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MnDOT seeks to make roads safer

WORTHINGTON -- Of the 27 counties that make up her territory in the Area Transportation Partnership, Amy Roggenbuck is rather proud of the fact that none made it onto the list of the Top 10 counties in Minnesota for fatal and serious injury crashes.

Still, she knows there is much more that can be done in southwest and south central Minnesota to reduce the death and injury rate on Minnesota roads.

During a presentation to Nobles County commissioners Tuesday, Roggenbuck -- coordinator of the South Central Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths program -- said she was hired to look at driver behavior and the four "E's," engineering, enforcement, education and emergency medical and trauma services and then develop local coalitions to create a response.

"We believe most of these deaths are preventable, and most are the result of driver behavior," she said.

In Nobles County, 22 deaths were reported in the last five years, and five deaths in the last year alone.

Another 45 people were classified as severely injured in a crash, meaning they will have to be taken care of for the rest of their life.

"We're trying to get people to buckle up, not to drink and drive and not to speed," Roggenbuck said. "We have a pretty low seatbelt compliance out here."

Statewide, seatbelt usage is at 93 percent -- a considerable increase since the primary seatbelt law was established in Minnesota in June 2009, making it violation subject to fines for motorists to don't buckle up.

In the south central region, there is just a 73 percent rate of compliance.

Minnesota established the Toward Zero Deaths program in 2002, and is one of just seven or eight states in the country to participate in the campaign.

The state's program is considered a model for others, Roggenbuck said.

The next step, she said, is to begin working with county highway safety plan groups to seek low-cost strategies to make roadways safer.

Among the items to be discussed in upcoming meetings are cable median barriers, rumble striping and flashing lights.

In other news, the board:

* Ratified a three-year contract with the Teamsters Local 320 for supervisory essential employees of the county.

* Approved a conditional use permit for Dustin De Boer to construct a 70- by 120-foot truck wash and 2-million-gallon earthen lagoon in the south half of the southwest quarter of Section 22, Little Rock Township.

* Approved the 2012 township road account fund allocation of $390,764.

* Tabled action on a request from the Workforce Center to renew a lease for office space on the second floor of the Nobles County Government Center. The request included a significant reduction in the rental rate for the space. The existing five year contract expires on Aug. 31.

* Approved the first half appropriation of $3,347.50 to the Nobles County Art Center; the first quarter appropriation of $7,589.25 to RSVP; and the first quarter appropriation of $8,000 to the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp.

* Was notified the administrative committee would discuss the county attorney and county assessor vacancies Tuesday afternoon. The committee, which includes commissioners David Benson and Bob Demuth and County Administrator Mel Ruppert, will meet with County Attorney Gordon Moore, who will transfer to his new post as a district court judge in March.

* Approved solid waste and recycling hauling permits for 2012 with Waste Management of Mankato, Schaap Sanitation of Worthington, Larson Crane Service of Worthington, Rupp Construction Co. of Slayton, Ketterling Services Inc., of Luverne, Denny's Sanitation of Rock Rapids, Iowa, and Henning Construction, Adrian. City burn site permits for 2012 were also approved.

* Discussed establishing a water protection delegation agreement with the Minnesota Department of Health. Previously, Nobles County had a sanitarian to conduct water sampling for public establishments that utilized well water. There are four entities in the county that require the testing, and since the county no longer has a sanitarian, a request will be made to have MDH take over the work.

* Conducted a closed session to review confidential and protected non-public appraisal data and discuss an offer on seven county-owned parcels within the city of Worthington. No action was taken as a result of the closed meeting.

* Approved a grant agreement with MDH to conduct hearing screenings for infants and children.

* Learned the county will receive a $78,000 increase in funding for services provided to vulnerable children and adults.

* Discussed changes to Medical Assistance coverage for non-emergencies for non-citizens. New regulations take effect March 1.

* Approved a request from Sheriff Kent Wilkening seeking a grant extension from the State of Minnesota for infrastructure items purchased through Motorola. The county has not yet received a bill from Motorola for the items that qualify for coverage in the grant.

* Approved citizen appointments, including Richard Schlicte of Wilmont to the Planning Advisory Commission; and Janet Howard of Luverne (Nobles County Public Health Supervisor) to the Emergency Management Planning Advisory Commission.

* Authorized board chair Benson to attend the National Association of Counties annual conference March 3-7 in Washington, D.C.

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

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