County to take on potential election recount authority

By John Holler, Correspondent: The process of counting ballots on election night has made a lot of progress over the last couple of decades thanks to technological advancements, but, when it comes to a recount the votes are tabulated the old-fashioned way – one at a time by hand. At the June 26 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala came before the board to get approval that in the event of a recount of a local, state, or federal election, his office would take on the responsibilities of being in charge of going over votes a second time. “What we’re agreeing to do is serve as the recount authority if the state calls on us,” Hiivala said. “It’s not something you ever hope for, but we’re trained in how to do it in the event an election calls for a recount.” The last time there was a major recount of an election, Wright County didn’t sign off on being the recount designee – the U.S. Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman in 2008. As a result, the State Auditor’s Office came to Wright County and conducted the recount with county officials serving as observers. County staff was trained during that recount and has signed off to be the official designee ever since. She wasn’t a county commissioner when the Franken-Coleman recount took place, but Commissioner Christine Husom took part as one of the many volunteers needed to conduct the ballot-byballot check. Husom said she gained a healthy respect for the process and the sanctity of individual ballots. “I was part of that recount years ago and it’s pretty extensive, and a very involved process,” Husom said. “I really appreciate how votes are so protected. They’re under lock and key and are brought to the people who are counting and they take them back the same way.” Hiivala said that recounts can happen in anything from a presidential election to the election of a township board supervisor. The same rules apply, just at a smaller scale the smaller the vote count. He feels his office can handle any recount thrown its way. “Recounts can be large or small – ranging from the entire state, like we had in the Coleman-Franken election, or a township election that was extremely close,” Hiivala said. “If we don’t sign off on it, the state auditor would send people out to recount the votes. We don’t feel that’s necessary here in Wright County.” If all things go as planned, a recount won’t be necessary in any of the elections under the jurisdiction of Wright County – in the primary or general elections. But, if a race is too close to call, Hiivala said Wright County will be prepared. “While I really don’t look forward to having to run a recount, we ready for it,” Hiivala said.

In other items on the June 26 agenda, the board: • Set the date for the primary election canvassing board for 9 a.m. Friday, August 17 – three days after the August 14 primary. As part of setting the date, two commissioners needed to be named to serve on the canvassing board. Commissioners Charlie Borrell and Darek Vetsch were the only two commissioners available to serve that day. • Approved starting the process of preparing a highway right of way plat by the county surveyor for a construction project on CSAH 37 from CSAH 18 to CSAH 19 between the cities of Otsego and Albertville. The project is scheduled to be done in the summer of 2019 and is being paid for through funds generated by the county’s local option sales tax. • Authorized signatures on a three-year lease between the county and the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs to use a portion of the old jail in the Wright County courthouse for National Guard training. • Approved a developer’s agreement with USS Land Co. LLC and Solar CSG 5, LLC, for a solar energy farm on a property in Monticello Township. A conditional use permit with the county will expire in 30 years. As part of the agreement, the developers will provide the county a certified bank check in the amount of $218,000 as security for the obligations of the developer for the project as laid out in the agreement. • Adopted a resolution approving the proposed establishment of a tax increment financing district in the City of Maple Lake. Typically cities establish TIF districts, but this one asked for county approval before moving forward and expending considerable amounts of money for the process which deviates from the standard protocol for establishing TIF districts. The board unanimously approved the request.. • Referred to the July 11 building committee meeting discussion of the sheriff’s department shooting range project. • Scheduled three committee of the whole meetings. The first was to meet with BKV Group to discuss a proposal for a new county courthouse facility or to renovate the existing facility to meet future space needs for the county. The second was the kickoff of the 2019 budget process. Both of those committee of the whole meetings were set for 9 a.m. Thursday, July 12. The third was to meet to discuss the county administrator job description and was set for 10:30 a.m. following the July 17 board meeting. • Approved a $0 net levy budget amendment for a $48,000 Department of Natural Resources grant to the county. The original budget had $16,000 in local matching funds for the grant, making the gross expenditure $64,000. The amendment would increase both the revenue and expenditure budget by $48,000 to properly account the total revenues and expenditures related to the site improvements covered in the grant. • Authorized paying a claim from the firm of Madden, Galenter & Hansen in the amount of $5,249 for union negotiation work done on behalf of the county in May. • Announced that the county has mounted a camera to do time-lapse photography of the construction of the Justice Center for those interested in watching the construction progress, • Referred to the June 27 personnel committee discussion of the hiring of a senior systems engineer above the 12 percent minimum hiring range.

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