Yellow Medicine County Commissioner Ron Antony updated the Board on a recent Workforce Council meeting he attended. The Council released the results of a recent demographic survey outlining trends for the region. The survey reported an overall population decline of 6.2% since 2000 and 25% since 1950.

The survey also found that 20% were over the age of 65, and an equal portion of the population was under school age. Commissioner Antony said that this was a remarkable split between the two extremes.

The Workforce Council has also been active in promoting job training and apprenticeship programs. Antony reported that local businesses have been particularly involved in working with the Council to provide these opportunities. In 2017, 290 high school juniors participated in one of these life skills events.

Despite this good news, Antony warned the Board that the Council would face new obstacles heading into 2018. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development will close their Worthington office, leaving Willmar as the next closest location for most area residents. Antony explained that the decline in staff and resources could hinder local residents seeking jobs.

In other news:

The Board listened to an informal proposal from County Administrator Peg Heglund to shorten Board meetings by adding four special meetings during the year to accommodate presentations from outside groups. Most commissioners expressed their opposition to adding more meetings to the year, but agreed that they would explore other ways of limiting meeting time duration.

The Board voted to approve the commissioner per diem rate of $100. One change they made was to allow Commissioners to submit per diem charges of $50 at their discretion if the event only lasted half a day.

The Board unanimously approved a bid from Nelson’s Ford dealership out of Fergus Falls for two new squad cars. The vehicles will replace the Explorer and Taurus currently owned by the County. The Board ultimately rejected a competing bid from Schwieters Ford of Montevideo because their price was slightly higher than what was offered from Nelson. However, regular maintenance work on the new cars will still be performed by Schwieters.

Family Services Director Rae Ann Keeler-Aus sought Board approval to access money from the Child Welfare/Juvenile Justice Screening Grant that her department received from the Department of Health and Human Services. The Board unanimously approved the request, enabling the County to access up to $59,644 in grant money, which she said would be a big boost for the county. The money will become available starting in January.

Keeler-Aus also told the Board that there was an increase in out of home foster placements for county children. The number is currently holding steady between 22 and 25 kids. In 2017, 38 children went through the foster program.

The Board voted in their consent agenda to approve the hiring of two new county employees. Tony Sather was hired as an Engineer Tech II, and will begin work January 8. Jon Barber was hired as a part-time Correctional Officer/Dispatcher, and will start work on February 7.