WORTHINGTON - Nobles County will soon be home to a veterans transport vehicle, following a decision Tuesday by county commissioners.
Trent Dilks, transportation director for the Disabled American Veterans of Minnesota, along with Nobles County Veterans Service Officer Bill Brockberg, appeared before the county board to bring the much-needed service to the southwest corner of the state.
Dilks said the state DAV’s fleet logged 1.6 million miles last year while transporting more than 18,000 Minnesota veterans to medical appointments. The fleet includes vans in Minneapolis, St. Cloud and rural communities such as Wheaton, Redwood Falls, Virginia and Park Rapids.
“We have a big blank area covering the I-90 area to Sioux Falls,” Dilks said. “We also have a blank area in southeast Minnesota.”
The DAV will donate the van to Nobles County - it’s slated to arrive by late May or early June - and the only responsibility of the county is to provide a parking space for it. County Administrator Tom Johnson said it will be kept in the parking garage at the government center downtown.
“Our biggest program is our transportation program,” Dilks said, noting it was established immediately after World War I, with Ford Model T’s used to transport veterans to medical appointments.
The van purchased for local veterans will be a 2017 Ford transit vehicle that can transport up to 10 people.
“We donate it to the VA and it becomes a government fleet vehicle,” Dilks explained, adding that the DAV covers the fuel and maintenance costs, as well as liability for the volunteer drivers to operate the van. He anticipates the van will log more than 1,000 miles per month transporting veterans, their caretaker or family member to medical appointments at VA facilities in Sioux Falls, S.D., or Spencer, Iowa, or other health care facilities within the Veterans Choice program. The DAV will replace the van at no cost to the county once it has reached a designated amount of miles.
“The DAV receives no money from the federal government for this program,” Dilks said.
While the van is not capable of transporting veterans in wheelchairs, Dilks said there are some added safety features, such as a floor-to-ceiling grip bar and nonslip side step. Volunteer drivers are trained in the VA process, and it is their discretion whether a veteran can be transported in the van or if more specialized transport is needed.
Brockberg said he hopes to develop a list of 10 volunteer drivers to operate the vehicle, with each volunteer driving one or two days a month.
“Because there isn’t going to be a charge for it, I think we can get more veterans to ride,” Brockberg said of the service.
In other action, the board:
- Accepted the low bid from Library Furniture International (LFI) for new shelving for the Adrian branch of the Nobles County Library. The bid of $43,102 was about $3,000 less than the only other bid received. Library Director Clint Wolthuizen said the shelving will be paid for through the library fund. In addition, commissioners authorized a 15 percent allowance (up to $6,000) for contingencies related to the remodeling project.
Wolthuizen reported the library is now completely gutted and contractors are working on plumbing at this time.
- Authorized Auditor-Treasurer Beth Van Hove to complete the 2017 township road allocation. The funds must be distributed to the townships by March 1. Commissioners voted to use the same funding formula as past years, which takes into consideration the township’s levy, population and road mileage. The total amount to be distributed is $455,916.
- Approved a resolution authorizing the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife division to acquire 16.36 acres of land in the southeast corner of the southwest quarter of Section 22, Bigelow Township. The land is currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, and further connects the existing Peterson Wildlife Management Area, providing improved public access. Nobles County Pheasants Forever is contributing $60,000 toward the purchase of the parcel from owner Alesha Andrade.
DNR Area Wildlife Manager Bill Schuna said once the state owns the property, a payment in lieu of taxes will be made to the county. The land will be assessed every 6 years to determine its property value.
Commissioner Don Linssen voiced concerns about weed control on the DNR-owned properties, saying he’s heard complaints from farmers about noxious weeds spreading to their land.
“We do take being a good neighbor seriously,” Schuna replied, saying his department does a targeted approach to weed control. “Last year my work area sprayed over 800 acres in the four counties. They did spend a lot of time south of Worthington spraying - and elsewhere.”
- Approved the transfer of a 34.24-acre parcel in the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 26, Bigelow Township, to the Minnesota DNR’s wildlife division. This parcel is being donated by Nobles County Pheasants Forever after it was purchased from Wayne Klumper. Schuna said the county collected $19.67 per acre in taxes in 2016. The payment in lieu of taxes to be made by the state is $46.83 per acre. That parcel will be reassessed in 2022.
- Approved the purchase of a tile locator, at a cost of approximately $6,000, to be used by the Nobles County Public Works department. Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said the expense of the locator can be billed to the ditch systems. The locator will come with 600 feet of cable and a GPS receiver, which Schnieder said will document the location of tile lines.
- Authorized a $2,500 reimbursement to the city of Biglow for a portion of its costs to demolish structures on a tax-forfeited property it purchased for redevelopment.
- Approved abatement of mobile home taxes from 2000-2008, totalling $2,352.19.
- Authorized signing a memorandum of agreement for the One Watershed, One Plan project. The plan encompasses six counties, six Soil and Water Conservation Districts and two watershed districts.
- Recognized Nobles County Environmental Services Director Wayne Smith for 25 years of service to the county. Smith was presented with a clock.
- Appointed Ron McCarvel to the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
- Entered closed session at the end of the meeting to conduct an annual performance evaluation with the county administrator.