Semcac executive director Wayne Stenberg and Lynn Mensink, Semcac’s outreach and emergency department representative, came before the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners this past Tuesday, Jan. 12, to present the annual report and updates on programming.

Mensink and Stenberg answered questions from the commissioners, including those regarding food shelves and heating assistance.

Commissioner Harry Root inquired of the pair whether most of the food shelves within Fillmore County are affiliated with Semcac. The representatives replied the Spring Valley and Mabel food shelves are operated by local ministerial associations and those in Wykoff and Chatfield are operated through local churches, with the shelves in Preston and Rushford being operated by Semcac.

Stenberg stated Semcac has partnerships with businesses such as Kwik Trip and HyVee that help gather day-old bakery items, such as bread, to the food shelves so that they are received by those in need.

Mensink pointed out when the items are being picked up, people often ask what will become of them, and she is able to share they will be used by people who have food insecurity.

Commissioner Duane Bakke asked about energy assistance and how many households receive it to stay warm this winter. Stenberg replied, at present, 708 households are kept warm through the programs provided by Semcac.

“It’s 60 percent of the median income to qualify and the average grant is $450. After that, there’s also one for crisis assistance,” he said. “We also step in when people are getting their heat shut off.”

Bakke observed, “It seems like a lot of families. It shows there’s a need there.”

Stenberg countered, “It’s actually down a bit.”

Root asked, “Does Semcac help homeowners with windows?”

Stenberg answered that while the home weatherization program does help with windows, that is one of the last items it usually addresses – more often, the program offers the installation of insulation to help keep heating bills down.

“We have 76 households that we helped with weatherization, and there were 19 households with furnace replacement,” he added.

Stenberg went on to note that during the propane gas crisis a few winters ago, the agency was able to lend a hand to those whose tanks had emptied long before winter was over.

Mensink and Stenberg thanked the commissioners for allowing them to share about Semcac’s programming

Sheriff’s report

Sheriff Tom Kaase appeared in front of the board to request the purchase of two 2016 Dodge pickup trucks to be used as squad vehicles.

The commissioners questioned why Kaase was considering the purchase of trucks instead of cars since retired squad cars can be repaired and put into use as county fleet vehicles.

Chief Deputy Tony Webber related the trucks were cheaper than the cars the department had looked at.

The commissioners suggested the purchase be taken back to the committee level before any money is spent, and Kaase agreed after some discussion.

Additionally, the sheriff asked for permission to purchase an unmarked squad car, a used 2015 Chevy Impala, at low bid.

Webber cited he sought to replace a 2006 or 2007 Impala that is serving as an unmarked deputy’s car and the cars the department uses are driven harder than many of the other vehicles owned by the county.

Commissioner Marc Prestby acknowledged the cars are not only driven harder, but they also idle more than other vehicles, meaning the engines are still being worked.

Webber shared that he didn’t want to quote prices on the two bids he had received because he didn’t have a third, but the commissioners acknowledged the used car he wanted to buy might be off the lot by the time he obtained the third quote. A vote passed to purchase the car.

Other business

Human Resources officer Kristina Kohn presented the hiring committee’s recommendation to hire a replacement full-time jailer, Megan Taylor, effective Jan. 29, and another request to hire a replacement intermittent jailer, Matison Scanlan. Furthermore, the hiring committee recommended that Kohn ask for the hiring of a highway maintenance specialist, Evan Krahn, effective Jan. 29. Motions passed for all three positions.

Highway engineer Ron Gregg brought forward a request for the board to approve the agreement between the county and the city of Rushford addressing the “Safe Routes to School” project, and the commissioners chose to vote in favor, as Gregg related that the agreement is with the city — not with the school — and is necessary.

Administrative items encompassed reviewing the first draft priorities for the impending meeting with Rep. Greg Davids and Sen. Jeremy Miller on Feb. 2 at 11 a.m. during the county board meeting. County coordinator Bobbie Vickerman presented the possibilities for the meeting, asking how many goals should be included in the county’s packet for the legislators and advised the commissioners to have their changes, priorities and additions to the agenda turned in by the end of the week. “We’ll target the ones specific to Fillmore County,” she said.

The consent agenda included appointing Janet Kappers to the county Extension committee with a term that expires Dec. 31, 2019, and granting an overnight stay for the auditor-treasurer, a finance officer and an assessor for the tax and CAMA training in St. Cloud.