YMC Board seeks public input on courthouse

GRANITE?FALLS?- The Yellow Medicine County Board is seeking public input on the question of whether to renovate the 125-year-old courthouse presently used, or to build a new structure.

A courthouse space study commissioned by the board cited a number of problems with the courthouse building:

Lack of a fire sprinkler system.

Problems with the elevator.

Not enough outlets and no emergency generator.

No facilities for the separation of the public and in-custody defendants, among other security concerns.

No secure holding facility in the courthouse.

The study noted remodeling would be difficult in the present structure and estimated a cost of $2.7 million.

The cost of building a new court- house was estimated at $8.87 million.

On Tuesday, the commissioners discussed various ways of soliciting public input on the question of whether to remodel or build anew – through the county website, telephone and direct mail or leaflet surveys.

Three public meetings have been held to invite public input in Granite Falls, Canby and Clarkfield, but all were poorly attended. The largest attendance was in Granite Falls, where 17 citizens showed up to voice their opinions.

The board heard and discussed options on how to deal with a projected $600,000 deficit in the 2014 budget presented by County Administrator Peg Heglund.

Heglund presented four broad ranges of suggestions, including making use of a Wheelage Tax or a $1.2 million general obligation bond for purchasing equipment for the highway department over the next three years.

All options come with the recommendation for a 3.42 percent increase, the maximum allowed by the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Heglund suggested exploring revenue-increasing measures, such as passport sales, charging finance/administration costs to ditches and creating a park board to seek grants.

Cost-saving suggestions included exploring leasing heavy equipment versus purchasing, studying telephone billing and considering alternative medical insurance.

In other board action, an item was pulled from the consent agenda at the request of Commissioner Louis Sherlin.

The item was one of a number of changes to the accounting handbook recommended by the finance committee.

Sherlin asked the board to reconsider a policy allowing department heads to spend up to $5,000 at their own discretion and limit discretionary spending to the county administrator.

Board Chairman Ron Antony suggested there should be a specific amount department heads are allowed to spend without consulting the board or county administrator.

The board agreed to defer the question until further consultation with the finance committee.

The board voted to accept another 10-year waste disposal agreement with the Lyon County Sanitary Landfill.

The board voted to authorize the county highway department to replace a gravel truck with snow plow attachments at a cost of $166,000.

The board also voted to renew a five-year contract with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to do background checks on prospective foster parents, adoptive parents and daycare providers.