Legislators hear county officials’ concerns

NEW ULM — State Sen. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) and Rep. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) heard a variety of concerns from Brown County commissioners and other officials on the coming legislative session.

Discussion topics included the license bureau computer system (MNLARS) capability issues, fractional-linked homesteads and the Agricultural Homestead Credit, funding for community mental health resource and child protection resource expansion, continued funding for Medical Assistance (MA), Department of Human Services (DHS) computer upgrades, state funding reductions, the Yellow Line Project and DHS residential housing rules.

Brown County Human Services Director Tom Henderson and Sheriff Rich Hoffmann voiced their interest in the Yellow Line Project. It is used in Blue Earth County to prevent people needing mental health services from being jailed for minor offenses.

“It’s proven to be very successful in its first six months,” Henderson said. “We would very much like to repeat it for our jail population. Part of that decision is a need to expand our detox center that serves Blue Earth County with nearly half of the occupants and 11 other regional counties. It’s a Brown County project that would serve the region.”

Henderson said he has a number of key people backing the project and he will meet for an hour about it with the Minnesota DHS Commissioner.

“I hope we can get funding,” Henderson said. “Many detox patients have mental health problems. If you don’t get them help, they’ll keep coming back.”

Hoffmann said mental health institutions were closed and the people that need them have to go someplace, so many of them wind up in jail.

Henderson said many Minnesota counties are repeatedly required to go out of state to treat mentally ill children and adults who can’t be treated in Minnesota due to very strict rules regarding aggressive patient behavior.

“Brown County has had such patients, particularly children,” Henderson said. “In one recent case, a patient was referred to a Wisconsin facility that treated her after 14 Minnesota facilities would not admit her. She now lives satisfactorily back in the community.”

Henderson said the Wisconsin facility refused to be licensed in Minnesota which cost Brown County $50,000 for one case.

“More will follow until Minnesota changes its DHS residential rules for facilities caring for seriously disturbed, mentally ill clientele,” Henderson said.

Other legislative concerns included:

• Supporting changes to publication requirements that will reduce the cost of local government when the cost/benefit to the residents of the county is not realized; for example, publication requirements related to delinquent property lists, sample election ballots, financial statements and the dollar threshold for publishing county board-approved expenditures.

• Allowing local deputy registrar offices to offer expanded service to customers such as self-service, online or mail-in services to or in conjunction with how the customer can currently purchase directly from the state Driver and Vehicle Services office.

• Introducing legislation that would withhold enforcement of the Dayton Buffer law (103F) for 5 years to allow counties to complete redetermination of benefits (ROB) under the 103E drainage law. This would ensure that landowners will have been paid for the loss of productive land.

No comments or questions were asked at the proposed county 2018 budget and levy public meeting.

The final payable 2018 property tax levy and budget will be considered at the regular county board meeting at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.