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Goldy Gopher could be in trouble if he comes to Faribault County

By Staff | Jan 11, 2010

Buried deep in the Faribault County Commissioners meeting agenda last week was an item named ‘designating official county newspaper.’ It was down the list, past such other intriguing topics as designating bounties for gophers.

Yes, at the first meeting of the new year, there are many strange tasks the board needs to perform.

I am happy to report that the Register was named the official county newspaper. We are proud of the fact that we have served as the county’s official newspaper for many years. It means that the County Board will be publishing their minutes, and other legal notices (such as the delinquent tax list), in the Register again this year.

We are happy they decided to have the Register do this, of course, but even more so, we are pleased to know the commissioners feel it is important to have their proceedings published.

The board obviously feels it is important to let the citizens of Faribault County know what they are doing at their meetings. True, several news media cover the meetings. Usually, however, the newspaper stories focus on a main issue. Not everything that happens at a three hour meeting makes it into a story.

Gopher bounties, for instance.

Sometimes this unusual item draws attention to itself, and newspapers will mention it – or even do a separate story about this form of bounty hunting.

I did such a story a few years ago, focusing on what I thought was the irony of it all. In a state that sometimes calls itself the ‘Gopher State,’ (when it isn’t being known as the North Star State, that is), and which features Goldy Gopher as the mascot of their largest university, there is a bounty on the little varmints.

I am not sure all of the readers grasped the irony of it all. I was told by more than one person of the damage the burrowing creatures do to farm fields. I guess it just is difficult for me to think of a gopher as being a vicious, fearsome animal. I doubt we will ever see a horror film produced about the scary gopher.

(OK, I know you are going to point out that there was a movie produced once which featured a gopher as the antagonist. It was called “Caddy Shack.” That gopher, however, was more humorous than scary.)

But I digress.

The county has a bounty of either $2 or 50 cents on gophers, depending on which one you get – striped or pocket. County Auditor/Treasurer John Thompson reports that there are quite a few gophers brought in for the bounty. Well, parts of gophers anyway. You bring in the feet of the pocket gophers, and the tail of the striped gophers in order to collect the bounty.

The gopher body parts are taken to the various township boards. Then they bill the county and Thompson reimburses them.

This past year, 2009, the county paid out a ‘whopping’ $90 in bounties – not exactly a budget buster. The year before, in 2008, it was only $56.

However, the previous year, 2007, was a good year (but bad for the gophers) when the county paid out $361 in bounties.

Occasionally someone brings in the tail or feet to the County Courthouse, and the staff quickly informs them they need to contact the township. Very quickly.

I guess my only point (other than the irony of it all) is to wonder why it has to be designated each year. Can’t you set it once, and then ignore it, until someone eventually asks that it be increased?

Of course, then it wouldn’t give a newspaper columnist something to write about on a cold, snowy, winter’s day.

Gopher bounties were not the only unusual items on the agenda. The County Board spent a lot of time going over the committee appointments for the year. There are a couple of dozen committees that various board members serve on.

What makes it so odd is that a few of the committees never seem to meet. It makes one wonder why they are in existence in the first place. One that jumps out is called the camera use committee. Is a committee dedicated to the use of cameras really necessary?

Thompson points out that these odd committees may meet someday. Or that they are state-mandated to have in place.

At least there isn’t a gopher bounty committee.

Although, maybe there should be. Then the whole board wouldn’t have to waste time at their first meeting of each year discussing it.