By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

Houston County commissioners declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, Aug. 24, citing damage to certain roads from heavy rains. 

Those Aug. 7 downpours were somewhat spotty, but did significant damage to several township roadways (washing away embankments and plugging culverts) directly in the path of the heaviest storms. 

Another resolution was also signed by every member of the panel. That missive addresses the planned closure of manufacturing operations at Miken Sports in Caledonia, and calls on Rawlings Sporting Goods to reverse its decision to close the plant and move some areas of production to China. The message will also be sent to Major League Baseball and Seidler Equity Partners, which are joint owners of Rawlings.

Bill Colopoulos, health care economist and benefits consultant with the Southeast Service Cooperative, and Steve Sallee, the executive director of that organization, gave the board an update on health insurance costs for the county in 2022 and future years. 

The news was positive. Houston County will see a 5% drop in health insurance rates next year (an estimated savings of $106,378), and was also given a guarante that any potential increase in 2023 will not exceed 5%. The maximum rate of increase for 2024 is limited to 7.5% over the 2023 rate. 

“This is the culmination of many, many years of work,” Houston County personnel/facilities director Tess Arrick Kruger (who has represented Houston County on the SSC board) noted.

“Stability is what we need,” Commissioner Dewey Severson stated.

Tim Penny, president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, also appeared. Serving 20 counties, SMIF typically operates with a budget of around $5 million dollars, but stepped up to administer over 1,000 grants in 2020 due to the pandemic, encompassing over $12 million in relief funds. 

Those included community foundation relief grants, emergency child care grants, “Grow a Farmer” assistance grants, small town grants, small business relief grants and loans, and “early care and education wrap around grants.” 

In Houston County, approximately $191,000 went to entrepreneurs, child care providers, and communities. SMIF has leveraged $11 in investments back into Houston County communities for every dollar invested, Penny added. 

Most recent numbers include 10 loans valued at $593,000 that went to Houston County entrepreneurs, and 107 grants totaling $544,000.  

“Thank you for the support that the county has provided our foundation through the years,” Penny said. Houston County contributed $3,750 to SMIF in 2021. 

County engineer Brian Pogodzinski asked the board to approve final payments for a water main loop which will supply the new highway headquarters/shop facility now under construction. Originally estimated to cost around $75,000, the project was completed for $52,818, the engineer reported. 

The payment was approved. Houston County will bear two-thirds of the cost, with the City of Caledonia paying the rest, since the loop will also also provide water to other customers along the line.

Commissioners also approved a $3,016 low bid from Design Studio (Onalaska) to provide and install some window coverings at the new highway facility. There were four bidders, with the most expensive offer totaling $32,100.

Briefly

The board approved an annual “invasive species prevention aid” grant from the State of Minnesota to educate boaters and help limit the spread of invasives at boat ramps and boat parking areas. The grant totals $22,653, with oversight provided by the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District.

Commissioners approved two more five-year airport ground lease agreements for fliers at the Houston County Airport. The lots are owned by Houston County, while those who lease the spaces own the actual hangers.

The board also accepted the resignation jailer/dispatcher Tyler Fabian, and initiated a search for a replacement for that position.

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