County board briefs: County will begin study on pedestrian, traffic improvements for CSAH 5

The Washington County Board approved a contract with Kimley-Horn and Associates Feb. 4 to begin plans for improving pedestrian and traffic flow along County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 5 through Stillwater.

The contract for design engineering will not exceed $84,380.

Noted areas of concern in this corridor along CSAH 5 include school crossings at Lily Lake Elementary and Stonebridge Elementary, a trail crossing at McKusick Road, and a lack of adequate pedestrian facilities through much of the corridor, forcing pedestrians to walk in the roadway. Traffic speeds, improper passing, and lack of appropriate turn lanes are also areas of concern.

The preliminary design will include the entire corridor from Croixwood Boulevard to Trunk Highway 96 except for the segment from Olive Street to Linden Street, and will develop a plan for future improvements to the highway corridor. The intersection of CSAH 5 and Myrtle Street (CSAH 12) is not included in this project.

Funding for the project will come from County Highway State Aid funds.

Sheriff’s office to buy gas with Bayport, Oak Park Heights

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work with the cities of Bayport and Oak Park Heights to purchase gasoline jointly to help reduce the costs of fuel for law enforcement services.

The County Board approved agreements with the cities Feb. 4.

The Sheriff’s Office has entered into a Minnesota State Fuel
contract from Feb. 1, 2014, through Jan. 31, 2015, with Yocum Oil for fuel at a fixed cost. The Sheriff’s Office provides the fuel to the cities’ police departments to operate their squad cars and SUVs, at the cost set in the agreement.

County and Stillwater to develop fiber network

Washington County and the city of Stillwater will work together to create a fiber optic network between the county and city.

The County Board approved an agreement with the city Feb. 4.

The fiber connection will run from the Stillwater Library through Stillwater City Hall to the Washington County Government Center. The network will enable Washington County and the City of Stillwater to connect their various facilities to each other and to other public sector organizations in and around Stillwater.

The installation and maintenance costs will be split between the county and the city. The county will own the installed fiber, and will be responsible for the management of the resulting network.

Hazardous waste collection from homes will continue

The Washington County Board approved agreements with communities Feb. 4 to allow the county to conduct household hazardous waste collections in those communities during 2014.

Seven satellite weekend household hazardous waste collections are planned for 2014. The agreements allow the county to use sites owned by others to conduct household hazardous waste collections.

Events have been planned:

• at Hugo April 26 at the Hugo Public Works Building;

• at Cottage Grove May 3 at the Cottage Grove Public Works Building;

• at Stillwater May 17 at Lily Lake Park;

• at Forest Lake May 31 at the Forest Lake Transit Center;

• at Forest Lake Sept. 13 at the Forest Lake Transit Center;

• at Forest Lake Sept. 20 at the Forest Lake Transit Center;

• at Hugo Oct. 4 at the  Hugo Public Works Building.

The county is also planning Shredding Events at the Washington County Environmental Center April 18, July 11, and Oct. 10. These are opportunities for residents to have confidential documents shredded.

In addition to remote-site collections, the Washington County Environmental Center, 4039 Cottage Grove Drive in Woodbury, provides residents with a free and convenient disposal option for household hazardous waste, electronics, and recyclables all year round.

It is open Tuesday noon to 7 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The center accepts household hazardous waste, electronics, and recyclables. The center also has a Free Product Room, in which residents may browse the shelves and take home previously-owned products such as paint, stain, automotive supplies, household cleaners, and other products. All items taken to the Environmental Center are inspected to determine if they are usable products.

Public hearing on possible reduction in county environmental charge

The Washington County Board of Commissioners set Feb. 25 as the date to receive comments from the public on an amendment to the county’s Solid Waste Management Ordinance that would reduce the rate of the County Environmental Charge from 37.5 percent to 35 percent.

The County Board set the public hearing at its meeting Feb. 4.

The County Environmental Charge is assessed on garbage collection. It is expected that the reduction will save taxpayers $450,000 each year.

The hearing will be at 9 a.m. during the board’s regular meeting in the County Board Room in the Government Center, 14949 62nd St. N., Stillwater.

Washington County will provide low-interest loans for septic system replacements

Washington County will establish a fund to assist homeowners with low-interest loans to replace failing septic systems.

The County board approved the program Feb. 4.

The county will administer the program, using funds from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The county will also use $25,000 of county fund balance for loan security.

Eligible residents will be able to use the low-interest loans to replace failing septic systems, and pay back the loans through an assessment on property taxes. Large portions of the county are served by subsurface sewage treatment, or private septic systems. Failing systems are potential sources of groundwater and surface water pollution.

While county ordinances require compliance inspections for certain actions, and orders replacement for failing systems, septic system replacement can be an expensive and unexpected cost for homeowners.

The program would use funds from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Best Management Practice program, and require the county to become a “local lender.” Funds will be available to any property that is not connected to city sewer services. The county will set up an application process, perform a financial review, and administer the loans and payment process. The payments will be made through special assessments on property taxes, with terms of up to 10 years at maximum interest rates of 3 percent.

Loan recipients must live outside the Metropolitan Urban Service Area, where municipal sewer service is not available. Loans will be made on a first-come, first-served basis, with no income or asset restrictions. The systems must meet certain county criteria, before the loan is issued.

Other partners in the program include the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the Washington Conservation District, and the county’s Department of Property Records and Taxpayer Services.

Child Protection Citizen Review Panel presents its 2013 annual report

The Washington County Child Protection Citizen Review Panel presented its 2013 annual report to the County Board Feb. 4.

Guy Sederski, chair of the panel, presented the report. Deborah Eckberg, also a member of the panel, was also at the meeting.

The Citizen Review Panel provides opportunities for members of the community to have an integral role in ensuring that Child Protection Service Systems are protecting children from abuse and neglect and are meeting the permanency needs of children. The Washington County Board of Commissioners authorized the panel as a pilot project in 1999, and reauthorized the panel in 2007.

In 2013, the panel:

• produced seven public service essays on various topics related to child safety;

• completed Mandated Reporter Training provided by Don Pelton, supervisor, Washington County Community Services, at January 2013 and February 2013 monthly meetings;

• presented the 2012 Citizen Review Panel Annual Report to the Washington County Board on Feb. 12, 2013;

• learned about social and emotional well-being, the need to understand the effects of trauma on early brain development, and the impact trauma has across the life span at a joint training session of the Minnesota Citizen Review Panels, Children’s Justice Act Task Force, and the Child Mortality Review Panel on June 4, 2013;

• provided training to Washington County child protection staff members. Panel member Guy Sederski presented on Working with Native American Children and Families on June 19, 2013;

• conducted eight reviews of requests for reconsideration of findings of maltreatment and made recommendations to Washington County Community services regarding the original finding;

• followed up on recommendations made by the Citizen Review Panel’s Father’s Project by receiving updates on the county’s efforts to reach out to and involve non- custodial fathers involved in child protection cases;

• followed up on the rate of re-entry into foster care case reviews and recommendations with a report from John Nalezny, supervisor, Washington County Community Services, on the County’s experiences with reducing the rate of re-entry into foster care within one year of leaving care;

• reviewed and updated the Washington County Citizen Review Panel mission statement to read, “Citizens partnering with child protection services, advocating to keep children safe.”

Berglund appointed Director of Emergency Management

Washington County Sheriff William Hutton introduced the new county Director of Emergency Management, Douglas A. Berglund, to the Washington County Board of Commissioners Feb. 4

After the resignation of the former manager in December, the Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal search for a new Emergency Services Manager, and Berglund was named the new director.

Berglund has been a member of Washington County Emergency Management since November 2011 and has more than 20 years of experience in fire service.

County board approves plat in West Lakeland Township

The Washington County Board of Commissioners approved a three-lot plat in West Lakeland Township Feb. 4.

The 7.7-acre plat is called Hidden Oak Meadows, and is owned by David C. Blekum, Karen A. Blekum, Rhett J. Arens, and Veronica L. Arens. The property is generally west of Oakgreen Avenue east of Norcrest Avenue North and south of 30th Street North.

The plat was approved by the Washington County Plat Commission Dec. 4, 2013.

Washington County will provide election services to city of Forest Lake

Washington County will administer the primary and general elections in the city of Forest Lake, after the County Board approved a joint powers agreement between the county and city Feb. 4.

The city approached Washington County to administer the 2014 statewide primary election and the statewide general election, and the city approved its agreement with the county Jan. 16.

The city will compensate the county for all costs pertaining to the elections, which are expected to be almost $51,000. The agreement includes training and recruitment of election judges, scheduling polling place locations, preliminary and public testing of the election equipment, and delivery of equipment to polling place locations.

The agreement is similar to others that the county has with cities and school districts in the county.