By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

Houston County commissioners held a brief business meeting prior to their January 12 “workgroup” session. 

The board voted to initiate a competitive search for an assessor as part of their consent agenda, which also approved the renewal of solid waste hauler licenses for the new year.

After a short discussion the Caledonia Argus was named official newspaper for Houston County by unanimous vote. 

Another vote approved the appointment of Dan Griffin to the county’s Water Planning Committee. Matt Schuldt and Nick Thesing were also reappointed to the Houston County EDA Board. In other personnel news, the board voted to extend paid leave to employees for coronavirus, granting up to 80 hours of sick leave through March 31, 2021 (with retroactive applications dating back to January 1). 

Commissioner discussed several matters during their workgroup meeting, but those sessions do not include voting. A main topic was a State of Minnesota coronavirus grant program aimed at helping businesses. Houston County will receive $367,594 for the program, county EDA coordinator Allison Wagner reported.

“The thing with this money is, last time with the CARES Act money commissioners allocated half of the Cares Act dollars - over a million dollars - to go to businesses, and this time we are working with a lot less money...” she noted.

“So, unfortunately, we are going to need to be a bit more selective on who we open it up to, initially, because unfortunately there just isn’t enough money to award. Last time we awarded (funds to) 245 businesses. If we were to do $5000 awards again it would be more like 73 businesses.”  

The EDA board recommends that bars, restaurants, gyms, and other “places that were affected by the latest rollback order,” should be prioritized, Wagner said. “The thing to know with that is that part of this bill, at the state level, is a direct payment to some of those businesses if they qualify,” she added. “But the general consensus of the EDA board is that they may need more on top of that... We think that there would be about 30 businesses that would qualify for that.

Wagner also said that “What we’ll want to do at the next official commissioner meeting is approve the categories to start out with... We (EDA) are already working on a new application (for local businesses). We would want to have a launch date in early February, because we have to use the funds by the middle of March.”

Exactly how the program will be administered in Houston County will most likely be the subject of a vote during the board’s next (January 26) business meeting.

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