Commissioners discuss wellness program

NEW ULM – Brown County commissioners discussed the virtues of a county-wide wellness program Tuesday.

Representatives of HealthPartners, a Minnesota-based, consumer-managed health care organization that serves Brown County employees, said at a recent insurance committee meeting that employers who demonstrate proactive efforts, like having wellness programs, are given more favorable consideration for plan renewals.

“Wellness programs are a good-faith effort to keep insurance rates down,” said Brown County Human Resources Director Mike Furth.

Brown County Public Health Director Karen Moritz said studies show wellness programs improve employee morale, productivity and have a good return on investment. She said employees could be surveyed and work sites could be assessed for such a program that could be locally managed or contracted out.

“I think the value of a locally-run program is much better than a corporate program,” Commissioner Scott Windschitl said.

Commissioner Richard Seeboth said the concept should be brought to the insurance committee. “If department representatives are not committed to it, find someone in departments who is … use contingency fund money to get it going.”

“It won’t cost a fortune. The benefits are good,” said Commissioner Andrew Lochner.

In other action, commissioners approved:

Holding a public hearing for setting drainage ditch assessments and liens on Tuesday, Nov. 5, and publicizing it in all five county newspapers. Assessments and liens range from $2,000 to $75,000 in county and judicial ditches.

Implementing paperless, electronic auditor-treasurer claims processing to replace the manual paper claim process as of Jan. 1, 2014, at little or no county cost. Procedures and policies will be discussed at a later board meeting.

Sending letters to Brown County residents about damage to roads by overweight trucks. Road building and maintenance costs have risen 200 to 300 percent during the past decade while funding went up only about 20 percent.

“We hear reports of overweight trucks all the time, some of them grossly overweight,” said Commissioner Jim Berg.

Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann said he discussed the subject with the Minnesota State Patrol and was told they would pull tickets at area elevators.

Planning Commission recommendations including permit renewal of Loren and Yvonne Gag, Cottonwood Township, to continue use of a 320-foot cell phone tower in the Limited Industrial Zone; Tews Farms Inc. to continue to allow up to 990 animal units in a Bashaw Township beef finishing operation in the Agricultural (A-1) Protection Zone; and Larry and Debra Fischer, Sigel Township, to continue to allow up to 700 animal units of a beef steer finishing operation in the A-1 Zone.

Brown County Veterans Service Office third quarter office activity report. Brown County Veterans Service Officer Greg Peterson said the County Veterans Council’s fund-raising effort to modify the Courthouse Veterans Memorial has fallen well short of an estimated $90,000 renovation, which would feature 14 vertical, granite memorial panels. Enough money has been raised to complete ground concrete work and install four vertical panels. A contact was approved Sept. 19 for Heritage Memorials, New Ulm, to do the work beginning in late spring 2014.

According to the 2012 Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Annual Report, the Brown County office distributed $12,477,000 in federal benefits from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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