The Houston County Board of Commissioners will take public input before it makes a decision on whether to limit the tenures of county planning commission members.
At the board’s meeting Aug. 27, commissioners decided to schedule a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30, to discuss term limits for those on the planning commission. As it stands, there are no limits for planning commissioners, with some members staying on for close 40 years and at the discretion of the county commissioners.
While the board agreed public input was needed, it had some reservations about setting limits. Commissioner Steve Schuldt was worried about the effects of disbanding an experienced planning commission all at once.
Chairman Justin Zmyewski said there are some new, qualified people who would like the chance to serve, but are unable to because there are no term limits. It was pointed out that commissioners do have the option of denying a planning board member’s additional terms under the current ordinance, but Zmyewski said the board tends to keep confirming the same members year after year.
Schuldt admitted that the planning commission did have significant personality conflict that needed to be addressed, but was uncertain term limits was the most effective method.
Storlie suggested that in the future, county appointments, such as planning commission members, should be decided in December rather than January. She argued that it makes sense to allow an experienced board of commissioners to make decisions about employee evaluations and appointments after a year on the board, rather than a just month. She said one of her first contacts with the planning commission was to reappoint members.
The board agreed by consensus to move the appointment and evaluation process to December.
All residents of Houston County who wish to have their voices heard on this issue are invited to attend.
Resident claims misconduct
A Money Creek Township woman claims a construction company working in Houston County forged her signature on a zoning application to take between 6,000 and 7,000 cubic yards of material from her property.
Lucille Omodt-Crow said the actions of the company constituted misconduct, claiming it forged her signature on an October 2012 application, which she says is a felony. Omodt-Crow also said the document was examined by a handwriting expert, who confirmed that the signature was a forgery.
“I saw this conditional-use permit for the first time, eight months after it was submitted to Houston County,” Omodt-Crow said. “This document has multiple ethical violations, it’s sloppy and it’s careless work.”
Omodt-Crow expressed outrage that no one from Houston County attempted to contact her about the application. She said nothing like this would have happened in Fillmore County, as it has policies and procedures in place to protect a property owner.
“This would have never happened had up-to-date practices been in place in Houston County,” she said.
Omodt-Crow submitted documents to the board, as well as others in attendance, detailing how to bring Houston County’s comprehensive land-use plan up to date and incorporate overdue changes.
Later, she said the county attorney’s office had not taken any legal action against the company at this time.
Representatives visit county, speak to board
State Rep. Greg Davids and Sen. Jeremy Miller paid a visit to Houston County, which included a tour of the historic courthouse, and both spoke with commissioners about the 2014 capital budget request to secure funds to preserve the buildings on the county campus. Davids said he and Miller had ordered a bill to the bonding committee but warned that the competition for those dollars would be high.
Miller also said it would be a challenge to place the historical courthouse on the bond role, but promised that he would advocate for county. Miller also agreed to look into funding through the Legacy Amendment.
“Just looking on the surface, that looks like it might be a better fit, but the amount that we’re asking for is a lot when looking at the Legacy fund,” Miller said.
However later in the meeting, Rick Howden of the Houston County Economic Development Authority confirmed that the county was recently awarded a $10,000 Legacy Amendment grant for courthouse renovations.
Commissioner Judy Storlie said that because Houston County is smaller, it would be more in need of special bonding than counties with larger tax bases.
Regarding disaster relief from the June flooding, Miller said the county met the state threshold for assistance. The county will receive state and federal funds, which Miller believes will take some of the burden off Houston County.
Highway work approved
• The board approved the final payment of the maintenance rock contract on County Road 32 for $207 to Milestone Materials. The total cost of the project was $4,145.
• The board also approved hiring Mathy Construction to fix dips in County Road 3, which is estimated to cost $31,307.
In other news
• The price for the tax forfeited property at 505 S. Sherman St. in Houston was set at a minimum of $6,000. County Auditor Char Meiners was confident the county would come out ahead despite the lower price.
• Commissioners agreed to use the training center in the justice center for Caledonia residents without air conditioning who needed relief from the heat.