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, March 29, 2007

Nicollet County People Live Longer

Public Health Department Head, Nita Aasen presented the department’s annual report to the Nicollet County Board of Commissioners this week. The following is taken directly from her report.

“Results from a decade long Harvard University study showed that Nicollet County ranked first in Minnesota for longevity (and eleventh in the country’s 3,2456 counties) at 81.1 years. Among the top 100 counties in the United States, Nicollet County was joined by three other South Central Counties: Brown, Waseca, and Faribault. The finding that Nicollet County was the “healthiest’ county in Minnesota generated significant media attention for Public Health. Requests for interviews came from WCCO Radio, KEYC-TV, and KARE 11 TV.

The media was interested in learning what specific factors contributed to the longevity of residents residing in Nicollet County. Statistics show that many Nicollet County residents come from Northern European stock, are well educated, have a lower rate of poverty, a lower smoking rate, and are highly insured. These factors are more likely to correlate with choosing a healthy lifestyle (exercising, weight control, and not smoking), taking personal responsibility for preventative care, and better control of chronic diseases (taking medications as directed). The media also went to Heritage Meadows, a congregate living site, and the St. Peter Senior Center to interview seniors about their views on their longevity. Their comments also focused on genetics and lifestyle. Three seniors interviewed stated their longevity was linked to “good genes, good clean country living, and ‘we don’t smoke, drink, or carouse around.’.

The Harvard study found that the highest disease burden was smoking (almost 14% of health care costs), alcohol use and overweight and obesity (both almost 8%), high blood pressure (6%), high cholesterol (almost 6%), low fruit and vegetable intake, physical inactivity and illicit drug use (each between 2 and 3%), unsafe sex and iron deficiency anemia (each about 1%). Personal responsibility can be taken in each of these areas to improve personal health and lower health care costs for all of society." end

A Nicollet County First

On March 27, Nicollet County became the first county in the state to post our gravel roads to ten ton capacity. The Nicollet County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution that allowed for all the County-owned gravel-surfaced roadways to be posted “seasonally” for legal 10-ton per axle truck weight. Most of the county’s gravel county routes have been reconstructed and can handle the low volume of 10-ton loading that is already happening.

The county board feels this posting is necessary because agricultural trucking has become extremely important to the goals of milk, meat, and bio-fuel production. And these loads are at or above the weight capacity. This will continue our efficient movement of commodity products from field to market. Signs designating this change will go up after the current “spring-time” 7-ton signs are removed. end

Friday, March 23, 2007

2.5 million tax free dollars

The Nicollet County Veteran’s Service Office brings $2.5 million tax free dollars into the county each year as it provides services to 3,000 veterans in the county. One of the most useful services offered is the transportation provided for veterans to hospitals. Each year over 800 veterans are provided rides – using two vans. These vans were purchased almost entirely from contributions from the veteran service organizations in the county. Veteran’s Service Director, Hank Sadler has indicated he is seeing an increased number of Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans. “Traumatic brain injuries are the signature of this war,” Sadler said “and some do not know the extent of their injuries until they get back home.” end

Monday, March 19, 2007

Minnesota River Board meets in Gaylord

The Minnesota River Basin Joint Powers Board met this morning in Gaylord. The following is a brief listing of ongoing activities:

  • Working with BWSR on the restored wetland evaluation;
  • Working with BWSR on the 67 County tillage Transect Survey;
  • Working with DNR on the Shorelands media presentation;
  • Working with MPCA on the Blue Earth River tmdl and also
  • Working with MPCA, and the RCRCA, and STS consultants on the Redwood/Cottonwood Rivers turbidity tmdl.
  • Director Shannon Fisher is working on planning the Shallow Lakes Forum to be held April 3-4.
  • The board is working with the Rush River/High Island CreeK CWP to give assistance to their staff in finishing up some of the project.

Director Fisher reported that the bill that Representative Terry Morrow is sponsoring, H.F. 1143 is receiving good reception. The Senate companion is S.F. 1080. He urged continued e-mails to Representative Terry Morrow, Senator Dennis Fredrickson, Senator Kathy Sheran, and Senator Gary Kubly. Representative Bob Gunther was very helpful in moving this bill out of committee. He is to be thanked for his efforts. The bill would establish a funding amount of $93,000 yearly for the Minnesota River Board to help us continue our coordinating efforts in the Minnesota River Basin. Indications are that whatever funding amount is in the final bill, the expectation will be that the counties need to match the state funded amount. end

Saturday, March 10, 2007


March 11-17 is the week set aside to encourage folks to think about our ground water.

Turn on the tap, get a drink. Push the handle down and the toilet flushes. Put your money in, line the car up and drive into the car wash, the water sprays and the car comes out shiny clean. We don’t think about water very much, we just use it and use it and use it. If we keep on using it like there is no tomorrow – there may be no tomorrow with adequate water.
When I am not in my role as county commissioner, I am working on a history project for our community. The Norseland Community is celebrating its 150th Anniversary next year. Presently we are gathering historic information to include in a book to be published for the event. One of the reasons our ancestors settled here was because of the adequate water supply. They were farmers and they lived off the land and their livelihood depended on adequate rainfall, water from lakes and streams, and eventually, they dug wells. Carl Borgeson was a member of our community who did well drilling and repair. I imagine he had counterparts in every growing community in the state. Once settlers established their homes and outbuildings, a well was one of the necessities.

The importance of water was impressed on me at an early age. We had no running water at our country school. Part of being a student in those days was taking our turn to walk to the nearest farm place and fill up a shotgun pail with water and bring it back to school and pour it in the crock water cooler. As an adult, I had another experience during the 1975 Super Bowl blizzard which brought home the importance of water. This blizzard was an historic event and was called the “Blizzard of the Century”. Our family knew enough to draw off water for our personal use before the blizzard hit. Drinking water was no problem. The problem was getting adequate water to the livestock. Spend a few hours outside on a January day, dipping water from a cistern with a bucket tied to the end of a rope. Then deposit each bucket full of water into a cream can and keep doing this until you have filled the can 30 times. This was the amount of water needed just to “get by” for the livestock for one day. The importance of water becomes very real. And the importance of electricity to pump the water becomes real.

The idea of protecting our water supply cannot be stated in strong enough terms. Wells are substantial investments and they need to be protected. The Ground Water Awareness Week is a way to develop a sense of stewardship in citizens regarding all waters and particularly the water we drink everyday. If you have a well, check it out to see if it is in good working order. Have the water tested for coliform bacteria and nitrates and anything else that is of local concern. Keep hazardous chemicals such as paint, fertilizer, pesticides and motor oil far away from the well. Maintain a separation between your well and buildings, waste systems, or chemical storage areas. The next time you are in the shower, take a few minutes to think about how wonderful it is to have good water to wash away the germs of everyday living and the clouds of sorrow and despair that sometimes fill our minds. The water refreshes us in many ways. For this we are thankful. end

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Report from Nicollet County Probation Department

At the last board meeting, Steve Kley Department Head for Probation Department presented his annual report. Some of the significant information follows.

  • In 2006, the department developed two new programs. Through a realignment of some caseloads and workload, the department began an adult, gender specific caseload for females. Research is showing that females in the criminal justice system bring a very different and unique set of backgrounds and challenges that need to be addressed in an unconventional way. One of the staff volunteered to become trained in a curriculum that is available and has taken on the assignment of the gender specific caseload.
  • Another program that is new is addressing offenders at the pre-trial stage. The concept is that this program has the potential to alleviate some of the jail population issues the county has been dealing with.
  • Everyone is happy with the reports regarding the Sentence to Service program. Kley gives much of the credit to the success of the program to Kevin Stolt, the crew chief. Kley said, "Kevin really works the phones" and that is what it takes to maintain fully staffed crews and valuable jobs to match with the crews. The 2006 report shows a doubling of the hours worked by the crews and a value of $54,823 for the completed projects. This figure is determined by asking the recipient of the work (for example a township) how much the task would have cost if it was hired out. It is determined that 482 jail days were saved through this program. An additional benefit is that this work experience is adding value to the lives and experiences of the crew members. Many of them need to learn how to work and they need to learn simple habits like being on time, reporting in, and other valuable life skills. This program is beneficial in many ways. end.