County locates soldier’s grave

BLUE EARTH – Faribault County commissioners took care of some grave business Tuesday.

The final resting place of another Civil War veteran has been located, reported David Hanson, Faribault County Veterans Services officer. The gravestone of John Starret had broken off. Over time, the base became covered by dirt and grass.

Dean Jahnke, caretaker for Riverside Cemetery, was instrumental in helping locate the grave, Hanson said.

The Veterans Administration will replace the marker in a month to six weeks, Hanson noted.

In 2011, Hanson helped get a new marker for another Civil War soldier, James H. Mead, also buried in Riverside.

Hanson asked for help from the public in locating more resting places of old soldiers. Their white marble tombstones deteriorate and become unreadable.

Commissioner Tom Warmka said the gravestones of two Civil War veterans in his district are getting difficult to read. He wondered if it is possible to have someone re-engrave them. Warmka also asked if the county is responsible for maintaining township cemeteries from rural churches that have disbanded.

“People have been calling and asking what we can do,” Warmka said. “I don’t want to step in and do reclamation if we’re not responsible.”

“I suspect some state statutes are involved,” said County Attorney Troy Timmerman, adding that he would check to see which entity is responsible for maintaining cemeteries.

Also regarding deceased veterans, Hanson said widows of any 100 percent disabled veterans can get a homestead tax exemption for the year of the veteran’s death and the year following.

“A lot of our widows don’t know that,” Hanson said.

Anyone with questions may call Hanson at (507) 526-6268.

Hanson also informed the board of a grant from the VA Minnesota Foundation for $250,000 to help counties statewide assist in purchasing new vehicles. Each county can get up to $3,000. Hanson said he plans to replace a mini-van, something in the budget for this year.

Warmka made a motion to give Hanson permission to apply for the grant when it becomes available. The board approved applying for the grant.

In another matter, Hanson updated the board on Ride Link. Commissioners recently accepted a federal grant to receive two computers that would allow Faribault County to connect with Ride Link, an online service to streamline ride-sharing among veterans.

Hanson said the equipment will be ordered by Friday. The computers will be located in his office in the courthouse, and may be up and running by April.

In other business, the board:

o Approved transferring $26,407 to Prairieland.

Warmka didn’t like that Prairieland is asking for additional funds this early in the year. The county had voluntarily lowered its fees on residents and businesses after the facility paid off its bonds, expecting expenses would follow, he said.

“We need a business plan so we know what the heck is going on,” Warmka insisted.