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PJC budget exceeded by more than 400 percent

WORTHINGTON -- With 2011 in the record books, Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday took a glance back at revenues and expenditures of individual departments for the year and found the preliminary results encouraging. According to county administrator Mel Ruppert, the county spent just 89 percent of its overall budget.

Several departments did not spend all of the money outlined for them in 2011, including the county attorney's office, assessor's office and information systems department.

While the news was particularly positive, one area that was significantly over budget was maintenance of Prairie Justice Center (PJC). Maintenance of the facility changed hands when Rich Linsmeier began work at the PJC on Feb. 2, 2011.

"There were a number of repairs that needed to be made," Linsmeier told commissioners on Tuesday.

Linsmeier brought a small cardboard box to Tuesday's meeting containing examples of plastic valves that were replaced with steel valves (the replacement saved the county thousands of dollars because Linsmeier found someone to manufacture the part), as well as a contraption installed in jail cell toilets that is supposed to keep inmates from flushing materials into the septic system.

Several problems with the sewer system at PJC led to the discovery of socks and knotted towels that had been flushed down toilets in the jail. The contraptions initially installed in those toilets were removed to reveal the large treble hooks once rigged to 30-pound test weight steel lines -- hooks meant to catch such items -- had disintegrated.

Other maintenance issues in the building included replacing ballasts and repairing some electrical wiring.

Linsmeier said there is now a schedule for quarterly checking of the cells.

"We pretty well have everything caught up in there (the jail)," he said. "The building has good quality stuff in it -- the county was handed a nice building, it just was not managed right."

As a result of all the necessary repairs at PJC, the $40,000 budget for 2011 was exceeded by 435 percent, with the final expenditures at approximately $174,000. When combining all of the county buildings (government center, library, public works facility and PJC), however, Ruppert said the county was at just 104 percent of budget.

In other action, the board:

* Approved a five-year contract from Jan. 1, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2016 with Schaap Sanitation for recycling services. The contract represents no change in recycling fees for the county and its residents, keeping Nobles County at one of the lowest rates in the region. One change to the contract is that Nobles County will no longer provide the recycling containers -- that will be done by Schaap Sanitation.

Eric Joens, district manager of Schaap Sanitation, said the biggest enhancement in the new contract is that all communities in Nobles County will receive the recycling carts that were introduced in Worthington last fall. He's already met with the cities of Lismore, Wilmont, Brewster and Ellsworth, and said carts will be delivered to those communities, as well as Adrian, beginning in April. All of the communities will have their recycling carts by July, he added.

* Designated commissioners David Benson and Robert Demuth Jr., who are the county's administrative committee, to meet with Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore regarding Moore's replacement after being named a district court judge. A meeting between the three individuals and Ruppert will be scheduled for next week.

* Received statistical information from Sara Wahl, director of the Southwest Crisis Center, on client usage of the office in Nobles County.

In the one-quarter period from October through December 2011, the local office received 64 reports of domestic violence from women who were in danger. Of those cases, 93 children were exposed to the situation. There was one reported case of sexual abuse of a minor and 13 reported sexual assaults.

Wahl said her staff did more than 100 training sessions in 2011, and gave nearly 150 public presentations on the work of the Southwest Crisis Center during that time.

* Approved a resolution calling for the sale of nearly $1.65 million in general obligation water revenue crossover bonds that were issued in 1996 for Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water and refinanced in 2003 by Nobles County. The awarding of the bond sale was set for March 6.

* Approved a change in the 2012 county fee schedule pertaining to mortgage foreclosure sales. The fee will be increased from $50 to $100 to remain in line with what other counties charge.

* Approved creation of a change box for the public health office to allow employees to make change for clients who pay fees for certain services offered by the department.

* Approved a grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) for perinatal Hepatitis B and Immunization Practices Improvement.

* Learned that official confirmation was given by MDH for Janet Howard as the Community Health Services Administrator within Nobles County Community Services.

* Approved the first quarter 2012 appropriation of $6,247.25 to the Nobles County Historical Society.

* Appointed Jacob Holck of Worthington and Scott Johnson of the Southwestern Mental Health Center to the newly formed Community Services Advisory Committee.

* Discussed the Southwestern Mental Health Center's plans to begin construction this spring on its new offices adjacent to the Unity House on the former Central School property in downtown Worthington.

* Designated commissioners Marv Zylstra and Diane Thier to attend the Regional Recycling Facility meeting Monday in Slayton.

* Met in closed session to discuss labor negotiations.

Readers may reach Reporter Julie Buntjer 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

(507) 376-7330