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Commissioners approve HLWD appointment

WORTHINGTON -- Nearly a dozen people attended the Nobles County commissioners' board meeting Tuesday regarding a citizen appointment to the Heron Lake Watershed District board.

Mike McCarvel, one of two Nobles County representatives on the watershed board of managers, was seeking reappointment to his term that was set to expire in late February. McCarvel has served as a board manager for 13 years.

The three-year term on the watershed was also sought by Mark Bartosh, a resident of Graham Lakes Township. Both Bartosh and McCarvel were among those present at the meeting, and each was asked to speak briefly on why they wanted to be appointed.

Bartosh took the floor first, saying he disagrees with the Wetland Management District portion of the HLWD's water management plan.

"I've submitted my name to you to give you a choice," Bartosh told commissioners. He said it "wasn't right" for a government agency to control a large fund without being elected by the voters, and said the board needs to be more responsive to what the public wants. Bartosh also said the HLWD needs to "make better use of the resources they've been given."

McCarvel, in his statement to commissioners, said he believes in the mission of the watershed district -- to improve water quality and provide for preservation and enhancement of wildlife habitat. He said the district has obtained $2.2 million in grant money since 1996, allowing the district to enroll nearly 5,000 acres in filter strips, complete more than 350 wetland restorations and provide financial incentives for 65 septic system replacements in Nobles County.

"Ag drainage was one of the reasons I joined the board, and the ag community needs that to continue," McCarvel said. "We need to find ways to slow this water down. We need to find willing landowners to fill up these ponds and meter them out."

Acknowledging that he and Bartosh don't see eye to eye on the Wetland Management District, McCarvel said he sees it as another tool in the toolbox. He explained that the $24 maximum per-parcel charge that could be implemented if a WMD was established would raise up to $80,000 to $90,000 for specific projects to address water issues.

"I've felt good about the kinds of things that have been done in the watershed," McCarvel said. "Sometimes you have to take the hard stance."

Written testimony was provided to commissioners from Merle Hassebroek of Worthington, while Jerry Perkins, also of Worthington, spoke on behalf of the work the HLWD has done and continues to do.

"What better place to put money than in our land and our water?" Perkins offered. "It's one of the areas we have a little bit of local control. I would like to see the strong effort that the watershed district has had in the past to continue."

Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr. said he spoke with staff from the Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District, managers with the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District and county environmental services employees on the work of the HLWD. He relayed that everyone he spoke with was happy with the way things are being done now, and then suggested that "if it isn't broke, don't fix it."

Commissioner Marv Zylstra moved the reappointment of McCarvel to the board, and the motion was approved unanimously.

In other action, the board:

* Elected Commissioner David Benson chair of the Nobles County Board for 2012, with Demuth Jr. to serve as vice-chair.

* Approved a request from Daniel Bohn to construct another driveway accessing his parcel in Section 20, Hersey Township. The request, tabled at two previous board meetings, was made to allow Bohn to maneuver his grain semi on the property without having to back out of his driveway onto County State Aid Highway 14. All five of the commissioners visited the site in recent weeks, and the request to add another driveway was approved unanimously.

* Approved an increase in the county's fee for permitting driveways, raising it from $200 to $450, which is what Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder reported was the average cost for the county's work on driveway installations. The fee increase went into effect immediately. Because Bohn's request was made beforehand, his permit will be at the 2011 rate.

* Was notified that Nobles County's share in the two-thirds/one-third split with Rock County following the dissolution of the Nobles-Rock Community Health Services agency will be nearly $378,000. The funds will be placed in the new county public health program, Nobles County Community Services.

* Discussed county-based purchasing with Nobles County Family Services Director Nicole Names. Nobles County is one of 13 counties in the South Prairie Health Purchasing Alliance, and work continues to progress on an integrated system between counties and health providers.

* Discussed the potential in re-creating a welfare board in Nobles County that would give all five county commissioners more insight into the county's costs for human services. The department accounts for the largest share of the county's annual budget.

* Approved the appointments of David McNab to the emergency management planning advisory committee and Gary Hibma to the Nobles County Park Board.

* Approved board delegates to policy committees for 2012 with the Association of Minnesota Counties. Benson will serve on the health and human services committee; Demuth will serve on public safety and corrections committee; Diane Thier will serve on the environment and natural resources committee; Vern Leistico will serve on the general government committee and Marv Zylstra will serve on the transportation committee.

* Approved a change in the P-225 pension and retirement policy to allow the county to purchase refreshments in the event of a qualified retirement.

* Set the 2012 board meeting dates as the first Tuesday after the first Monday, and the second to the last Tuesday of each month. One exception was noted -- the Dec. 4 meeting conflicts with the Association of Minnesota Counties annual conference. In addition, the county set 6 p.m. June 12 as the meeting date for the Board of Equalization.

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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