Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


$500 fine
Did you know that if your septic system is hooked into a tile line or drains to the surface, a new law as of August 1, 2006 allows local authorities to apply a fine of $500? If the system is not upgraded within 10 months the fine can be applied every month thereafter. At the present time Nicollet County has three low interest loan programs available to help landowners upgrade their systems. Call the Nicollet County Environmental Services office. 931-6800.
Governmental Units Working Together
Nicollet County and the city of New Ulm have had a cooperative agreement for many years in regard to snow removal on County State Aid Highway 37. This is the road located on the south east side of New Ulm near the Holiday Inn. It connects the city of New Ulm with State Highway 14. The agreement is that the city maintains snow removal and ice control on the road and the county agrees to pay the city four hundred dollars per month for the months of December, January, February, and March. This agreement has worked well for both parties for many years.
County is Vehicle for Child Support Payments
The county Social Services Department is charged with the collection of Child Support money at the time of divorce. In 2005, the county had 1548 current cases. Almost every divorce that takes place in our county and where child support is ordered; the social services department administers the collection and disbursement of the payments. This method allows for credibility on both sides and the county has the ability to go after wages and obligators may end up in jail for failure to pay. Social Services Director Joan Tesdahl says that we get 20-30 new cases every month and the word is out that obligators need to pay their child support in Nicollet County!
Pig Manure is Valuable Commodity
Wayne Shoper, Nicollet County Extension Agent reported to the county board that hog manure applied at the rate of 4,500 to 5,000 gallons per acre is bringing prices between $75 to $95 an acre (that includes the application costs). Dwindling Dairy Farm Numbers: Shoper said that Nicollet County now has 56 dairy farms.
Weed Problem in Ditches
At our board meeting this week, we approved the payment of a bill for $10,690.42 for spray to control thistles. The pesky weed has moved into road ditches since so many fields today are planted using Round Up Ready crop genetics. As all farmers know, thistles are very hard to control.
$1400 in Donations
Our Sentence to Serve crews spend lots of time at the 7 Mile Creek Park, cutting wood. Park users are free to use the wood and a donation is requested. This past season brought in the tidy sum of $1400. Thanks to all who felt compelled to leave a donation!
Bald Eagles Sited
Last week the county board toured the county to view the road construction projects completed during the past season. Driving along County Road 21 (one of the most beautiful drives in Southern Minnesota) we observed two bald eagles in a field that had been recently tilled. Amazing sight - for sure! end

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Do it in your sleeve!

The winter cold/flu season is upon us and in addition to washing our hands; we can go a long way in preventing the spread of illness by mitigating the germs spread by sneezes and coughs. For a fun, educational, 5 minute presentation on the proper way to cough or sneeze go to www.coughsafe.com and view the video. The name of the video is "Why not do it in your sleeve". end

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Preparing for a Pandemic

Bird flu, SARs, anthrax or smallpox as the result of bioterrorism: these are the issues we read about or hear reported in the media. According to Dr. Michael Osterholm, the issue is not "if we will face a pandemic" it is "when we will face a pandemic". A pandemic is different than an epidemic in that a pandemic disease will affect whole countries or continents. Epidemics affect many people, but they probably are in a contained area of a state or region of the country. The pandemic that most people are familiar with was the influenza outbreak in 1918. Many people died all over the world.
Any of the above mentioned diseases would be a Public Health Disaster and all local public health agencies are charged with preparing a response plan to deal with this threat. The planning taking place now is essential and the plans include education of the public, identification of the resources available, and "practice" events. Public health agencies are also creating a database of volunteers who are willing to help, if an emergency occurs.
The campaign is called "Count Me In". Skills needed will be physical labor, health, construction, food handling, bilingual, computer, education, assembly line, maintenance/repair, phone skills and others. If you are interested, contact Karen Swenson at 934-4140 or go to www.mncountmein.com
Public Health officials can help us all a lot, but the one thing public health cannot do is control or change the attitudes and behaviors of us - the citizens of the county. We (all of us) can make a big difference in attacking this problem by following a few simple steps to prepare ourselves and our families.
1. We need to have a family plan in place. Think about it!!! What would you do in an emergency? What would you do if schools were closed? Stores were closed? Gas stations were not selling fuel? Do you have enough supplies on hand to stay at home for three days, five days, 10 days? That may be what you will have to do if a disaster is declared. The public health folks have given us some guidelines. We need one gallon of water per person per day. Plenty of food that needs little preparation and little or no water. We should have enough medications and personal supplies to get by for a week or two. Also, items like flash lights, tools, personal items, pet supplies, and cash in case ATMs and credit cards won’t work.
2. We can guard against spreading infection and perhaps, bringing an infection into our homes simply by WASHING our hands frequently. Study after study has shown that the most effective way of protecting ourselves ANY TIME is by frequent and thorough washing of our hands. We need to teach our youngsters to do the same. The small amount of time it takes to wash our hands may be the most important minutes we spend in our lives.
3. We can develop a philosophy that we can take care of ourselves. In the case of a pandemic, resources will be stretched to the limit. There will not be enough physicians, hospitals, or clinics to treat all of the sick people. We can learn to care for our own families - because that may be the only care available.
For more information, go to www.ready.gov end

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Solving the Sediment Mystery

On October 16, the Brown-Nicollet-Cottonwood Water Quality Board accepted a 319 grant (federal dollars funneled through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) for a Sediment Finger Printing project in the 7 Mile Creek Watershed in Nicollet County. The grant, amounting to $84,900, will be used to do water tests to determine where the sediment in the water originates. Approximately 5,000 tons of sediment per year is coming from the watershed and being deposited into the Minnesota River."Now that we know how much, the next question we need to answer is where is it coming from", says Kevin Kuehner, Water Quality Specialist/Coordinator with the agency. It is the goal to take 20 to 30 samples each year from four different sites in the watershed.
The testing of the water is very specialized and expensive. It involves using a proton excellerator and only a few places in the United States do these kinds of tests. Sediment fingerprinting uses specialized tests to identify natural and man-made tracers found in the soil that are unique to certain sediment sources within a watershed. For instance, one tracer that will be used is Lead 210, a natural isotope that is the result ofthe decay of uranium and radon gas. This particular isotope can be used to help distinguish sediment derived from upland cultivated land versus sediment derived from stream banks, bluffs, gullies or ravines."Ultimately, with this information we can do a better job managing our watersheds and targeting conservation practices in the Minnesota RiverBasin", states Kuehner.
The demonstration project will be funded from 2007-2009 and is a collaborative effort between many agencies including the St. CroixWatershed Research Station, Pollution Control Agency, University ofMinnesota, Minnesota Science Museum and the National Center for EarthSurface Dynamics. end

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Nicollet County Sheriff, Dave Lange has alerted the county board and the public works department of a new law going into effect on December 12, 2006. The new law was explained in communication from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The Class 2 ATV’s are a new two passenger vehicle being sold. In reality they are like small pick up trucks. Ads in the farm magazines show the vehicles which are made by Polaris, Artic Cat, Bush Hog, Polaris and others as being utility type vehicles. The problem is that these larger Class 2 vehicles cannot be operated in road ditches or slopes of road right-of-ways. Instead the new law will allow them to be operated on the extreme right-hand side of the road, including the shoulder of trunk, county state-aid, and county highways. They can also be operated on city and township roads unless prohibited or restricted by the city or town.
Here’s the kicker on the use of these vehicles and the new law. People driving these vehicles can be drinking alcoholic beverages while driving on the shoulder or edge of a narrow county or township road. The open bottle provisions specifically exclude these types of vehicles and it would generally not be a violation of those provisions to have an open beer while driving a Class 2 ATV. It sounds like a forumla for trouble to me and the county commissioners of the District 7 Association of Minnesota Counties agree. They passed a motion to oppose and possibly work for the repeal of this law. The action will place the issue in discussion and possible inclusion in their policy platform for 2007-8. end

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

New Lafayette Maintenance Building

It was a unique setting to hold the October 10, 2006 regular meeting of the Nicollet County Board of Commissioners. As Board Chair, Commissioner Jack Kolars commented, "this is the first time we have held a meeting sitting between a John Deere tractor and a county truck used to plow snow." Immediately after calling the meeting to order, Chair Kolars called on County Public Works Director, Mike Wagner to make a few comments about the new Lafayette Maintenance Building.

"This is a general maintenance and mechanic shop. Since the city of Lafayette is the hub of ambulance and fire service for this part of the county, it is important to have snow removal equipment available here. When the sheriff needs help or there is a fire, and in the winter during emergency situations, the need for a snow plow is important." Wagner went on to explain that the old building was built in 1939 at a cost of around $5632. This new building has been in the planning for a number of years and was held up two construction seasons when soil borings found contamination and procedures had to be put in place to meet the requirements of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The general contractor was Farasyn Construction of New Ulm and the cost of the new 50 x 120 foot building was $369,000. Steve Faraysin complemented Wagner and maintenance supervisor Steve Campbell for the excellent planning done in preparation for the building project. It paid off as the project went smoothly and was on budget. Mayor Steve Langhoff welcomed everyone to the city and said that the fire and rescue services really count on the county for access. "We have a good working relationship with the county," he said. The old building will come down in a few weeks and the county crew will do most of the work.

At this point the regular meeting of the board commenced. One of the agenda items was a presentation by Mary Block, Social Service Supervisor and Krystyna Szelazek, Social Services Child Care Licenser. An overview of the child care licensing program was presented. It was noted that currently there are 97 licensed family, faith based and employer based day care homes. These homes serve 1107 children. A request was made for a commissioner to make a presentation on October 26 at a Child Care Provider event. Commissioner Paul Engel volunteered to attend. Also a proclamation declaring October 22-28th as Family Child Care Provider Week was passed.

Public Works Director Mike Wagner presented the board with a "Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day" proclamation. October 10 has been declared a special day nationwide to put emphasis on driver and road safety. Statistics show that rural roads are more dangerous with more deaths resulting. Nicollet County has been proactive in road safety by following a program of road striping, widening shoulders and encouraging safe mailboxes.

The county board, functioning as the ditch authority passed a motion to allow the county auditor to accept the engineers plans and advertise for bids for the improvement of county ditch 29. Included in this project will be a water quality monitoring station at the outlet of the ditch. Kevin Kuehner of the Brown, Nicollet, Cottonwood Water Quality Board stated that the monitoring will allow for two outcomes. First, this project will allow the use of real data to compare with modeled data. Secondly, the effectiveness of the woodchip bio reactors and the controlled drainage practices in place in this watershed can be monitored.
Presently, drainage maps and plans are in auditor’s and in the public works offices. They have scanned the maps and put them in digital format. In the future these maps may be placed on a website to allow for use by many different parties. The aerials also show where tile lines are located.

The meeting adjourned at around 3:00 p.m. end