MARSHALL - Budget discussions made up the bulk of the Lyon County Board's regular meeting on Tuesday. A variety of county departments, from law enforcement to public works, presented requests for equipment and capital expenditures in 2013.
The county must adopt its final levy and budget in December. However, commissioners adopted a preliminary levy of $12.9 million, which would be a zero increase over the 2011 levy. The final adopted levy cannot be more than the preliminary levy.
Commissioners looked at the possibility of replacing vehicles for both the sheriff's department and the public works and highway departments. County Administrator Loren Stomberg and Sheriff Mark Mather said it might be possible to reduce the cost of replacing some law enforcement vehicles, especially unmarked cars, by transferring the old vehicles to other county departments where they may be needed. Commissioners' consensus toward the idea was positive.
Commissioners also gave the go-ahead to begin a search process for a second assistant county attorney. Lyon County Attorney Rick Maes said the county attorney's office has been taking on a greater workload, partly because of an increase in court cases at the county level, but also because more appeals and other state and federal cases are being handled by the county. There's less funding available for the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, Maes said, and some of that trickles down to the county level.
Maes said having another assistant attorney could help lighten the workload and make it possible to address court cases more quickly.
In other business:
Commissioners approved a request from the city of Cottonwood to put funds promised in 2010 toward the possible renovation of the current Cottonwood Library. Cottonwood City Clerk Kathy Dahl said the city would be discussing an option to move city offices into a vacant building in Cottonwood's downtown and renovate the current city office and library. The plan would free up space for the library and make much-needed repairs and updates, Dahl said.
However, she said, "It would take a lot of renovation."
To help fund the renovations, Dahl asked if Cottonwood could use county appropriations that were originally approved in 2010. At that time, the county had agreed to give equal contributions of about $53,000 to the cities of Minneota, Tracy and Cottonwood for use in library renovation projects. Cottonwood had planned to build a combined city office/library building with the help of its contribution, but that project was never begun.
Dahl said Cottonwood had about $57,000 it could put toward renovations but wouldn't be able to fund the whole project.
Commissioners voted to allow the use of the $53,000, provided they could see a renovation plan from the city.
Commissioners approved law enforcement contract renewals between the Lyon County Sheriff's Department and the cities of Balaton and Russell.
The sheriff's department provides contracted patrol hours to several cities in the county, including Cottonwood, Ghent and Russell. Balaton closed its police department and contracted with the county sheriffs earlier this year. Balaton receives 30 patrol hours a week, Russell about 20 hours a week, and Cottonwood 40 hours a week. Earlier this month, commissioners had also approved a law enforcement contract with the city of Lynd for 30 patrol hours a week.
Mather said the agreement with Ghent went back a long time and didn't specify a weekly number of service hours. Service was more of an on-call arrangement at an hourly rate.
"We are working with (the city of Ghent) to solidify something," Mather said. In the meantime, he said, the hourly rate being paid was adequate. "They are paying their fair share for a city their size."
Commissioners approved the renewal of a joint powers agreement with Yellow Medicine County to provide waste services. Through the agreement, Lyon County provides a variety of services in Yellow Medicine County, including household hazardous waste collection events, administering recycling contracts and planning and budgeting for solid waste programs. The agreement is renewed on an annual basis.
Commissioners adjourned to a closed session for labor negotiations with Law Enforcement Labor Services.