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, May 20, 2010

Families First

Families should be the first line of offence in the war against childhood obesity.

My attention was peaked from the McNeil Lehr new report. Our First Lady, Michelle Obama, was speaking to reporters and other dignitaries. She was explaining her effort to help the nation's children fight obesity. Here, in Minnesota, we have programs that are also working for the same goal. State Health Improvement Program (SHIP).

Ms Obama explained that this was a huge problem, a very big problem that would not be easy to solve. She said, "It will take all of us working together to fight obesity in our children. It will take schools, it will take organizations, it will take businesses, it will take government......it will take families. All working together to fight obesity."

Ms. Obama, I mean no disrespect, but didn't you get your list reversed? Shouldn't the front line in the fight against childhood obesity be at the family dinner table? end

Friday, May 14, 2010

I'd Have Walked Seventy Miles!

No, this is not the start of a song. The seventy miles is the number of miles that Kevin Stolt and the Nicollet County Sentence to Serve Crew covered cleaning up the road ditches of county and township roads. And along the way, they retrieved many aluminum cans. How many aluminum cans??? $202.35 worth of aluminum cans. These were sold and Kevin presented the county with the check. Great work! Thank you all for making this a worthwhile and appropriate program. end

Minnemishinona Falls

The Nicollet County Board of Commissioners has taken some heat for obtaining and developing the Minnemishinona Falls and the property near it. Let's set the record straight on the costs to Nicollet County taxpayers for this natural scenic site.

The price of purchasing the actual falls site was $330,000. These dollars came from three different sources: Minnesota Department of Transportation District Seven ATP Federal enhancement funds-$264,000; Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation grant-$50,000; and a DNR grant-$16,000. There were zero taxpayer dollars used.

Recently the county board approved going out for bids for the construction of the bike/pedestrian trail from County Road 71 into the falls area and connecting back into County State Aid Highway 41. This will also include a bridge over the falls gorge. This project will be financed using additional Minnesota Department of Transportation Federal enhancement funds. The District Seven ATP has delegated $398,400 for this trail and bridge. Future upgrades that may be needed to the falls area will occur as grants become available. Most grants will require a percentage match of some kind which would mean the possibility of some local levy dollars.

Concerning the use of grant dollars. There are two philosophies of looking at grants. Some believe that using grant dollars is poor policy because in the case of grants from governmental agencies, the money is still tax dollars. This is absolutely true. The other belief is that governmental agencies offer incentives through the use of grants. If grants are available and if they can be put to good use, it behooves us to take advantage of them. If we do not apply and put these dollars to good use, some other unit of government will. The other city or county will benefit to the detriment of our city or county. The grant program is an unbiased way of distributing funds.

Regarding the amount of water draining over the falls. We need rain to have a waterfall. Last summer we had a drought and there was no waterfall. The normal course of rainfall should mean a steady stream of water at the falls. As development in North Mankato moves further into the watershed, the amount of water flowing into the creek feeding the falls will be greater and greater. Rain or no rain, the falls are a very popular place with the public. Many people are enjoying the falls every day. end

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Downsizing Government

On Monday, May 10, I chaired the last meeting of the Brown/Nicollet/Cottonwood Water Quality Board. Due to lack of funding, this board, after existing for over 20 years is officially going into "inactive" status, as of June 1, 2010. This will mean that the board will pay any final bills, and will carry liability insurance coverage, but will terminate the present employees (two) and will not be able to take on any new water quality projects or programs.

This board consists of two county commissioners from each of the three counties: Cottonwood, Brown, and Nicollet. The decision to become inactive was not taken without a lot of research, thought, and study. In the past this board dealt with projects such as the St. Peter Wellhead protection program, the Little Cottonwood River project, township water testing in every township of the three counties; and has administered programs to encourage septic system upgrades. The agency has provided huge educational programs such as the Red Top Farms program. This program monitored tile lines in comparable fields using a variety of cropping and fertilizing systems. Every year, the agency was part of the Children's Water Festival that offered the opportunity for a day long event for all 4th graders in the three counties.

Recently the agency has been a part of a conservation drainage program located in Traverse township on Nicollet County ditch 29. During its lifetime, the agency has done extensive monitoring of the Seven Mile Creek watershed. Because this watershed is made up of large numbers of cropped acres and also is home to livestock operations as well as out-letting in a typical ravine terrain that means extensive bluff erosion, Seven Mile has become a showcase of the typical challenges and successes of many watersheds throughout the Minnesota River Valley.

The board made the decision to become inactive rather than to dissolve. There were several reasons for this decision. A significant reason is that this agency is one of the major players in the Middle Minnesota Watershed. There are efforts on the state level to demand all water quality programs to be handled by watershed organizations. If that mandate comes, Brown/Nicollet/Cottonwood Water Quality Board will be poised to become a strong active board. The cost of dissolving and the cost of becoming inactive was almost the same. Since this board is a joint powers board, there are significant costs to restarting a board that has been dissolved. By becoming inactive, the board will need to hold one meeting a year (by conference call). END

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Taxed Enough Already

These are the words of a growing number of citizens as they voice their concerns about the way our government is being run. Evidently some Minnesota legislators feel that a number of citizens (maybe ones that are not as newsworthy) would be willing to pay more taxes. Rep. Peggy Scott, Republican from Andover has sponsored the "I'm Not Taxed Enough Already Checkoff" bill (HF 3566). This bill would provide taxpayers the chance to make a voluntary contribution of at least $1 to the General Fund. There is a companion bill in the Senate (SF 3197) sponsored by Senator Amy Koch, Republican from Buffalo. The checkoff would be on the Minnesota state tax return. end