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Shutdown: County sees minimal impact

WORTHINGTON -- In their second full day of work since the state government shutdown, Nobles County department heads updated commissioners Tuesday on the impact the shutdown has on their departments.

Perhaps most affected thus far is Nobles County Family Services, which receives payment reimbursement from the state to provide care to seven consumers with developmental disabilities, and to provide relative custody assistance for two individuals.

Nicole Names, Family Services Director, said both programs were not included in the state's list of "essential services" to fund during the shutdown.

"All the (Medical Assistance) programs will be funded," Names said. State funds will also continue to filter in for critical programs like vulnerable adult and child protection services, foster care and sex offender treatment. "We do have a number of programs that are grant-funded between the state and county, and a number of those are now not funded."

Family Services receives an average of $148,000 per month from the state, with July being the month for the greatest state revenue reimbursement.

"That will cut us back right off the bat," Names said.

Commissioners approved funding both the developmental disabilities and relative custody assistance programs for up to 30 days.

The state's developmental disabilities reimbursement to the county is approximately $5,500 per month, while reimbursement for the relative custody assistance program is nearly $7,200 per month.

As for other departments, Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said the county cannot award contracts for bridge replacements until the state is "back up and running." Schnieder included provisions into the bid specifications to open the bids late -- and allow for the work to be completed later in the construction season -- in the event of a government shutdown.

Most notable among transportation projects is the halt of the Minnesota 60 expansion.

"If the Minnesota 60 project does not get going soon, that project may not be done on time," Schnieder said. "The worst case scenario is (the state) will need to maintain the detour route through the winter."

Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Balster said the county won't receive its levy limits because the state's Department of Revenue is minimally staffed. Also, she said while the license center is open, the Department of Natural Resources has shut down its licensing operations.

Assessor Byron Swart said the only impact to his department is in educational trainings. He was registered for a class later this month that was cancelled.

Sheriff Kent Wilkening said most things in his department are deemed critical by the state. The Nobles County Jail continues to house inmates for the state, and if the shutdown continues for any length of time, it could delay payment from the state, he said.

Recorder Lynn Wilson said the state has limited staff to file birth and death certificates, but she is able to continue to file those reports. Land records also continue to be filed, however well disclosure certificates cannot be obtained during the shutdown.

Information Technology director Kelly Kruse said the state network is deemed a critical service because of the sheriff's office and connection to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. However, state employees who work with the county's internet and voice over internet protocol system have been reduced to minimal staff and they will address critical issues as their top priority.

In other action, the board:

* Received an update on the transition to a unified health and human services agency. Names said she is working on potential contracts with Southwest Health and Human Services to provide both sanitarian (food, beverage and lodging inspections) and health educator duties. It is possible grants issued to Nobles-Rock Community Health Services for health education would include responsibility to serve Nobles County.

* Approved a conditional use permit for PCI Roads, St. Michael to operate a temporary batch plant in the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 33, Worthington Township, for concrete supply to the Minnesota 60 project. Conditions placed on the permit include that the site may only be used until the completion of the project, that the plant cannot operate after 8:30 p.m. each day, and that the applicant provide dust control measures.

* Accepted the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's 2010 county feedlot performance grant of $3,842. Nobles County Environmental Services director Wayne Smith said the grant is the result of the county completing more than the minimum feedlot program requirements during the 2010 calendar year. Smith said this was the largest grant amount the county has received for completing the extra work.

* Granted a request from Mike Kunerth, Brewster, to construct an additional driveway on Nobles County 14 to access his property in the southeast quarter of Section 20, Hersey Township.

The county's policy is to allow up to two driveways per half-mile. Kunerth's request was to have three driveways within one-half mile, and he agreed to remove one driveway on Nobles County 3.

* Approved a request to fill a part-time help desk technician in the county's information technology department.

* Approved an ARMER console project agreement with Motorola, which will include the Motorola console and microwave link, at a cost of $511,626. A "good portion" of the amount will be paid for by grants, said Wilkening.

* Approved a contract with the state of Minnesota to install an ARMER control station in the Osceola County, Iowa, sheriff's office, which will allow for law enforcement communications across the state line once Nobles County completes its transition to the 800 megahertz ARMER system.

"The state wants to have interoperability between agencies and other states," Wilkening told commissioners. "Without this, we would not be able to communicate with our neighbors."

* Approved an agreement between the Nobles County Sheriff's Office and NextGeneration 911 for equipment, installation and maintenance at a cost of $159,527.

* Granted a request from Wilkening to have statutory authority to sign grants for anything related to the emergency communications network in Nobles County.

* Approved group residential housing agreements for 28 sites in Nobles County that provide housing for the elderly or disabled. The county's human services department receives reimbursement from the state for these sites.

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

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