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Board learns of COVID cases at county jail

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Nov 22, 2020

From CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act money to COVID affecting county employees, the Faribault County Commissioners spent some of their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17, discussing virus-related subjects.

“Just to update you, we have had five positive cases of COVID-19 in the sheriff’s department,” Central Services director Lexie Scholten told the board.

Reached by phone, Sheriff Mike Gormley gave an update of the situation.

“The five positive cases have affected mostly jail personnel,” Gormley commented. “Our deputies are at full staff and practicing caution to try and stay healthy.”

Gormley said the department has taken steps to help ease the work load of the jail staff until everybody can return.

“We were able to transfer some inmates,” he explained. “Others were basically furloughed and will finish serving their sentence at a later date.”

The board also made another allocation of CARES Act funds. Much of the remaining money came from small cities and townships which had returned their unspent funds to the county.

A total of $199,271.92 was allocated. The Blue Earth Fire Department will receive $38,340, Easton’s Fire Department $47,090, Elmore’s Fire Department $17,000 and Frost’s Fire Department $5,515.

Also receiving $25,000 was the Community Workforce program. It was decided to give the County EDA $1,556.02 to be used for the second round of business grants. The remaining $64,770.90 was earmarked for the county government.

Any more money which might be returned to the county will be put towards the county government.

“The smaller fire departments are using a portion of the funds to purchase Lucas CPR devices,” county auditor Darren Esser noted. “They are used to help administer CPR until an ambulance or other medical personnel arrive.”

The commissioners liked the idea of giving aid to the fire departments.

“It could take the Wells Ambulance 15 minutes to arrive to an emergency occurring in the Easton area,” board member Bill Groskreutz said. “So if we can assist these smaller fire departments and rescue squads I think we should do so.”

Planning and Zoning administrator Loria Rebuffoni attended the meeting virtually to discuss a sample copy of a nuisance ordinance she had previously sent to the commissioners.

“I am presenting this to you as a starting point for discussion and I know there are many items in this sample ordinance which could be removed because they do not apply to Faribault County,” Rebuffoni said. “I am not asking for formal action on this. I just want direction from the board as to whether the Planning Commission should open the topic up for public input at a formal meeting in December.”

Commissioner Tom Loveall was the first to speak.

“I have a concern about how far we go with telling people what they can do in the country,” Loveall said. “Of course when you give people freedom there will be some who do not like what they do.”

Chairperson Tom Warmka also was unsure of supporting a nuisance ordinance.

“I am concerned because as farmer and a landowner I have enough regulations to deal with,” he commented.

Loveall continued with his thoughts.

“I do not want this to be driven by complaints where we turn in our neighbors because we have a problem with them for some reason,” he said.

Commissioner Greg Young did not see the problem with exploring the ordinance.

“I would like to see Planning and Zoning continue working on it,” he commented. “We can always change it. Let them go through the process and let the public comment on it.”

Commissioner John Roper agreed.

“Let’s let Planning and Zoning continue,” Roper told his fellow board members. “Let the public provide input and see where it goes.”

Young offered his final thoughts on the matter.

“I think there is no harm in letting this play out,” he remarked. “And if we do not like it we can vote against it.”

A motion to have the Planning Commission continue passed by a 3-2 margin with Loveall and Warmka voting against the motion.

The commissioners also heard from Public Works director Mark Daly who presented the board with a list of bridges which are a high priority for replacement, rehabilitation or removal within the next five years and a resolution requesting the authority to do so.

The resolution also requests financial assistance from the federal government with eligible approach grading and engineering costs on township bridges, as provided by law. The resolution passed unanimously.

Scholten also informed the board the Public Works shop foreman will be retiring at the end of January, 2021. The position is currently non-union.

“Mark Daly, Dennis Wick and I created a draft job description we felt would meet the need and requirements of the position and the Public Works Department,” Scholten said. “Our proposal is to transition the Shop Foreman (non-union) position to a Shop Lead (union) position. This would eliminate the supervisor duties from the job.”

During discussion it was learned Daly and Wick would be the two non-union employees who would have supervisory roles.

“I am a little leery about changing the structure,” Loveall offered.

A motion to proceed with the change passed.

In other business:

• The board voted to decline participation in the City of Winnebago Everidge storage building tax abatement. Declining the motion actually allows the city to move forward with their plans.

• A work session to discuss the budget was scheduled for Tuesday morning, Dec. 1, at 8 a.m. The regular board meeting will begin at 1 p.m. that afternoon.