BLUE EARTH - Watching the budget, Faribault County commissioners on Tuesday discussed raising fees for out-of-county transit bus trips and eliminating overnight stays for one-day conferences.
The board regularly approves requests for county employees to attend conferences and classes, some of which are required ongoing training for their jobs, while others are informational seminars to keep them current on news in their field.
Commissioner Bill Groskreutz objected to part of the costs.
"Why are we paying lodging costs on a one-day training?" he asked. "We talk about ways we try to save money and that's not a way to save money."
Groskreutz said if a training seminar starts at 8 a.m., he would rather pay overtime for the employees to drive up that morning than pay for them to drive up the day before and stay overnight.
"You're making a good point," said Commissioner Tom Loveall. "I'd like to hear what the [county] engineer has to say, maybe something starts really early."
The board approved three requests that do not include lodging, saying they want to hear from the others who have requested lodging for one-day trips.
"Give them an opportunity to come here and explain," said Commissioner Greg Young. "Maybe there is a dire need."
Turning to another topic, Brenda Ripley of Central Services reported that transit drivers met and want to make the board aware of costs for out-of-county trips. A proposed fee change would raise the current $3 charge each way for out-of-county trips to $6 each way. To get the multiple rider discount for out-of-county trips, a group must have at least five people.
Commissioners discussed how much the transit bus is used.
"In my area, the bus takes senior citizens to adult day care," said Commissioner Tom Warmka.
"Encourage more of the group rides," said Loveall, adding that it is a shorter ride from Blue Earth to Fairmont than to some points inside the county.
"Winnebago to Walters, that's a long ride," Groskreutz said.
Raising rates for out-of-county rides will affect a limited number of people, Groskreutz said. Between 250 and 300 people use the transit bus each month, but only 30 to 40 travel out of the county.
Young resurrected an idea from previous meetings: using the transit bus to transport library books in the county instead of having a library employee drive them from library to library.
"It would make the library system more efficient," he said. "Throw library books on the bus and deliver them."
"It was shot down by [Minnesota Department of Transportation]," Groskreutz said. "It's commercial transport, taking a job away from someone. It's something we'd have to get approved by MnDOT."
"The drivers are supposed to stay near the bus," Loveall pointed out. "They're not supposed to shut the bus off and leave passengers; that's a liability issue."
Loveall asked:?If a driver has to decide between delivering packages or people, what takes precedence?
"Person - they have a schedule," Young replied, adding that the books don't have to arrive by a certain time.
The board wanted more information from the transit committee by the first November meeting.
In other business, commissioners approved:
o Reappointing Lynn Krachmer as county assessor for four years. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Warmka, who said, "The reason I voted no is I want homegrown people. We're a ways off from that, but keep that in mind."
Krachmer's hometown is Austin, but he was living in the Twin Cities when he took the job earlier this year. He and his wife have since moved near Winnebago.
o A resolution to adjust the county's solid waste management service fee from $115 annually per business to $69, and from $47 annually per household to $28. The fee helps keep Prairieland Compost Facility running and funds the solid waste programming in the county, said Billeye Rabbe, solid waste coordinator for Martin and Faribault counties.
o Prairieland's request for $15,580. The board discussed the fact that Faribault County has paid Prairieland $236,000 this year, but that is less than the county had been paying before when Prairieland's bonds were paid off. The expenses are different now that Prairieland has switched from compost to refuse-derived fuel, Loveall noted.
"The real question is what will it be next year?" Loveall asked. "We should see savings."