WORTHINGTON — In its first meeting of the new year, Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday elected Robert Demuth Jr. to serve as board chairman for 2018, with Matt Widboom elected vice-chairman.
During the relatively short meeting, commissioners discussed a recommendation from the county’s planning commission regarding Mike Fogelman’s request for a conditional use permit to operate a home-extended business at 31344 130th St., Fulda. Fogelman is the owner of Mike’s Mini Excavating.
Two weeks ago, Fogelman appeared before the Planning Commission, seeking a conditional use permit to stockpile rock, dirt, clay, asphalt and concrete, as well as conduct asphalt and concrete crushing, operate an ag drainage business, provide resale of ag drainage material, operate a subsurface sewage treatment system installation business and apply household septage to MPCA-permitted land on the site. The commission set two conditions, neither of which addressed Minnesota Department of Natural Resources concerns about potential pollution an asphalt stockpile could create with nearby wetlands.
On Tuesday, Planning and Zoning Administrator Kathy Henderschiedt told commissioners they could either approve the recommendation from the planning commission, add more conditions to the permit or send the application back to the commission with direction to seek more information.
She said staff identified a stockpile area on the Fogelman property — north of the grove and west of existing Conservation Reserve Program acres — that would reduce the potential for future pollution. However, she had concerns about Fogelman’s plans to drain the wetland.
Nobles Soil and Water Conservation District Manager John Shea said Tuesday that Fogelman may not be able to drain the wetland due to rules set forth in the Minnesota Conservation Wetland Act.
“The tile request that will come through my office will probably be denied until he has someone from the state that says it is not a wetland,” Shea told commissioners.
Widboom then said tiling concerns should not be part of the discussion regarding the permit application.
“It is pertinent that the board put restrictions on the storage … to the extent that it will be done on this land and it may be potentially tiled in the future,” advised County Attorney Kathleen Kusz, who had attended the Dec. 20 Planning Commission meeting. She said the board can put more restrictions on the permit request now, but it won’t be able to later on — even if a pollution problem arises.
“Our recommendation would be he is restricted to stockpile in the northwest corner,” added Henderschiedt. “It’s allowing him to do what he’s requesting, just on a certain area of his property.”
“I think we’re making a mountain out of a molehill here,” Commissioner Justin Ahlers then said. “He’s responsible for pollution if there is any. I believe he understands that. Therefore, he would never do anything that would lead him to that being an issue.
“I don’t see that putting these restrictions on him is in anyone’s best interest,” Ahlers continued.”It’s not this board’s job to enforce. That would be MPCA. Therefore, I support the permit as presented.”
Ahlers made his statement into a motion to accept the planning commission’s recommendation and approve the permit. It failed on a 2-3 vote, with Ahlers and Widboom in favor of granting the permit and commissioners Demuth, Don Linssen and Gene Metz opposed.
“It’s not up to this board to enforce, but it is up to this board to look after the health, safety and welfare of our constituents,” Demuth said.
“We would not be allowed to put a manure stockpile this close to a wetland,” Metz added. “I couldn’t go out and spread animal waste on some of the areas he’s talking about (spreading septage).”
Bill Schuna, DNR Area Wildlife Manager, told commissioners he thought the staff’s idea to limit the stockpile area to the northwest corner of Fogelman’s site was reasonable.
“All of the land on Fogelman’s property flows into wetlands to the south and east,” Schuna said. “It would be helpful if we had someone from the MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) to chime in on this, but they aren’t here, of course,” Schuna said. “We’re just trying to do the best to protect water, as you all are. I trust you will do the right thing.”
Metz ultimately presented a motion to return the request to the planning commission and directed staff to get more information from the MPCA. That motion passed on a 3-2 vote, with Metz, Linssen and Demuth in favor; Widboom and Ahlers opposed.
In other action, the board:
- Authorized a $461,474.78 payment to Duininck Inc., Prinsburg, for work completed on the 2017 bituminous paving contract. A withholding of .1 percent of the total contract ($9,417.83) was approved by commissioners as a result of a dispute initiated by a subcontractor regarding wage rates Duininck required in the contract versus the actual rates the workers were paid. The dispute is now being handled by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Compliance.
- Approved a construction agreement, allowing the city of Worthington to include its bituminous paving work under the county’s contract in 2018 in hopes of receiving lower bid prices.
- Approved a contract renewal with Rupp, Anderson, Squires and Waldspurger, PA, to provide training on drainage issues for county commissioners and the planning commission.
- Approved a three-year contract with AFSCME Council 65 (the Public Health union), with cost of living adjustments the same as in previous union contracts already approved — a 2.25 percent COLA for 2018, 2.5 percent for 2019 and 2.75 percent for 2020.
- Presented the December Excellence in Performance award to Jessica Kruse, registered nurse in the community services’ public health department.
- Approved a contract with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and accepted a $3,531 grant for snowmobile enforcement.
- Approved a Small Community Wastewater Treatment Program technical assistance grant of $11,700 to finance eligible costs for the Reading sewer project.
- Authorized a contract with The Globe to serve as the county’s legal newspaper for 2018.
- Approved the reappointment of Bruce Leinen to the Heron Lake Watershed District.