Stevens County Commissioners grant letter of support to Chokio-Alberta School District for Safe Routes to School grant application

The Stevens County Board of Commissioners heard several resolutions and requests come before them during their Feb. 20 regular meeting.

County Engineer Todd Larson reported that he was approached by the Chokio-Alberta School District for a letter of support from the county for a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) planning grant. The commissioners provided a letter stating that they are “very excited about working with [Chokio-Alberta Schools] on this endeavor to help ensure our children can get to school safely.” The letter also signaled that the commissioners are willing to lend any support needed for the completion of this plan and any projects identified in the plan, including staff assistance from the highway, sheriff, and other departments as well as any assets the county may have that could be useful and in the end a consideration of funding, if needed. “The health and safety of the children of the Chokio-Alberta School District is our top our priority,” the letter said. 

The Safe Routes to School programs aim to improve safety, reduce traffic, and improve air quality near schools through a multidisciplinary approach that is structured around “six E’s” – evaluation, education, encouragement, equity, engagement and engineering, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation website. The planning assistance grant helps school districts create a SRTS plan, and applicants receive assistance from regional development organizations, metropolitan planning organizations or consultants.

Larson also requested permission to purchase one semi-load of bituminous crack-sealing materials. Some of this material will be used to reseal previously sealed routes using the “blow and go” method using the melter and equipment purchased last fall. The remainder of the load will be used on the annual cracksealing contract on County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 9 from the south county line to Trunk Highway 28, which was paved in 2022. $30,000 was budgeted for the 2024 crackfilling maintenance contract, and bids will be requested for labor only. The total cost for the purchase is approximately $33,852.00.

The county is required to maintain a list of eligible bridge projects, as stated by the State Aid Manual, which indicates a commitment to replacing those structures as soon as funds are available by passing a resolution. Larson presented a list of bridges in order of maintenance priority for the board to pass consisting of bridge numbers 97102, which is property of Baker Township and will be paid for using town bridge funds, 3433 and 75501 which will utilize a combination of state bridge bonding and state aid construction as available. 

Human Services Director Liberty presented a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) resolution to the board. Regional counties connected to Clay County have been requested to approve the resolution in support of Clay County expanding bed capacity.

The resolution states that throughout the state, there is inadequate capacity in the continuum of care to support children with psychiatric needs, and PRTFs are a part of this continuum for those under the age of 21 with complex mental health conditions and aggression. There are currently four PRTFs in operation in the state, with a total capacity of 166 beds, and one facility set to open soon. There is a need for additional PRTF beds in the state, and the locations of the beds need to be spread throughout the state to ensure equal access and proximity to a child’s home community, family and service providers. The resolution states that Clay County will partner with an eligible provider in the delivery of PRTF services and is seeking Minnesota bond funds to aid in land acquisition and building a PRTF and that the Stevens County Board supports Clay County in requesting Minnesota bond funds for infrastructure in the development of a PRTF.

Sleiter also presented donations for approval from First Lutheran Church, Bremer Bank and Common Cup Coffeehouse for the Youth Activity Fund and Seniors and Adults Funds for Emergencies totaling $1,383.63.

Sheriff Jason Dingman presented a joint powers agreement with the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force to receive free training, and it will come with no financial impact to Stevens County. 

The road and bridge committee reviewed and discussed items to be disposed of by auction. Two diesel and one gasoline pump from the old fuel island, a 1991 F-350 diesel pickup chassis, a front wheel drive blower truck without the blower, a 40KW three-phase diesel generator from the old facility, and two water softeners and one pressure tank will be auctioned on the Zielsdorf Auction Service March Consignment Auction. 

Human resources director Jan Gomer gave several staffing updates to the board. The board approved the hires of Renata Rajaniemi as a social worker in the human services child protection unit and Tegan Peterson as assistant county attorney. Also approved was the resignation and backfill of legal secretary Tina Haugen. 

On a similar note, Liberty Sleiter introduced new employee Nicole Gades to the board, who was recently hired as an account technician for human services.