Aaron Backman, the Executive Director of the Highway 23 Coalition, came to the board to discuss YMC becoming a member.

Highway 23 is the second longest highway in Minnesota, and substantial lengths of it are still two lane. Joining the coalition gives the County a seat at the table, a voice, a chance to be proactive. There was discussion about making sure work actually got done within the district, and which other entities are involved. There are currently 26 businesses, four counties (Stern, Canby, Chippewa, and now Yellow Medicine) and seven cities that are members of the coalition. Backman reported that over 1000 businesses use the road. The point of the coalition is to “squeak” and get attention and money from the legislature for Greater Minnesota for infrastructure. The board voted to join the coalition.

In other news:

John Berends brought a question to the board about Memorial Park. The DNR has been working with the Whitewater Task Force to set up a whitewater park in the river. One aspect of the project is improving river access. The board also discussed demo-ing the bathhouse on the same land. Peg Heglund will talk more with the DNR.

Michelle Gatz of the Veterans Service Office reported on steps being taken to streamline the claims process. The VA is trying to increase efficiency, so it’s having the local level offices try to do “Decision Ready Claims.” This places the burden of deciding if a claim will go through on those serving at the local offices. Minnesota is one of the exceptional states, with average case turnaround time at about three months. Other states can have years-long delays.

Darin Balken gave the Board an update on the Prairie Lakes Youth Program. The program is experiencing budget concerns. The main culprit is there are simply fewer kids in the corrections system. He reported that in 2005 there were about 15,000 kids on probation, now it’s down to 7500. Commissioner Gary Johnson said “I think of it as you’re doing the job too well.” The whole board is supportive of the program. The program is based off per diem service, but the goal is not to have kids in the system.

Regarding the ongoing broadband project, the board is waiting to see what comes out of the Legislature. They plan to reapply to the Border- to-Border grant. They don’t want to have to bond the whole project themselves.