County leaders prep for new year

BLUE EARTH – A new year has brought with it some updates for Faribault County commissioners.

Bill Groskreutz, John Roper and Tom Warmka were sworn in this week after winning re-election in November. Greg Young was named board chairman.

Commissioners took care of housekeeping, such as setting dates for regular board meetings. They will continue to be held 9 a.m. every first and third Tuesday of the month.

Commissioners discussed whether they should all be going to city council meetings in their home districts. Some commissioners do and say it is a good way to keep up with issues. Others don’t attend. Opinion was split along the lines of where the concentration of population is for each commissioner. Some have most of their constituents in cities, while others have them spread out across townships.

“You’re elected by all the people,” Groskreutz pointed out.

When it came time to appoint commissioners to committees, Young asked if anyone wanted to switch. Some commissioners thought it was a good idea; others did not.

Roper liked the idea because some committees and issues cross county lines and he wants to coordinate more with Martin County.

“I think you lose a little continuity when you rotate,” Warmka countered.

He was worried that pending retirements will leave committees short on long-term experience, especially for negotiating union contracts.

“Some committees might work better to rotate in and out, but [that] is not one,” added Commissioner Tom Loveall.

He said negotiating contracts is a long-term enterprise. Union negotiators don’t rotate, thereby strengthening their position by knowing what has happened over the years.

“You’re weakening your hand by moving bodies in and out,” Loveall said.

He also pointed out that committee assignments are usually seniority-based, with one commissioner gaining an appointment after another leaves the board.

In the end, the board eliminated one appointment because the camera use committee no longer meets because technology has changed over the years.

The board next turned to citizen committee appointments, going over the ones that expired at the end of 2012 or were left vacant because of deaths.

Jack Hientz was appointed to take Jake Anderson’s place on the Economic Development Authority. Roper noted Anderson was retiring with 10 years of experience. Sue Dundas replaces Mary Bielke on the Library Board while Peter Hassing replaces Jim Hassing on the Planning Commission.

Other positions on the Planning Commission and Board of Adjustments were left vacant because those boards will merge in the future as terms expire.