Looking ahead to 2015
The Faribault County Register recently sent end-of-the-year questionnaires to various public officials throughout Faribault County including the county, cities and school boards.
The purpose of this questionnaire is to provide insight into the noteworthy events of 2014 and the upcoming plans that the public officials anticipate for 2015. This week we have the responses from the county and school districts.
In the following report, the responses will be numbered according to the question asked, as follows:
1. What were some of the highlights for the city/county/school in 2014?
2. What are some of the challenges that the city/county/school faced in 2014?
3. Were there any big projects that were brought to completion in 2014?
4. What are some of the long-term goals that the city/county/school will work toward in 2015? Any short-term goals?
5. What are some predictions that you have for the city/county/school for the year 2015?
Faribault County Commissioners Board Chairman
Bill Groskreutz, Jr.
1. The first highlight of 2014 is the reinstatement of Passport Services for our area residents.
Another highlight for the past year was the participation of elementary school students from Blue Earth Area, United South Central and St. Casimir’s in touring the courthouse as well as the law enforcement center to learn more about county government.
Another item of interest would be the sale of 3.6 acres of wetland credits to the City of Blue Earth to expedite the process of the Blue Earth North Industrial Park.
The Board of Commissioners has working agreements with the cities of Winnebago and Blue Earth for the clean-up of tax forfeited properties in each of these cities. The Board of Commissioners also serves as the Drainage Authority to maintain county drainage systems.
The last 12 month[s] report that nearly $1.4 million was spent to maintain this countywide water network.
We continue to work with the Planning & Zoning Board to make available Conditional Use Permits for a variety of purposes ranging from used auto sales, farm equipment sales, propane storage tanks, fertilizer storage tanks, new and expanded livestock operations and even a pet crematorium.
Another step forward was the agreement between Faribault County and Blue Earth Area Schools to place a licensed police officer as full time resource officer in the Blue Earth Area Schools. This officer provides daily services in the schools and is also available to work at the Sheriff’s Office as needed.
Faribault County has hired a number of new full time and part time employees during 2014.
Of special note would be Michelle Klinkner, full time 4-H Director and Graham Berg-Moberg our full time Assistant County Attorney.
Sadly in 2014 we saw the dissolution of the Minnesota River Board that brought together county commissioners and county staff as well as other interested parties from the entire Minnesota River Basin to work on policy issues.
2. Along with the highlights we have had challenges also.
They would certainly include our county road and bridge system that we need to continue to maintain and upgrade when possible with the small amount of money that we receive from the State of Minnesota along with local levy dollars that we try to keep at a modest rate.
Another challenge is the aging county drainage system that is administered by the county drainage authority. Many of these drainage systems were installed over 100 years ago and have had minimal maintenance.
The final challenge I will list is the safety, space and security concerns at our courthouse. We are in the process of a facility study with I&S to help us determine how we can make best use of our existing buildings and other potential sites to provide necessary services to the residents of Faribault County.
3. A significant project that was completed in 2014 was the improvement of County Road 13 south of County Road 16 at a cost of $2,217,100.
Another completed project was the installation of Turn Off and By Pass Lanes on County Road 16 west of Blue Earth at the State Line grain handling facility. Construction costs for this project were paid by State Line.
The Board of Commissioners worked with the Blue Earth City Council on the reconstruction of 2nd Street north of the courthouse to continue to provide adequate parking for people coming to the courthouse.
The final project I will bring to your attention is the bridge at the outlet of South Walnut Lake. This bridge was replaced at the request of the DNR. Total cost of the bridge replacement was $407,424.00 and was paid for by the DNR.
4. Goals for 2015 include a few road and bridge projects as well as ongoing work on county drainage systems.
We are looking forward to a new Veteran’s Service Officer to work along with Dave and LeAnn. We will be continuing to work together with Martin County Board of Commissioners on Health and Human Services, Prairieland Solid Waste/Recycling and will be working on a combined transit system to serve both counties.
We anticipate the completion of our updated Comprehensive Land Use Plan along with the revised Hazard Mitigation Plan.
5. Predictions for 2015 are that our economy in Faribault County will continue to be mainly agriculture based with our excellent soil as well as the many businesses that provide products and services to our farmers.
The opening of the new industrial park in Blue Earth will create space for new businesses and additional employment opportunities.
Many other buildings throughout the county are available for new business or relocation for growth of existing businesses.
I anticipate we will continue to work with our cities on cleanup of tax forfeited properties.
Blue Earth Area Schools Superintendent
1. Our two big highlights for this year has been the successful implementation of a 1:1 digital learning program and the successful move of 8th grade out to our high school.
Our staff worked very hard on preparing to implement both of these changes in the months leading up to the start of the 2014-2015 school year.
2. We continue to look at ways to improving the learning experiences for all of our students. 3. The 1:1 digital learning program was a huge goal for our district to attain.
4. We want to continue on our mission of empowering students to reach their full potential.
5. We recently completed a ten year maintenance plan for our facilities.
The high school is now over 20 years old, so we know that we will be faced with significant maintenance costs in the near future.
Blue Earth Area will also continue to be a leader in the implementation of 1:1 digital learning devices.
United South Central
1. 2014 was an exciting and eventful year for USC.
USC Elementary was named a Reward School by the Minnesota Department of Education for the second straight year. We celebrate the academic achievements of our students.
We are also excited to see unexpected enrollment growth of about 40 students this year, after many years of steady decline.
Construction of the new school was completed during the summer of 2014, and we opened the school year in the new building.
The students, staff, and community are enjoying the amenities available in this great facility.
The athletic facilities at the new site are also close to completion.
Wells Concrete generously donated and built a new stadium seating structure on the site. Seats secured from the Metrodome will be installed soon to complete the stadium seating project.
The new tennis courts were used last fall, and the new track is ready for the 2015 spring track season. The turf on the baseball, softball, and football fields may not be ready for play in 2015, but alternate facilities are available.
The USC iLearn digital learning program was implemented in December.
The initiative placed iPads or MacBook Air computers in the hands of every student K-12.
K-3 students have access to iPads in their classrooms, where they are stored in charging carts.
Students in grades 4-8 have access to iPads they are able to take home overnight.
Students in grades 9-12 have MacBook Air computers.
A Technology Integration Specialist was hired this year to assist with the device rollout and help teachers integrate digital learning into their curricula. We are excited to engage our students in this digital learning experience!
2. One of the biggest challenges we faced was moving virtually all the furniture and equipment from the old building to the new site.
In addition, it was, and still is, challenging to make the transition to the new building. Every aspect of the education program has to be re-thought and planned.
The move was a lot of hard work by the staff, but transitioning into the new building has been fun and exciting.
3. 2014 saw the realization of a number of District goals.
High levels of student achievement is always a priority goal for the District, and the our recent test scores show we are making great progress toward this goal and helping our students be successful.
Building a new facility was a priority goal for a number of years, and now it has been realized.
The Board has also had a goal to implement digital learning opportunities for our students. The digital devices have been distributed, and the staff is working hard to incorporate this technology into the instructional program.
4. Short-term goals include a successful transition into the new facility and effectively using the digital learning technology to engage students.
The District is also planning the demolition of the old building and re-purposing of that property.
Long-term goals include continuous improvement in student achievement, elimination of bullying from our schools, and providing a positive, nurturing environment for students to learn and grow.
5. United South Central Schools is positioned to make 2015 the year of the student.
Student success is always the primary mission of any school district, but moving into a new facility and implementing powerful new programs should help USC focus on individual student needs, maximizing their growth and achievement.