Wright County Board Minutes

The Wright County Board met in regular session at 9 a.m. with Commissioners Husom, Vetsch and Potter present. Daleiden attended remotely. Commissioner Borrell was absent.
Vetsch moved to approve the 10-20-20 Wright County Board Minutes. The motion was seconded by Potter and carried 4-0.
Vetsch moved to approve the Agenda as presented. The motion was seconded by Potter and carried 4-0.
Potter moved to approve the Consent Agenda as presented. The motion was seconded by Daleiden and carried 4-0.
1. Approval of a Separation Agreement with Olga Strobl
1. Acknowledge Warrants Issued Between October 14, 2020 and October 20, 2020
2. Motion to Approve the Reimbursement of CARES Act Funds as Follows:
* County CARES Funds: County Reimbursement of $736,109.44 from 01-099-489.6910 Transfer Out
Into 01-100-489.5910 Transfer In
* School District Reimbursement of $298,320.79 from 01-099-489.6813 – CARES School District
Expense: Rockford $122,084.85 (Maximum Allocation Remaining $12,299.15); Watertown-Mayer $45,712 and Delano $130,523.14
* Election CARES Funds: Cities Reimbursement of Election CARES Funds of $201.58 from 01-099-490.6816; Elections CARES Cities as Follows: City of Annandale $201.58
* Township Reimbursement of Election CARES Funds of $618.23 from 01-099-490.6812; Election CARES Townships as Follows: Victor Township $618.23
1. Position Replacement
A. Office Technician II
B. Eligibility Specialist
1. Request Approval of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Between the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49ers and Wright County for Ten-Hour Work Days for the Highway Engineering Division.
2. Board Approval of the Wright County Policy Regarding Christmas Eve Work Hours
1. Position Replacements
A. IT Business Analyst
B. IT Developer
1. Board Action for Approval and Authorization of Chairman’s Signature on Grant Application for the 2021 Septic Treatment Systems
Support for ConnectAbility of MN Phase 2 of the RTTC Plan
Wright County Administrator Lee Kelly said he attempted to gather more information about Regional Transportation Coordinating Councils (RTCC). He had been told by Gary Ludwig, Executive Director of Trailblazer Transit, that there would likely be a request coming from ConnectAbility of MN, which is looking to submit a proposal to serve as the RTCC in Wright County and the surrounding area. ConnectAbility was seeking a letter of support from the Wright County Board by the end of October. Husom said the group was formerly known as United Cerebral Palsy of Central Minnesota and changed its name to ConnectAbility of MN to open up services to individuals with any disability. Husom said the organization does some amazing things to help individuals with disabilities and that transportation is one of the biggest hurdles for the disabled. She added that there was no financial obligation from the county being sought, simply a letter of support. Vetsch asked if approval of the letter of support would imply any level of commitment on behalf of the County. Kelly responded that they were simply looking for a letter of support for their application to serve in this role with no financial support being sought from the County. Potter said that Wright County is still somewhat in its infancy in a transit system and a letter of support would not encumber or obligate the County. Husom said ConnectAbility of MN is viewed in a very favorable light by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and will have a good chance of getting funding through MnDOT. Wright County Health & Human Services Director Jami Goodrum-Schwartz said in her department’s assessment of needs analysis, transportation factors highly and gave her support to the request.
Vetsch moved to approve a letter of support for ConnectAbility of MN Phase II of RTCC Plan. The motion was seconded by Potter and carried 4-0.
Committee of the Whole (October 20, 2020)
At today’s County Board meeting, Vetsch moved to approve the minutes and recommendations from the meeting. The motion was seconded by Daleiden and carried 4-0.
I. Review CARES Act Grant Fund Allocations
Kelly explained that Jolene Foss, Executive Director of the Wright County Economic Development Partnership (WCEDP), had submitted a list of grant applications that had been pre-approved by the WCEDP’s CARES Act Review Committee and dollar amounts associated with each grant request. In addition, there was also a list of applications that have been vetted but require additional documentation before they can be approved. The purpose of the meeting was to determine whether additional funding needed to be reallocated from other funding sources to cover the costs of the applications that have been approved and/or anticipated to be approved pending required documentation.
Foss stated that WCEDP had received 171 small business applications and 40 non-profit applications. She said all applications were reviewed to make sure they were in compliance with the requirements of the program, including having a physical location in Wright County, having been in business for at least one year and having less than 50 employees. Of the 171 small business applications, 97 of them had been approved by the Review Committee. There were an additional 24 applications that were pending – requiring one or two more verifying documents before receiving approval. Foss said if the County Board was to approve all 121 small business grant applications for the amounts requested, the total would be $1,902,370. The County Board had authorized an allocation of $1,300,000 for small businesses, leaving a shortfall of $602,000. Of the 40 non-profit applications, 21 have been pre-approved and eight were pending approval. If all the applications were approved, the total would be $413,851. The amount allocated was $300,000, leaving a shortfall of $113,851.
Foss said that the grand total of the shortfall combining the small business and non-profit applications would require an additional $716,221. When the program was initiated, there was $200,000 set in reserve in the event requests exceeding the $1,300,000 allocation. Subtracting that amount, brings the total to $516,221. Because of the high number of applicants, the County Board had previously stated it would increase the WCEDP’s administration fee (approximately 10 percent of the total) by $50,000, bringing the total additional requested amount to $565,221.
Vetsch stated that the additional amount requested shouldn’t be an issue because the amount requested from the affiliates funding pool was far less than had been anticipated. He said he was inclined to approve the request and transfer the money in from the funding silo that had been earmarked for affiliate groups.
Foss said the hope is to get the funding out to the applicants by November 1, 2020 and is looking to get the list of approved applications as part of the Oct. 27 County Board agenda so as to get the checks out to the approved small businesses/non-profits as quickly as possible to give them time to complete reporting requirements as to how the grant money was utilized. Daleiden asked about a specific request from automotive shops and asked how they quantified sustaining a loss. He said that these businesses had financial difficulties for the two months that the state was locked down, but that many of them have seen normal levels of business if not more in the months since. Foss responded that one of the requirements of the grant applications was to demonstrate a financial loss from Quarter 2 of 2020 as opposed to Quarter 2 of 2019, which cover the months of April, May and June. Daleiden asked if Foss felt that any of the pending applications would potentially not be approved. Foss responded that, through the review vetting process, the only applications that would not be approved would be those that fail to provide the additional documentation required for eligibility.
Foss provided the County Board with a list of the businesses and non-profits that were approved or pending. She said that some of the businesses received funding from other CARES Act sources, so some requests were modified downward in order to leave more funding available for additional applicants. She added that there were 50 small business applications and 11 non-profit applications that were denied because they did not meet the basic requirements set forth in the application process (physical location, duration the business has been open, less than 50 employees, more than one full-time employee, etc.). She added that approximately 20 of the applications came from outside the United States.
Foss said that she appreciated the work of the County Board and Wright County Administration to provide CARES Act funds for small businesses and non-profits within Wright County. She said the Review Committee had spent time discussing the options if the additional $565,221 was not approved by the County Board. The Committee agreed that, if no additional funding was coming, WCEDP would reduce the maximum amount that could be awarded in grant funds to keep all applicants available to receive part of the grant allocation.
Vetsch said there are other Wright County CARES Act funding pools that aren’t going to be fully utilized and that the demand exists in the small business/non-profit pool, so he would be in favor in transferring $565,221 into the small business/non-profit portion of CARES Act funding. Husom said she agreed with the idea of making the transfer from the affiliate silo.
Foss suggested that, for the sake of anonymity, the names of the small businesses that receive funding, should not be openly publicized. She added that she would be willing to provide a summary that will show how many applicants received funding, the number of years those businesses have been active in Wright County, how many employees they have and any other pertinent information regarding that small business or non-profit. Husom said that, because it is public information, if someone requests to see a list of the businesses, the county will provide it, but the county won’t be publishing it.
Goodrum-Schwartz said that there will be leftover funding available in the Families/Individuals/Providers funding source. Her office has received 51 applications and 26 of them are complete, but she believes there will be a significant amount of money remaining after those requests are processed. She added that there was $20,000 set aside for people who didn’t meet hospital-level criteria for the Anoka Medical Treatment Center and those funds won’t be utilized.
Daleiden recommended that the $565,221 be transferred to fund the overage in the requests from small businesses and non-profits. Kelly wanted clarification that the transfer includes $50,000 for WCEDP to administer the program. Vetsch responded that it was his understanding that the administration fee for WCEDP would be increased in the event that the number of applicants and the amounts requested would increase proportionally. Kelly said that, because the initial contract with WCEDP included a “not-to-exceed” limit, an amendment to the contract will likely be required.
Vetsch commended Foss for taking over the administering of the application process because the County Board wasn’t ideally suited to vet out small business applications. He added that the County Board will reassess the status of remaining CARES Act funding after October 30, 2020 – the deadline set for school districts and affiliate groups to submit requests for reimbursement. Kelly asked if a Committee of the Whole meeting be set for November 3, 2020 following the County Board meeting. Lemieux said that she would have an idea of the general amount of money that is remaining. Lemieux said the amount of eligible expenses the county can seek reimbursement for is significantly more than any funds that may remain in other funding silos.
1. Approve transferring $565,221 from the CARES Act Affiliates funding silo into the CARES Act Small Business/Non-Profit funding silo.
2. Add CARES Act updates to the agendas of the November 3 Committee of the Whole meeting and the November 10, 2020 County Board Workshop.
1. County Buildings. Daleiden said he wanted to make a statement concerning misinformation being passed along pertaining to building construction. The claims are stating the County Board has spent money on these buildings and some of the information is confusing and some is completely false. The Trailblazer Transit facility in Buffalo was paid for by MnDOT and has never been a county expense. As it pertained to the Justice Center, Daleiden said the County Board didn’t have much of a choice on whether to build a new facility, because if Wright County didn’t do something, the 10th Judicial District was going to do something that likely would have been much more expensive to county residents. He said he wanted to get that information out to the public because there is some misinformation going around on those matters. Husom said process of determining when and where to build the Justice Center and new Government Center was a process that took six or seven years. Potter said during those years, the County Board identified the issue, did its homework, gathered the facts and made a decision based on the options presented. Potter said neither of the buildings were approved on a whim – studies were done, meetings were held, options weighed and discussed, and the decision was made in the best interests of Wright County moving forward.
2. Monticello Nuclear Power Plant. Daleiden asked if the nuclear plant has asked for a continuance to remain operational beyond its current sunset date of 2030. Vetsch responded that the Monticello nuclear plant will be submitting its extension request to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in 2021 or 2022. The PUC has one to two years to make a recommendation. Once a recommendation is made, unless the State Legislature takes action to intervene on the matter, the extension request will be forwarded to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to get its final approval. Vetsch said everything continues to move forward in the process of the extension being granted.
3. Central Mississippi River Regional Planning Partnership. On Thursday, October 22, Vetsch and Daleiden virtually-attended a CMRP workshop. Representatives from the Federal Highway Administration and MnDOT made a presentation dealing with the process of getting a large project like a bridge crossing approved and the outlook for such a project. From the MnDOT/federal funding perspective, the outlook is very bleak. He said it would likely have to be part of some form of special legislation, a BUILD grant or in a bonding bill, which would force the hand of MnDOT to move forward. Vetsch said there was good information presented about the trends in the depletion of transportation funding with lower gas prices, people not driving as much and the increase in electric cars. Funds available to maintain roads are becoming more limited. Daleiden said, from the information he heard, he feels it will be a long time before any river crossing bridge will be constructed.
4. County Ditch 33. On Monday, October 26, Vetsch met with landowners along County Ditch 33 to look at possible solutions for flooding issues. No plan has been finalized and more investigation is taking place with the hopes of being able to come up with a viable solution before the spring melt/runoff.
5. Association of Minnesota Counties District 5 Fall Meeting. On Monday, October 26, Husom, Potter and Kelly all attended the meeting virtually. One of the presentations was on broadband availability in Minnesota. The presentation highlighted a map of the state that showed some areas within counties have very good broadband access while others do not, with disparities in areas in close proximity to one another. AMC is looking to promote bridging that divide. AMC asked that counties promote residents taking part in a statewide speed test that can be taken by going to the website www.mnruralbroadbandcoalition.com/speedtest. Since the site launched August 3, almost 33,000 people have logged on and taken the speed test. The expectation is that the data will be used to convince the State Legislature of the need for additional broadband in rural areas. Potter said that homes within the same neighborhood can have different broadband speed and that the requirement for distance learning for school children may be the driver to get legislative action on the matter.
6. Minnesota Bonding Bill. Potter said that, after months of delays, the 2020 bonding bill from the State Legislature was approved. Potter said counties need to be prepared for radical changes in state funding because there is projected to be a deficit of $2.7 billion for 2021 and $4.7 billion in the 2022-23 budget cycle.
7. I-94 Coalition. On Wednesday, October 21, Potter and other members of the I-94 Coalition met with staff from U.S. Representative Tom Emmer’s office about the potential to obtain federal highway grants to complete the expansion of I-94 between Albertville and Monticello and a bridge overpass on I-94 at the interchange with Highway 610. Potter said that unless more money is allocated from the federal Highway Trust Fund, projects like the bridge on Highway 610 will be on hold.
8. Safe Schools. Potter attended the virtual Safe Schools meeting with the St. Michael-Albertville School District. Discussion included the distance learning that is taking place under the district’s hybrid modeling. School officials are concerned because some students are doing fine with distance learning and others are not. There are concerns that the situation might change if COVID numbers continue to rise, which Potter compared to building an airplane while you’re flying it. He said it is important to work with students to continue their education during these unprecedented times.
9. Wright County Economic Development Partnership. On Friday, Oct. 23, the WCEDP Board of Directors heard a presentation from Clearwater City Administrator Annita Smythe, updating the board on the challenges the city faces in economic development. Special guests at the meeting were Peter Frosch, Amanda Taylor and Joel Akason from Greater MSP to discuss economic recovery and barometer tracking. Potter said that when a business considers coming to a location and selects somewhere else instead of Wright County, local officials need to learn what the county was lacking that made a business choose a different location, which can educate county and local officials as to what needs to be addressed to attract those businesses. With three major highway corridors (Interstate 94, Highway 55 and Highway 12) running through Wright County, the county is ripe for more business activity. Wright County is known as a “bedroom community” county and that can be changed. Potter mentioned that, if re-elected, Vetsch will join the WCEDP Board in 2021 and his business experience will be a valuable perspective to add to the group.
10. Union Health Care Negotiations. Potter said that some counties saw an increase in health coverage bids for 2021 of 10 percent or higher, while Wright County’s came in at 3.4 percent. Kelly stated that open enrollment for health insurance will begin Monday, November 9 and the county will be negotiating with the three remaining union groups Friday, Oct. 30.
11. Wright County Emerging Leaders. Husom said the Wright County Emerging Leaders, a group of 17 county employees from different departments, has launched its “Season of Giving” campaign, which will be collecting donations from staff and the public with an emphasis on baking supplies for distribution at local food shelves. Baking items are wanted for the holiday season but are rarely in supply at food shelves. There will be donation bins set up at the Government Center, Justice Center, Law Enforcement Center and Human Services Center. The program, which is looking for items like baking supplies, baking mixes, frosting, extracts, spices, candy melts, corn syrup, cookie cutters and festive toppings, launched Monday, October 26 and the campaign will run through Monday, November 23.
The meeting adjourned at 9:35 a.m.
Minutes submitted by John Holler, Communication Specialist
Published in the Herald Journal, Nov. 20, 2020.
Warrants for publication
Warrants approved on 10/14/20 for payment 10/14/20
Albertville/city of 45,569.59
Buffalo/city of 120,566.75
Centerpoint Energy 2,574.81
Clearwater/city of 13,023.20
Cokato/city of 19,530.93
Delano/city of 26,046.39
Hanover/city of 6,507.73
Magnet Forensics Usa Inc 4,000.00
Maple Lake/city of 13,023.20
Melgaard Services 8,500.00
Monticello/city of 84,631.46
Montrose/city of 16,277.06
Otsego/city of 78,226.70
Rockford/city of 19,530.93
St Michael/city of 52,077.33
Vos Construction Inc 339,847.30
Waverly/city of 9,825.87
7 payments less than 2000 4,909.15
Final Total 864,668.40
Warrants approved on 10/14/20 for payment 10/14/20
All State Communications Inc 25,545.00
American Tower Corporation 7,621.05
Bradbury Stamm Construction 136,904.38
Ciber Global LLC 76,716.78
Comm Of MMB, Treas Div 53,006.50
Commissioner of Revenue 12,782.50
Databank IMX LLC 34,135.80
Department Of Corrections 1 7,630.00
Glover Consulting LLC 11,162.50
Health Partners 808,818.13
Health Partners - Dental 24,390.26
Hillyard Inc - Minneapolis 10,296.28
Inside Outside Architecture, Inc. 6,581.55
Jeddeloh & Snyder Pa 9,311.25
MN Counties Computer Coop 13,682.50
MN Department Of Health 5,100.00
On-Demand Services Group Inc 10,080.00
Plaggerman/Margaret M 2,685.85
Prairie Restorations Inc 3,000.00
Soldo Consulting, P.C. 9,872.10
Village Ranch INC 29,379.42
53 payments less than 2000 21,146.27 Final total 1,329,848.12
Warrants approved for payment 10/16/20
Us Bank Voyager Fleet Systems 15,784.93
Final total 15,784.93
Warrants approved for payment 10/16/20
US Bank-procurement Cards 118,756.57
Final total 118,756.57
Warrants approved on 10/16/20 for payment 10/16/20
Centurylink 2,445.19
Cottens Inc 2,402.68
Minnesota Paving & Materials 3,187.46
Verizon Wireless Services LLC 12,584.40
YTS Companies LLC 5,250.00
15 payments less than 2000 6,328.72
Final total 32,198.45
Published in the Herald Journal, Nov. 20, 2020.