NEW ULM - Brown and Nicollet County commissioners met to discuss issues they have in common Wednesday.
Several Nicollet County commissioners agreed the two counties have similar budgets. Nicollet has a slightly larger population that is growing while Brown County's population is slowly shrinking.
Brown County Administrator Chuck Enter said the proposed 2013 county budget would probably not have the 1.86 percent increase if it were not for the State Highway 258 Turnback project, which is forecast to cost nearly $3.5 million.
"The State of Minnesota doesn't consider the road busy enough for it to spend the money to improve it, so it's coming back to us," Enter said.
Contingency funds are budget items on which the two counties differ. Brown County budgeted $382,244 in 2012 while the draft 2013 budget, pending board approval in December, is set at $125,000. Nicollet County budged $500,000 in contingency funds for 2013.
Nicollet County Commissioner James Stenson said his board is in the middle of its first pay and benefits compensation study in more than 20 years.
"We're comparing pay and benefits in Nicollet and other counties," Stenson said. "We're adjusting job descriptions too."
Brown County Commission Andy Lochner said one of Brown County's latest challenges is re-determining county ditch benefits.
"We're looking at old ditches first and updating them," Lochner said.
Nicollet County Commissioner Bruce Beatty said a ditch benefit re-determination meeting on Tuesday drew about 20 people.
"We've got some ditch systems that need major work," Beatty said.
Nicollet County plans to construct a new building in the next few years to avoid paying rent and put offices on the same campus, Beatty said.
Stenson said the county purchased the former Ruttles restaurant property on Minnesota Avenue in St. Peter and plans a new building at the site.
The next joint county meet will be held in January in Nicollet County.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).