All of Wright County declared Disaster Area

It seemed a little ironic that Planning and Zoning Administrator Tom Salkowski would interrupt his presentation at the July 16 meeting of the Wright County Board to say there was “good news” from Civil Defense Coordinator Genell Reese and the news turned out to be the entire county has been declared a disaster area.

Yet, it was good news for cities, townships and individual citizens needing to access funds to start the repair and rebuilding process from the storms and flooding that ravaged the county less than a month ago.

“We just the got the news a few minutes ago that the entire county has been declared a disaster area,” Reese said. “Prior to today only portions of the county had been declared as disaster areas, so now the entire county can coordinate on efforts to access emergency funds.”

Reese told the board that a meeting was to be scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, July 19, for all cities and townships to fill out the required paperwork to access federal emergency funds and that, after those are completed, individuals with claims and needs can start the process of accessing the funds.

Perhaps it was a sign of the times that have pounded Wright County but the irony of the situation wasn’t lost on Commissioner Pat Sawatzke.

“How bad do things have to be when Tom tells us we have some good news and we’re told the county has been declared a disaster area?” Sawatzke joked.

In other items on the July 16 agenda, the board:  * Authorized going out for competitive bids on refinancing two county bond issues. A bid opening was set for 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 19. John Sander of Springsted Financial Advisors said that the county could expect to realize savings of $285,000 by refinancing the $3.5 million jail bond and $729,000 on the $6.5 million courthouse construction bond.  When the county received a higher credit rating last month, it was apparent that the savings would be substantial, but now it appears that the savings will be as much as $1 million on existing bonds alone.

* Approved a revised law enforcement contract between the county and the City of Otsego for additional patrol hours.

* Received the second quarter report from the Sentence to Service program, which allows prisoners to work off their jail time by working on the program. This report did not reflect the work the STS program performed during the storm emergency in June, but will be highlighted when the next report is submitted to the board.

* Authorized advertising in the Annandale and Clearwater newspapers for an opening on the Clearwater River Watershed Board of Directors. The new position will become effective Aug. 13.

* Heard from Marysville Township resident Alan Moy about flooding that was made worse by culverts put in on Co. Rd. 8 that were too small to handle the water flow when the storms hit. Moy put the blame on the county’s doorstep for the problem, which he said the county knew about, since the culvert was only 44 percent of the size of other culverts on county roads.  The board authorized calling a meeting of the committee of the whole to include all interested parties to look into options and money availability to see what changes can or need to be made to assure that problems like this can be solved in a cooperative manner.

* Approved hiring Building Consultants Inc. to evaluate deterioration of concrete around the south entrances to the courthouse and provide the county with cost estimates for potential repairs.

* Denied a request from employee Christina Bernstetter to work half-time while on an educational leave from September until the end of May. The board felt that, while it is admirable that she is continuing her education, there is nothing in the employee policy that allows employees to go half-time while continuing their education. It is believed that it costs the county more to hire two half-time employees than to have a single full-time employee. Because the request didn’t fit the guidelines of the personal leave policy, the potential precedent it could set might create future problems and the cost increase of hiring another half-time employee, the request was denied.

* Set a negotiations committee meeting for 9 a.m. Friday, July 19, to discuss a wage schedule for a civilian bailiff position with the county.