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Security issues to be addressed at Prairie Justice Center

WORTHINGTON — Access and security to county-owned buildings was one of several topics of discussion during Tuesday’s meeting of the Nobles County Board of Commissioners.

The board initially discussed the issue of changing the keycode entry system at the Prairie Justice Center to a key card/fob system last July, upon recommendation from a local judge. Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening presented two quotes on Tuesday for the work.

Burns Lock & Key of Worthington provided a quote of $40,250 to change the system on all 27 interior and exterior doors at the PJC, while a Wisconsin-based locksmith presented a quote of $37,500.

Wilkening requested the board accept the quote from Burns because it is local and because the system can be controlled via computer and a wireless network.

“You can change who has access to any door through a computer,” Wilkening said.

With the quotes, Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson suggested the board also consider implementing the key card technology at the Government Center and Nobles County Library in Worthington. Three exterior doors at the Government Center were proposed, along with one door at the library.

“There are so many events at the Farmers Room,” Johnson said, adding that the 10th Street doors could be locked and unlocked remotely when evening meetings are scheduled.

The estimate for adding the system at the Government Center and the library is $10,000. Unlike the $40,000 conversion at the PJC, which was approved in 2013, the $10,000 for the two additional buildings was not budgeted and would need to be funded through reserves.

Commissioner Matt Widboom said he would rather delay the work at the Government Center and library and “do it the budgeting way” next year.

After an initial motion was presented to do the work at all three of the buildings, an amendment granting the work only at the PJC was ultimately approved in a unanimous vote.

Also generating discussion Tuesday was a request for proposals seeking a firm specializing in media presentation to develop a “more robust website” for Nobles County, as well as expand communication tools.

Wilkening, who asked to speak on the topic, said he shared the idea with others who “felt the money could be better spent.”

“I would caution the board to spend money on a publicity campaign to improve your image,” Wilkening said. “The image of this county wasn’t hurt by the employees of the county or department heads. We all know the history.”

Wilkening said there are things that can be done as a county to improve the image without hiring a firm, including increasing transparency. He suggested a photo of the county commissioners be added to the website, along with the county’s budget and board agendas.

Several commissioners responded by saying it isn’t as much about improving image as it is about improving communications.

“We’re trying to make ourselves more accessible to the public … if you need something, where do you get it?” said Commissioner Gene Metz.

“We’re in a very diverse community and many people don’t have a clue what the county does,” added Johnson. “I think our website needs a major overhaul. We’ve been trying to work with other social media. My thought is we get the right company to tie it all together.”

Commissioners approved the request for proposals to help build Nobles County’s identity.

In other action, the board:

  • Approved a 2014 lease renewal with New Beginnings for use of approximately 1,500 square feet of the former Kids Peace Academy at the Prairie Justice Center at a rate of $13 per square foot per month.
  • Approved the tax abatement documents for the Ferrara Candy Co. facility in Round Lake. AGCO Jackson Operations is utilizing a portion of the building, and improvements were made to retrofit the building for new use. The tax abatement was previously approved for up to three years, contingent on AGCO meeting guidelines on number of employees at the Round Lake facility.
  • Approved a Department of Human Services agreement for one-time tobacco education compliance checks. Community Health will be reimbursed $40 for each check it completes in Nobles County. The plan is to conduct checks at the 35 licensed businesses in the county by June 30. No administrative citations will be written as part of these checks.
  • Received an update from University of Minnesota Extension on filling the SNAP education position open in Nobles County. The search criteria may change from requiring Spanish language to being a preference. Nobles County 4-H Program Coordinator Melissa Runck also provided an update on Cloverbud and 4-H activities.
  • Approved the following on recommendation from the Nobles County Planning Commission: The rezoning of nearly 6 acres of land in Section 4 of Bigelow Township (Org), for Brad Behrends and Jesse Flynn to use the residential property for general industry; for David Van Ruler to expand a cattle feedyard in Section 14, Little Rock Township; and for Joe Henning, Lismore, to construct a new swine confinement barn in Section 28, Lismore Township.
  • Authorized Environmental Services Director Wayne Smith to retain the law firm of Rupp, Anderson, Squires and Waldspurger, P.A., of the Twin Cities, to assist the county in reviewing joint jurisdictional ordinances and county ordinances. The estimated $10,000 expenditure will come from the environmental services budget.
  • Approved an agreement for the 2014 Minnesota Boat and Water Safety grant of $2,321. This is an increase from the $1,300 grant received in 2013, and is based on the number of hours the sheriff’s department spends on enforcement on lakes within the county.
  • Approved the advertisement of bids for Nobles County’s 2014 bituminous surfacing projects. Bid letting is slated for 1:30 p.m. May 12.
  • Will plan a county board work session for April 21 to discuss how the county proceeds with cases involving redetermination of benefits for county ditch systems.
  • Recognized Jackie VanHorsen, children’s librarian at the Nobles County Library, as the Excellence in Performance Award recipient for March.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

(507) 376-7330