By Craig Moorhead

O

n Tuesday, May 3, Houston County commissioners chose a company to assist them with an update of the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. 

Two establishments submitted proposals to do the work, and the board decided to move forward with an offer from TKDA (Saint Paul), a company whose website offers clients “full-service engineering, architectural and planning services.” 

The proposal includes an hourly “not to exceed cost of $88,000,” but commissioners noted that company representatives have offered a flexible plan, so the county will have the option to purchase only those services they need, and not have to pay for additional work. Houston County and TKDA will still need to sign a contract before the project can proceed.

Another contract was also approved, but not by unanimous vote. By a 4-1 margin, the board approved a pact with Fowler & Hammer to upgrade an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible restroom and the adjacent women’s restroom located on the first floor of the historic Houston County Courthouse. 

The agreement requires pre-authorization from Houston County staff if the project exceeds $50,000, but did not set a firm cap on total expenditures. The motion to accept the contract did set a limit of $80,000 without county board approval, but Commissioner Eric Johnson voted “no” on the agreement, stating “There’s too much gray, it’s open-ended, and this contract doesn’t make sense to me.” 

“We’re anticipating using ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) dollars for this,” Commissioner Bob Burns stated.

The expenditure of some additional American Rescue Plan Act dollars was approved last week, as commissioners voted to dedicate $26,898 to equip a  “child-friendly room” for Houston County Human Services. Health and Human Services director John Pugleasa reported that the money will be used for camera equipment which will be used for forensic interviewing. 

“It gives us the ability to have high-quality forensic evidence that then can easily be shared with parties that are involved in a case like the county attorney, other attorneys, law enforcement, or the court,“ he said. 

Consent vote:

A single consent agenda vote approved a number of items, including a competitive search for a new position in Human Services. An additional eligibility worker will be needed to handle a barrage of Medicaid waiver reviews, since those temporary measures (taken during the pandemic) are expiring, Pugleasa said.

An inter-agency detention service agreement covering 2022-2024 with Winona County was also on the consent list. The pact increases inmate boarding fees which Houston County charges from $60 to $65 per day due to cost increases. Houston County currently provides a “guaranteed minimum” of 15 adult detention beds to Winona County.

Mary Thompson was hired as a temporary/casual (67 day) public health supervisor on the same ballot. The consent agenda also included the withdraw of the May 31st resignation of public health nurse Elizabeth Knutson (at her request), which had been approved on April 26. “This all happened yesterday,” personnel/facilities director Tess Arrick-Kruger told commissioners.

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