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City asked to chip in more for prosecution services

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News Worthington, 56187
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Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- After much discussion and two failed motions, Nobles County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to make a counter-offer to the City of Worthington regarding a contract for prosecution services.

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The offer states the county will continue to provide prosecution services to the city, but at an increased rate of 30 percent of the department's budget. The city had previously agreed to pay 25 percent of the budget, including the addition of a fifth county attorney and a part-time support staff position.

Discussion has been ongoing since the county decided in late February to terminate its contract with the city, effective Feb. 28, 2009.

"We have enough staffing right now (at four attorneys) to do the county's business," said board chair Diane Thier at Tuesday's meeting. "If we hire another attorney to do prosecution services, I don't think 25 percent is enough (from the city)."

Commissioner Marv Zylstra also expressed concern that the 25 percent the city was offering was not adequate, while Commissioner Norm Gallagher suggested 32 percent would be more in line.

"If we set it at 32 percent with an inflationary factor, that should work," Thier added.

Commissioner Vern Leistico moved to renew the contract for two years at 28 percent in an effort to resolve the discussion. When that motion died for lack of a second, Thier presented a motion calling for the city to kick in 32 percent of the county attorney's budget in a three-year contract.

"I know if we raised it to 32 percent, the city couldn't do it (on their own) for that," she said. "If the city wants to counter-offer, they can do that."

Commissioner Norm Gallagher provided a second for Thier's motion, but it failed on a 3-2 vote.

Commissioner David Benson recommended several times during the discussion that the board postpone a decision until the county attorney was present, as well as a representative from the City of Worthington.

"I think the benefits are there to continue working together," he said. "I'd like to see the city present at our next meeting."

"We know where they're coming from," Their responded. "I guess it's up to us to say, 'This is how much money we need to provide the city service.'

"We are the ones ultimately who need to make the decision," she added.

Leistico then suggested a compromise -- a three-year contract that would have the city paying 30 percent of the budget. That motion passed on a 3-2 vote, with Leistico, Zylstra and Gallagher in favor and Thier and Benson opposed.

In other action, the board:

* Granted a request to B&R Ventures, LLC, a subsidiary of Bedford Technology, for a $300,000 loan from the county's revolving loan fund. The loan will be amortized over 20 years, with 5 percent interest accrual during the first five years of the loan, and 6 percent interest each year thereafter. A balloon payment must be made after 10 years.

The county's revolving loan fund has a balance of approximately $1 million.

* Approved the Nobles County Joint Jurisdictional Planning and Zoning Ordinance with one amendment -- that property owned by Clair and LaVonne Calvin (12.5 acres) and Douglas and Shirley Dather (7.7 acres) be zoned as agricultural preservation district, rather than industrial. In addition, commissioners approved the new zoning maps for the one-half mile area around the city of Worthington.

* Approved a contract between the Nobles County Jail and the Minnesota Department of Corrections to house six to eight inmates who would learn job skills by working on remodeling and building low-income housing in Nobles, Rock, Pipestone, Murray and Jackson counties.

The program, created in the state in 1998, will provide for a crew supervisor to get the inmates to the job site and back to the jail at the end of the day.

"These are people that are coming back to our community," Benson said. "I'm very much in favor of this. We're all aware of the housing needs for low-income housing."

* Requested Sheriff Kent Wilkening get more information on the two quotes he received for replacement of the jail's video visitation system. Wilkening presented two bids before the county on Tuesday, with the lowest bid submitted from Renobo Software at a cost of $55,865 for 15 video visitation stations. Wilkening said Renobo also provided a quote of $39,910 for 10 stations.

"Where are we going to come up with $40,000 to pay for it?" Leistico asked.

Following some discussion, commissioners asked Wilkening if the number of video visitation stations could be further reduced. Also, Benson suggested the stations could be phased in over two years to avoid a strain on the budget.

* Approved a resolution from the Nobles County Highway Department requesting an advance on future allocations from the state to fund replacement of a bridge in Bloom Township. The request will be for $100,000, although Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said the estimated cost for the bridge replacement is $80,000.

* Approved a conditional use permit for Progressive Contractors, Inc., of St. Michael, for Dan Russell, Bigelow, to operate a temporary concrete plant in the southeast quarter of Section 31, Bigelow Township. The plant will be used for the reconstruction of Minnesota 60.

* Approved renewal of a work release contract between the Nobles County Jail and the Minnesota Department of Corrections that will allow state inmates housed at the jail to work outside the facility. The state pays the county $55 per day to house the inmates.

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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