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County board discusses future workforce outlook

By Staff | Sep 9, 2018

Faribault County’s Board of Commissioners met for their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Commissioner John Roper addressed a change in the county’s approach to its workforce. He stated a new group called CareerForce will be assisting the county in getting more job opportunities in the area.

CareerForce is the Minnesota workforce system brand supporting career development opportunities and talent recruitment needs. It is comprised of Workforce Development Boards, career centers and system partners.

“The important thing we have to realize is that there are a lot of people who are doing secondary jobs to make ends meet,” said Roper. “This program is designed to help our county help those seeking higher education, like degrees in nursing or trade. This could help them with books, tuition and other educational costs that can get them jobs immediately out of school.”

He stated though unemployment rates have been low, he still sees an opportunity to assist the county in its unemployment.

“July’s unemployment was at 2.9 percent, the lowest levels we’ve ever had in the area,” said Roper.

Roper also stated since 2001, there has been a large spike in felons in the area with no jobs.

“Once an employer sees that ‘felon’ box marked on their application, sometimes those folks aren’t even approved to interview. They’re taken out of the game right there,” said Roper. “There are 1.4 million felons with no jobs in our nation, and a good majority of those are the ones sitting on our benefit systems. We have to start giving these people a chance rather than create further judgement and hinder their ability to get work.”

In other agenda points, Troy Beckman, the buildings and grounds keeper of the Faribault County Courthouse informed the board of a potential health situation at the courthouse.

After employees brought attention to a fuel-smelling odor, and further investigating, it seems there may potentially be fuel tanks buried under the site of the courthouse.

Beckman believes the tanks are under the air conditioning units, located on the north side of the courthouse. He says there is no information on the size of the tanks and is exploring the best way to address this concern.

The building and grounds director also brought up a concern for abating a crawl-through tunnel of about 200 feet of pipe between the courthouse and the County Attorney’s office. This tunnel was made for steam pipes, which are covered in asbestos, a common occurrence in days past. The tunnel also houses fiber optic wires.

Beckman suggested to the commissioners that the tunnel be abated, with the additional removal of any moldy pipes, and then sealed and insulated.

With the cost of the updates, along with the abatement, an estimate of $23,000 was mentioned, with the consideration of a $16,640 tunnel update, as well as close to $7,000 for the asbestos removal.

“This really is a health issue,” said Commissioner Tom Warmka. “Let’s get it fixed as soon as we can.”

Beckman also discussed a space across the street from the courthouse which is used to park county vehicles. He suggested the lot be further spaced out with gravel to permit a bit more parking, as well as more maneuvering room for snow removal.

Commissioner Tom Loveall stated there were a few trees that would need to be removed to make that space more viable for Beckman’s work in the winter months. The commissioners heard bids from both Thate’s Tree Service and Hans Paschke Arborist.

Mark Daly, head of the county’s public works department, shared a map with the commissioners of all the roads in Faribault County.

He stated all roads were driven by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and given a rating. That PQI, or Prevention Quality Indicator, rating was on a scale of 0-4.5, but to simplify it, Daly put it in terms of 1-100, thus giving the roads with the least need for improvement a “grade” of an A (between 90-100 percent), B (between 80-90 percent), C?(70-80 percent) and the like.

Within the five-year plan, Daly will be focusing his energy on the roads that were rated lowest, of which there seem to be quite a few. So many, in fact, he says he will not be able to address all of the road repairs within the five year plans, stating there were 25 to 30 roads that “read beyond the 2023 plan.”

“I can’t cover them all in the next five years, that’s just what happens,” said Daly. The good news, he says, is that the bituminous made in today’s modern era is of significantly better quality, though it may cost a little more.

While meeting with drainage manager, Merissa Lore, the commissioners approved a motion to replace tile CD8. They also considered a motion to clean culverts downstream of CD33 and CD514, but no decision was made on that motion.

The Board of Commissioners also approved a part-time hire at the courthouse, as well as six requests for county employees to attend to special conferrences.