The Houston County Board of Commissioners scheduled a public hearing to consider the idea of placing term limits on planning commission positions at its July 23 meeting after discussion about the matter.

The board talked about the issue of setting term limits for planning commission mebers because there are none currently in place. Because of that, there are multiple members who’ve served on the commission for decades.

In the past few weeks, commissioners have received several letters and emails from county residents requesting term limits be put in place to give new members a chance to serve.

Chairman Justin Zmyewski and Commissioner Dana Kjome brought a proposed changed to the ordinance that would limit a person to two terms. With each term lasting three years, a commission member could serve a total of six years. After sitting out for a term, a member would be allowed to reapply.

Both Commissioners Teresa Walter and Steve Schuldt expressed mixed feelings about term limits. Neither was openly opposed to the idea but wanted to have public input on the issue. Walter said the La Crescent Planning Commission had no term limit, as there were few people willing to serve, and she was concerned the county would have a similar problem. Schuldt, who admitted he was undecided on the issue, suggested a public hearing be held in September after the county fair.

Commissioner Judy Storlie said she was not opposed to term limits either but agreed the board should not be in a rush. Any decision made would not go into effect until January 2014, allowing the board plenty of time to discuss the issue.

The public hearing about term limits will be held the evening of Monday, Sept. 30, to allow a greater number of residents to attend. Commissioners will vote on the issue at the regular scheduled meeting on the following day, Tuesday, Oct. 1.

Historical society annual report

Shirley Johnson of the Houston County Historical Society presented the board with its annual report. In the past year, the society had visitors from 30 states and 34 countries. Johnson said it was not unusual to have five out-of-state visitors in a week. Nearly 100 artifacts have been donated from individuals and businesses during the past year, and volunteers have logged 5,000 hours working for the historical society.

In the past year, the historical society has introduced a new display honoring the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts and is continuing to honoring the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Johnson noted that many Houston County residents were involved with the Civil War.

Schuldt praised the historical society and the amount of resources available. He recently utilized historical society records to find information about abandoned county roads.

Johnson also mentioned that the economic development authority had benefited, as the original copy of the courthouse blueprints are part of the society’s records.

The historical society will open the new building to the public for the Houston County Fair.

“I think it is just wonderful that in a county this size that we could raise the money needed,” Johnson said.

The new building represents more than a decade of hard work and fundraising. Johnson said the expansion to the building will be an asset to the community.

“The building will be a great educational tool,” she said.

Forfeited property going to action

The board authorized the public sale of a tax-forfeited property. The sale will be held at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 19, by the Houston County auditor in the commissioners room of the historic courthouse.

The parcel of land to be sold is located at 950 Mississippi Lane in Brownsville. The property has a cabin that has fallen into disrepair. County Auditor Char Meiners recommended selling the property as is and set the lowest bid at $21,000. The buyer will be responsible for the cleanup of the dilapidated cabin.

In other news

• Sheriff Deputy Nathan Smith’s employee status was change from probationary to regular.

• The board approved a contract that would make all county buildings 911 compliant. The county’s 911 emergency provider submitted a contract that consists of a one-time set up fee of $134 and monthly reoccurring fee of $60.50.

• Dean Foltz’s request to vacate the abandoned road off Minnesota Hwy. 44/76 was once again put on hold as the highway department remains tied up with road repairs after the flooding.

• A request for improvements to the justice center was made. Light bulbs in the outer foyer and inner stairwell are in need of replacement and it was suggested the bulbs be replaced with motion sensor LED lamps to save energy and cut down on ambient light affecting neighboring properties.

Personal Director Tess Arrick-Kruger said the current light bulbs used in the foyer and stairwell represented an unneeded cost, as they did not need to be lit at all times. The cost to change the bulbs was estimated at $4,508, but the county would save money in the long run and break even within a few years.

In addition, Arrick-Kruger told the board that some of the cost could be covered out of the general repair budget. The board approved the request to convert to motion sensor lights.

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