At the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners meeting held on Tuesday, July 25, Chairman of the Board Gary Johnson expressed his frustrations with recent comments by Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski. Mayor Smiglewski had criticized Prairie Five's decision to close the Prairieland Care Center, and blasted YMC commissioners on the Prairie Five board for deciding "they don’t have to have anything to do with this." Commissioner Johnson said that the comments were "pretty upsetting.”
He also disagreed with Mayor Smiglewski's characterization of the decision as being hasty. "This hasn't just come on in 6 or 7 days." He went on to say that the county has had very "deliberative meetings" over several months to address the shortage of childcare options in the area. He informed the board that he and Mayor Smiglewski recently had a "very healthy discussion" where they agreed to future multi-agency meetings. Commissioner Johnson stressed that he wants YMC to be a partner, rather than a leader, in these discussions. He also called on other local entities to work together to find a solution.
The County Board also discussed the proposed broadband connection plan. The plan, which is estimated to cost $5 million, will connect the 5 surrounding counties and provide internet access to all public entities. Commissioner Ron Antony expressed concern about the plan's steep cost, and noted that many residents would not directly benefit from the plan. He also questioned the wisdom of the county pursing the plan further, asking, "are we in the business of owning a fiber optic circle?"
County Administrator Peg Heglund cautioned that the county still needed to see a more detailed cost estimation, but added that "we need to see a lot of reasons for why to do this." She suggested that the board explore the option of using state funds to help the project. After discussing different ways to proceed, the board agreed to wait for the task force to continue its work before making a final decision.
The board also heard a presentation from Ashley Soine from human resources, who updated the board on a proposed position analysis questionnaire (PAQ) for county employees. The board debated how different versions of this proposal would impact wages relative to the respective classification of different positions. Several concerns were mentioned such as the scope of potential changes to the existing pay scale and how essential functions for different positions might be impacted. In spite of several disagreements, the board ultimately agreed to look into pricing options for a market study to further assess changes.
In other news:Doug Waltz, the new Property Manager for the county fairground was introduced to the board. While both he and the board agreed that the fair was a big success, Waltz stressed that more can be done to improve fairground conditions. Lawn-care and painting were among his top priorities. The board acknowledged Waltz' concerns and thanked him for his dedication. Jason Overby presented the annual audit for Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water. The 45 page document covered company finances over the previous year. Overby informed the board that because the company uses federal dollars, an additional federal review was conducted which came back clean. 752 Yellow Medicine residents use LPRW, which accounts for 17% of all users. Rae Ann Keeler-Aus from the Family Service Center updated the board on a $6,125 federal grant her department received based on their effective management of SNAP funds. The board approved her request to spend the grant, which will be used to purchase new office equipment. Keeler-Aus also informed the board of another grant to improve their parental support outreach initiative for families with children under the age of 10. Finally, she informed the board that her department was meeting their performance standards and would be hiring two new child protection workers. The board unanimously passed two resolutions; one authorizing a coverage change for the Fire Inspection service quote and another issuing a conditional use permit for the Farmer's Cooperative Oil Company-Echo.