18 and over, but that age limit might be expanded to the 12 to 17-year-old population in the future.
“I think the hope is that we would be able to have school-age children begin getting vaccinated before the next school year,” the director added. “Our problem is, in public you don’t know who is and who isn’t (vaccinated).”
“What it means - if we don’t reach herd immunity - is the virus still has potential hosts... The picture I use is, if you have a box with balls in it. The more balls you take out, the harder it is for those balls to bump into each other. That’s what the vaccine does. It takes balls out of the box and makes it harder for the virus to connect between those individuals. The virus can only last so long in between hosts, and so if you get enough distance and time between people who are not vaccinated, the virus can’t make it.”
As part of their consent agenda, the board authorized auditor/treasurer Donna Trehus to conduct a public sale on Monday, June 7, at the Houston County Historic Courthouse. The tax-forfeited land is located at 315 S. Chase St. in the City of Houston, and includes a minimum price of $33,300. Full payment will be due at the time of sale.
Lee Langager was hired as a probationary technical clerk in the Assessor’s Office. Tami Triplett was re-assigned from accounting technician to probationary collections officer with the Department of Public Health and Human Services. A competitive search for a replacement accounting technician was also approved.
Several change orders for the new highway shop/headquarters project were approved. One of those eliminated a fire pump room in the final design, and the end result was “a reduction of about $1000 for the county (when the other changes were also made),” county engineer Brian Pogodzinski reported.
Pogodzinski also brought an offer from Subsurface, Inc. ( Moorhead, Minn.) to line a culvert on County State Aid Highway (CASH) 20 which needs repair. The board approved the $17,850 quote.
Pogodzinski reported that repairing culverts in this manner is often cheaper than digging them up for replacement, and the repairs can extend the life of culverts for decades after the original steel rusts out, he noted.
The engineer also brought a list of bridge maintenance plans for 2021. Commissioners approved a $52,400 quote from ICON Constructors, LLC to do the work. There were three bridges on the list, one each on CSAH 4, CSAH 18, and CSAH 19.