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, January 25, 2007

"By Doggy!" he's good.

Using the expression of the late Buddy Epsen on an old tv show, Nicollet County has our own good dog. Draeco, a member of our law enforcement team came into the county board room this week and showed us what he could do. Deputy Paul Biederman had hidden a stash of controlled substances in the county board room and then he brought Draeco in and we watched him do his stuff. Biederman put Draeco through the drill and he performed supurbly. Draeco is trained in two disciplines: locating human scent and locating narcotics.

Deputy Biederman gave us a laundry list of some of the events where Draeco has been used.
He comes in handy on occasions when alarms go off in buildings and law enforcement is called to see if there is an actual break in. Draeco sniffed out some underage party goers this past fall who were hiding in the bushes when the officers broke up a party in the rural part of the county. He is also used at St. Peter High School when there is suspicion of drugs in lockers etc. One of Draeco's accomplishments which we all can be pleased about is when he helped to locate a three year old boy who was lost in a corn field. This event ended on a happy note.

As the handler of Draeco, Biederman gets compensated one half hour a day, 365 days a year. The county covers all of the feeding and veterinary costs. While we like all of our employees in Nicollet County, Draeco is pretty special. Its hard to compete with those big brown eyes. end


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Action Heroes-(from MVAC)

It could be said that the folks at Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC) are "Action Heroes". MVAC is a community action agency that develops resources and opportunities to help folks in need. The agency is a private non-profit organization and derives revenue from the federal, state, and local governments.

Despite having large funding cuts, the agency continues to work miracles for the needy folks in our communities (nine counties in southern Minnesota.)

(Just a few) Action Heroes Accomplishments in 2006

  • 1,128 pre-schoolers were readied for school through Head Start Programs
  • 47 people got low-interest loans to fix up their homes
  • 7,028 people got assistance with heating bills
  • 433 people gained from reduced rental expenses
  • 201 at risk teenagers got the opportunity to learn and earn during the summer
  • 31 people were helped to manage their work and finances so they could purchase their own homes
  • 549 children were screened for hearing and vision
  • 347 pre-school age children received a dental exam, some for the first time
  • 98 cars were donated to the Wheel Get There Initiative

It has been 40 years since President Kennedy issued his challenge to America to assist the poor, but it could have been today. There are still 19,312 people who live in poverty in south central Minnesota. The work of the "Action Heroes" is helping, but it is not done. end

County Road Snow Removal

Some of you have asked me about the product that the county Public Works Department is using on the hill roads in the county. (County 5, 15, 23, 14, 41 etc.) The evidence is viewed as some lines on the roadway. Steve Campbell of the Public Works Department tells me that the product is simply dissolved salt in water. The crews spray it on the road in anticipation of a snowfall. Campbell says that if there is just a light snowfall, the salt helps dissolve the snow and allows the hill roads to stay passable without the aid of a plow and sand/salt mixture procedure. (Example: this process could eliminate the need to call the trucks out at night.) If the snowfall is heavier, the plows are needed. However they can clear the accumulation and explose the surface area and the salt allows a faster melt of the snow stuck to the road.

I have also been questioned as to if the county is using a corn based product. Campbell stated that there is a product available, but the county would have to buy it in a 1,000 gallon quantity and he does not have a tanker in which it could be stored. Campbell also mentioned a product with green coloring. This has been noticed by some citizens. He said that it is made by Cargill and is called Clear Lane. It is treated salt with magnesium chloride, green dye, and some sugar. Campbell said that the sugar acts as a rust inhibiter. This writer is wondering if the sugar is a corn fructose product? Campbell said he did not know the answer. end

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Nicollet County is a different place today. We lost our biggest supporter and most loyal advocate when Nicollet County Auditor, Bob Bruns passed away yesterday. Bob Bruns worked in the auditor’s office for more than thirty years – most of them in the elected position of Auditor and most recently as Auditor/Treasurer. Bob was more than an auditor, he was a person that everyone liked. He lived his life doing the work of the county number’s person; but it was more than numbers to him. He strived to protect the tax payer’s dollars and to put practices in place that resulted in the good stewardship of the funds. The result was that county programs were carried out, mandates met; and the money was used in a judicious manner. Bob truly loved Nicollet County. One of his most often used statements was “the Nicollet County family”. The qualities encompassing family loyalty and all of the positive things that go with it are rare in today’s workplace. They were much evident in Bob’s leadership and his example has set a path for all of us to follow.

More than an elected official, Bob was the unofficial “leader” of the county. He was the rock upon which the citizens, county staff, and other elected officials placed our anchor. His leadership has greatly contributed to many of successes our county has been noted for in the recent years. The sound financial shape of the county; the successful building and rebuilding following the tornado; and our good relations with other governmental units are just a few of the areas that have benefited from his leadership.

He has left the county in good hands. The work of the county will go on and “good things” will continue to happen. The “county family” will continue to serve the needs of the citizens and we will do it because we have been trained well by one of our family – County Auditor/Treasurer Bob Bruns. end

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


The new year is here and it presents many new opportunities for Nicollet County. I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the accomplishments of the various county departments during the last year. The list is long and I have chosen to highlight only a few from each department.County employees are to be thanked for their work and they can feel good about their accomplishments.

Social Services: Started a Mom’s Off Meth (MOM’s) group, which will be funded by the Nicollet County Family Service Collaborative. We may be the first county in Minnesota to start a MOM’s group. A transition apartment has been established for those adults with serious and persistent mental illness who are homeless or in need of immediate housing. The department has implemented a Child Support Contempt process and have been successful in getting more child support payments from the non-paying obligors.

Veteran’s Service: There was an 18.7% increase over last year in the amount of federal dollars that are coming to Nicollet County from VA Compensation, Pension, and other VA programs. For the period October 5 through September 6, $3,580,000 was received. There are 1046 active veteran files in Nicollet County.

Emergency Management: Published a newspaper flier on family preparedness and distributed to all households in Nicollet County. Held one full-scale disaster exercises and two tabletop exercises.

Assessor: Valued and added more than 54.5 million dollars of new construction in Nicollet County. Approximately 1,500 transfers/splits/changes in property ownership and/or legal description changes were processed.

Office of Technologies: Voicemail was implemented throughout the Government Center and the Sheriff’s complexes.

Public Works: Built a new maintenance shop in Lafayette. It replaced a building that was 67 years old. Many highway projects were completed including county road 63 and two sections of county road 5. An addition and enclosure were erected at the Seven Mile Creek Park’s Middle shelter.

Facilities Maintenance: Three employees have completed boiler licensing and upgrades. Continued Safety Program involvement, inspections, compliance and repair lists.

Environmental Services: Supervised the installation of 91 new and upgraded septic systems. Performed 73 feedlot inspections and have issued 28 feedlot permits. There have been 183 total land use permits issued with a valuation of $11,679,795 on the building permits.

Public Health: A Harvard Study found that Nicollet County was the Minnesota County with the longest longevity in Minnesota at 81.1 years (14th county in the country) generating positive media exposure from KARE 11, WCCO, and KEYC for the County and Public Health. WIC now serves more than 800 participants per month compared to the 750 range last year.

Assistant to the Administrator: Developed and implemented a Family and Medical Leave Act Policy. Completed volunteer committee review and received Board approval of Nicollet County Personnel Rules and Regulations, which is typically done every three to five years.

Auditor-Treasurer: Acquired HAVA grants in the amount of $232,960 and $87,000 to be used to purchase election equipment. The election brought 1,100 absentee ballots and a 75% turnout at the polls. The election results were posted on our website and we had 1,500 hits on the site on election night. We are presently reworking the investment policy for the county.

Probation: Started women’s specific programming and group in 2006. Project Nighthawk and the Cognitive Skills classes are being continued.

Brown-Nicollet Community Health: developed a new Public-Health Nuisance database. Involved in the declaration and cleanup of two Clandestine Drug Lab sites. Held the 7th Annual Children’s Water Festival for all area fourth graders.

Tri-County Solid Waste: Served 810 residents with household hazardous waste disposal and held a special collection in the City of Nicollet.

Recorder: Completed the project: Wall of County Recorders. Pictures have been obtained and displayed of former County Recorders/Register of Deeds.

Sheriff: Have added the K-9 unit and “Drago” is working well for Nicollet County. Received grant funds to update defibrillators. end