County approves ’14 levy

NEW ULM – By a 3-2 vote Tuesday with Scott Windschitl and Richard Seeboth dissenting, Brown County commissioners approved a resolution to not increase the tax levy for the 2014 county budget.

Commissioners were allowed to adopt the proposed $30,776,799 2014 budget and $11,747,300 levy that was 3.19 percent above the 2013 certified levy, the maximum allowable levy authorized by the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Instead, maintaining the tax levy action created a $11,384.53 certified levy amount, using $85,346 of reserve funds to balance the budget. Brown County Administrator Chuck Enter said maintaining the levy amount was actually a 1.3 percent overall budget cut.

There are $1,554,040 of reserves used as revenue in the draft 2014 county budget, mostly in Highway Fund 10. The proposed budget included $277,441 in contingency line items, the primary expense variable at this time, according to the Request for Board Action (RBA).

“We have more reserves than the levy amount for the first time since I’ve been on the board said commissioner Andrew Lochner. “We’ve got reserves of $400 per county resident.”

Seeboth said he favored a 1.5 percent levy increase, calling the 3.19 maximum allowable hike “a tool to get us to this point.”

Commissioner Jim Berg said the $10 per vehicle county wheelage tax approved earlier this year to be used for highway improvements was a tax increase and said he favored no 2014 levy increase.

In other action, commissioners approved:

Tabled purchasing a $51,568 CIS Mobile Communications System (MCS) and Mobile E-Citation (MEC) for the sheriff’s office. Seeboth questioned the cost proposal including a 10 percent ($4,688) project management fee and $4,000 fee for first-year maintenance and support.

“A project management fee, on top of professional services costs? Isn’t this the fox guarding the hen house?” Seeboth said. Several other commissioners agreed to table the request in favor of more detailed cost information.

The system would allow deputies to access the same information from their squads as from the office. There is also capability of other county law enforcement agencies purchasing and adding the same MCS to their squads, according to the RBA.

The $24,860 MEC would allow deputies to auto fill/download directly to CIS modules and the Court Administrator’s Office. The sheriff’s office would like to buy the items after Jan. 1, 2014 to take advantage of a new state law making counties sales tax exempt.

Tabled purchasing a $8,890 GeoLynx Mobile v8 for the sheriff’s office until after Jan. 1, 2014, replacing an existing GPS mapping system and allowing dispatch and deputies to see where other squads are. Dispatch would be able to feed call for service addresses and the GeoLynx Mobile v8 would give the best route to the call.

Tabled a request to allow about 10,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil from a downtown Mankato project to be accepted at the Brown County Landfill. Commissioner Dennis Potter said accepting the waste may cost the county more at some point.

“I have real concerns about landfill contaminants we already have. I don’t think it’s worth it,” said Windschitl. “This is some nasty stuff that includes arsenic, lead, mercury and other things.”

The landfill has accepted Brown County waste except household Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) from Nicollet County residents who live near New Ulm.

The soil has been tested and results reviewed by Landfill Consultant Chad Donnelly of AECOM Inc. He suggests requiring the firm assisting in the soil removal (Braun Intertec of Mankato), to do additional testing for metals, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) every 2,500 cubic yards and test it to verify the soil is safe to be placed in the landfill.

More in-depth testing can be done if that sampling shows anything of concern. Contaminants over the reporting limit that have showed up are arsenic, lead, barium, chromium, mercury and some hydrocarbons (from petroleum), according to the RBA.

The soil comes from property that was formerly a car dealership parking lot and foundry. The soil would be used as landfill daily cover. The firm would pay the regular tipping fee to dispose of the soil.

Landfill Annual Report Assistance from AECOM as needed to develop the 2013 Brown County Sanitary Landfill Annual Report and continued general support as required by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), and sign $11,000 quote. The firm will prepare surface and ground water monitoring data, financial assurance documents, additional PFC monitoring and compilation plus gas emissions and leachate reporting.

Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens said his crews have put nearly 1,000 cubic yards (75 truckloads) of salt/sand mix on county roads in December. “We’re using 75 percent sand and 25 percent salt to help control costs. A truckload of salt costs about $1,100,” Stevens said.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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