WINTHROP - Sibley County District 5 Commissioner candidates Ed Begeman, "Rob" Edwards, Norman Grams, Gary Kruggel and Mark Santelman aired issues Monday night at a forum hosted by the General Federation of Women's Clubs.
Begeman, Grams, Kruggel and Santelman stressed the need for funding to repair more than $2 million in damaged drainage ditches and roads from the heavy spring rains, particularly in the eastern end of the county.
"It needs lots of attention so farmers can get their product to town this fall," Begeman said.
Edwards said his top concerns were economic development, job growth and access to global markets for business, industry and farmers that are part of his seven-point plan. He listed cost-saving measures including a complete audit of all county departments, study converting to natural gas vehicles, converting county facilities from fluorescent to more efficient LED bulbs, and using predictive maintenance to repair issues before they disrupt use of county equipment.
Grams, who works at the Winthrop butter plant, said nearly two-thirds of its employees live outside the county and more skilled help is needed.
Kruggel said state funding is coming for drainage damage, but he is unsure how much and when it will come. "We need repairs done before freeze-up," Kruggel said.
Santelman said he wrote a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a county commissioner candidate asking officials to reconsider a decision not to fund betterment (storm-damaged infrastructure replacement with better infrastructure) and slope repair.
Edwards, a Winthrop city councilor, said he would become a full-time county commissioner if elected, by listening and talking to folks, building consensus and working together, which he said is the way he conducts city council business and his day job at Guidecraft in Winthrop.
Regarding economic development, Kruggel said he'd like to see the county more aggressively seek grants and TIF (Tax-Increment Financing) for projects.
Santelman said he'd like to see Sibley County model itself as the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, of Minnesota by aggressively attracting business and industry with lower taxes, utility costs and regulation.
Begeman stressed the need to help local people develop new business.
Edwards said Winthrop already has the lowest taxes and utility costs in the county which recently helped it land new business and industry.
He mentioned the need for a comprehensive county pay study to retain employees to save retraining costs when they move to jobs in nearby counties for better pay. "It costs about $12,000 to train each new county employee," Edwards said. "It's cheaper to retrain and retain them."
A primary election for the Sibley County District 5 race will be held Tuesday, Aug. 12, in conjunction with the state primary. The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 4 General Election.
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