Lyon County calls for hearing on MLCL issues

MARSHALL – Lyon County Commissioners heard more Tuesday about what the Marshall-Lyon County Library’s withdrawal from the Plum Creek Regional Library System could mean for the county. But after hearing a report from Lyon County Rick Maes, a majority of commissioners said they still didn’t know enough to decide on a course of action for the future.

Instead, commissioners set a public hearing next week, in hopes of bringing together the parties affected by the withdrawal, and gathering feedback.

There were a few MLCL supporters present at the county board meeting Tuesday, but board chairman Rick Anderson said commissioners would not be taking public comment at that time.

Maes said he met with Marshall City Attorney Dennis Simpson and Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig on July 9.

“I was there primarily to listen,” and report back to the commissioners, Maes said. He said it was clear the hope was for Lyon County to continue its status quo and help support MLCL financially. However, there were some future uncertainties concerning the county’s minimum maintenance of effort to support public libraries.

Maes said state statutes could be interpreted to mean that Lyon County can meet its legal requirements by financially supporting MLCL, while still participating in the Plum Creek system. However, Maes said the Minnesota Department of Education doesn’t see it that way, and there isn’t a legal precedent that says which interpretation is right.

Furthermore, Maes said, Lyon County’s 2001 membership agreement with Plum Creek includes a provision that commits the county to providing at least the minimum level of support set by the state. Lyon County’s current minimum maintenance of effort comes to more than $200,000 a year.

“I don’t know how you get out of your existing contract with Plum Creek,” Maes told county commissioners. Cities have the option of not participating in regional library systems, but counties don’t.

“I think the bigger issue is, if the decision is made to go in a different direction, how is Plum Creek going to react?” Maes said. “I think these are things you need to weigh out.”

Commissioner Charlie Sanow said he thought commissioners needed to act soon, before the 2015 budget process begins for both the county and the city. Sanow moved to declare the county’s intent to support the regional library system and also to negotiate ways to support the Cottonwood and Balaton libraries, whether their cities choose to stay with MLCL or not.

The motion failed 4-1. Other commissioners said they were concerned about moving forward without a plan of action.

“This thing needs to be worked out,” said Commissioner Rodney Stensrud. The county needed more information and feedback, including from the city of Marshall and from Plum Creek, he said. “We need both sides of the story, and we need to have it told.”

The board set a public hearing for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 23.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners set a tentative public hearing date to discuss possible options for remodeling the Lyon County Government Center and Lyon County Courts. The courtrooms are in need of expansion, partly to accommodate new technology as the state switches to paperless court records.

Commissioners tentatively set the hearing at 6 p.m. on Aug. 6, in the court chambers on the third floor of the Government Center.

Commissioners also approved a replacement for traffic safety signals at the intersection of Lyon County Road 7 and Minnesota Highway 23 in Marshall. Lyon County Engineer Aaron VanMoer said the Minnesota Department of Transportation wants to replace the system of electronic signs that’s currently installed at the intersection. The signs, which warn drivers on County Road 7 of oncoming cross-traffic, were part of a University of Minnesota study that has since lost funding, VanMoer said. The company that built the signs is also no longer in business, and it’s difficult to fix problems with the signs, he said.

VanMoer said MnDOT would install lighted warning signs similar to the ones it put at the intersection of Highway 23 and Lyon County Road 30 in Lynd.

“That’s been installed a couple of months now. It’s a lower-cost, simpler system that’s more reliable,” he said. VanMoer said MnDOT would handle the installation and maintenance of the signs, and the county would provide the electric power. He estimated it would cost anywhere from $5 to $15 a month.