Yellow Medicine Commissioners talk tourism and trash

Jess Gorman
Staff Writer
Newly approved county recycling site at the Granite Falls county shop location.

The Yellow Medicine County Board met this past Tuesday with a heavy agenda of reports and discussions. Commissioner Ron Antony informed the Board that Pioneerland has 90% of employees back in some function. The library system is also now taking appointments for library customers to come and do on-site browsing. Some retirements occurred in library staff during the first closure period under Covid-19, some of these positions have been reviewed and will not be filled in the immediate future.

Commissioner Antony also attended a CPT meeting (Counties Providing Technology), saying the organization’s financials are right on track with expenses actually showing a drop from last year's operations cost. Sibley County is also reviewing quotes to join the program. Antony also disclosed being approached by interested parties hoping to host a possible tractor pull event at the fairgrounds. Pending the continuation and parameter changes in the governor's executive order, a tractor pull may take place in late summer at the Yellow Medicine County fairgrounds. An operational plan may be coming for the Board's review to consider this event possibility in line with whatever governor’s orders and state practices are in place at the time of the event.

Johnson reported that Prairie Lakes showed a profit for the first time since the year's start. Future staffing needs are being considered to confirm if all staff or only some staff will return to their posts. The girls and separate boys group homes are at capacity currently.

Board member Glenn Kack updated on the Western Mental Health meeting held recently via zoom. Client numbers are down but the organization is still operating successfully. The Granite Falls and Redwood Falls offices have had one employee working to date, with a second support staff member starting work onsite as well this week. The Canby office will open in mid-July for one day a week. If the governor's order is permitted to expire on July 13, all telehealth remote services will be discontinued and clients will have to seek assistance in person. Some face to face meetings are already occurring in Marshall. A handful of remaining organization employees not yet back to work are hoped to be back by fall.

John Berends went to a community management meeting, no new cases since the prior weeks meeting in Yellow Medicine were reported. The city representatives detailed activities such as the KCC’s reopening at 25% capacity and the DMV reporting a backlog of work for processing. There were also updates on the summer recreation programming, guidelines at the time recommended groups of no more than 6-8 youths participating in only outdoor programming. The community management group which had been meeting weekly up until this past week, will now meet on an as needed basis. Countryside Public Health spoke at length on Covid related grant funds, further discussion hinges on future state legislative action. Covid expense for the agency to date, per month, have been about $85,000.

Berends also attended The Yellowstone Trail Alliance meeting where information was given on historical route signage being pursued by the organization for various local communities on the trail and the organization’s map project will hopefully roll out in July, Additionally a sociability run is being discussed, utilizing antique cars on the historic highway and will take place hopefully from August to September of 2020. Mark Glesener of Bird Island was recently elected to the organization's VP seat. The county historical society will reopen on July 1st with operational hours from 9:30am-4:30pm Wednesday through Sunday.

A presentation was given on the Prairie Waters program of the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission (UMVRDC). The effort started in the 1980’s as a small coalition of partners who saw the benefits of collaborating marketing efforts. In 1999 a study was conducted by the UMVRDC entitled “Regional Tourism Center and Tourism Development Study”.

This feasibility study recommended an increased effort throughout the region to promote and market the area as a tourism destination. In 2001, voluntary funding was provided by cities and counties to create a Regional Tourism Program at the UMVRDC. With regional collaboration, counties and cities pool their resources to make tourism and recruitment efforts more affordable.

The Western Minnesota Prairie Waters/Get Rural MN Program is looking ahead to 2021 and wants to continue the successful collaboration of boosting the region’s economic growth through marketing. The purpose of the program is to promote and market the region as a great place to visit, work, and live. To attract people to the area, Prairie Waters showcases our natural, cultural, scenic, and historical assets, as well as community events, attractions, entertainment, leisure activities, and more.

In addition to boosting the region’s economic growth through tourism, attracting and retaining residents is a key component for the sustainability of the region and has been voiced as a critical issue from several local units of government within the region. Prairie Waters staff continuously updates their website, visitor and relocation guide with new and timely content to guarantee a convenient and enjoyable experience for viewers.

Over the next year, Prairie Waters staff will continue to incorporate new content and develop relationships with local entities to feed into the new web pages. The program's staff will be convening and working with local employers, schools, healthcare facilities, realtors and local newspapers on how they can work together to better market themselves. Prairie Waters requested 2021 financial support in the amount of $17,246.

Recognizing the difficult year ahead for the regions communities due to COVID-19, Prairie Waters staff has applied for an external grant to help subsidize up to half of the membership fees, in hopes to keep the Prairie Waters Program moving forward. The final decision on the grant award will be made by the end of July/beginning of August. If a grant is received, the board would be invoiced for the adjusted amount.

Roger Schroeder appeared virtually to discuss the county clean up event date with the Board. Granite Falls is doing a “spring” clean-up day collection on August 7th and Canby is on August 8th. Clarkfield has already completed a clean up day and will allow YM County to host at their city maintenance garage but will not be doing another clean up event for their residents. Multiple rural county resident clean up events will occur at various locations including Granite Falls, Canby and Clarkfield in August working in conjunction with city clean up dates.

At the April 28th meeting, the Commissioners requested staff to begin looking into moving the Granite Falls recycling receptacles from the site that they were currently located near Almich’s market. At the May 26th meeting, the Commissioners approved moving the recycling receptacles to the Granite Falls Highway Department location. At the June 9th meeting, the Commissioners began looking at permanent locations for the recycling receptacles and asked staff to provide more information on certain areas. Staff researched the proposed area on the southeast portion of the property.

Additional expenses that may be associated with the new permanent recycling location include: a fence around the Highway building area/recycling receptacles area, hard wired video $500 per camera and signage estimated at $1,500. A motion was passed to permanently move the location of the recycling receptacles to the Southeast portion of the County lot.

Hillary Riecke of Clarkfield requested to operate a beauty salon, a business use, in the Rural Preservation Management District. The site is located in the southwest one-quarter of the southeast one-quarter (SW¼ SE¼) of Section 34 in Friendship Township T-115-N R-41-W. The Yellow Medicine County Land Use and Related Resource Management Ordinance, Section VI, Subdivision 2.0, requires a Conditional Use permit to operate a business in the Rural Preservation Management District. Ms. Riecke explained that their intentions are to move a building in to use for the salon.

A new septic system will be installed which will service the house and salon both. Comments received by the office were in favor of the project. Conditions imposed in the approval were the structure must meet handicap accessibility requirements and because this business is located in the Rural Preservation Management District, the owner will be tolerant of agricultural activities in the surrounding area.

Newly approved county recycling site at the Granite Falls county shop location.