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Commissioners to hear probation report

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BROWN COUNTY — Brown County commissioners will receive a 2020 probation department statistics report at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

“This was a year of uncertainty. COVID-19 flipped many procedures and policies upside down,” Brown County Probation Director Les Schultz wrote in his report. “Staff truly outdid themselves this past year, working with many constant changes that COVID-19 pushed us towards. We were locked down for most of the year and had to supervise our clients differently.”

Schultz said his department had to learn Zoom, Web-ex, Team, VPN, and Splashtop, all of which were unheard of last January but became proficient at them in just a few months.

“We started our new truancy program in October 2019 which due to COVID-19, constantly changed,” Schultz added. “Program numbers increased to the point we were overwhelmed with truancy cases.”

Schultz said Brown County Teen Court was closed down Dec. 31, 2019 due to low numbers and staff retirement, but a juvenile diversion program for first-time, low level offenders began in 2020. Juveniles who complete the program have their charges dismissed.

“We literally had no court for several months except for individuals arrested and placed in custody in March through May,” said Schultz. “Court slowly resumed through the use of Zoom. You will notice a reduction in out of home probation placements, but its difficult to say if that was directly related to the pandemic.”

Commissioners will also consider:

• The 2020 Brown County Child Support Performance Report.

• An update on the City of New Ulm/Heartland Express partnership for a possible New Ulm city route. The New Ulm City Council recently approved a proposal for Heartland Express’ transportation budget to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

• A 2020 summary report of children’s services provided provided in Brown County and the impact of COVID in service delivery to children by Brown County Child Protection Supervisor Denise Kamm.

• A 2019 and 2020 review of out of home placements. Kamm and Schultz will provide more 2020 human services department information and answer questions.

• A resolution to approve the issuance of a $6.4 million Health Care Facilities Reserve Note for an Oak Hills Living Center project to allow eligible parties to borrow money at a lower rate and tax-exempt status. This is a refinance of an original loan, to benefit Oak Hills without costs to Brown County.

• A tree removal quote along CSAH 13/Center Street. Brown County did a mill & overlay project last year. It was decided a tree needed to be removed, but since it was past April 1, it had to wait till now to be removed, to prevent harming the northern long-eared bat. Quotes are Carr’s Tree Service, $850; Zinniel Tree Service $1,400; and Ryan Tree Service $1,644.

• A tree removal quote along CSAH 13/Boundary Street. Brown County is cooperating with the City of New Ulm on a project that includes new alignment with trees needed to be removed including back-sloping on parts of the project. It is required to remove trees before April 1 to prevent harming the northern long-eared bat. Quotes are Ryan Tree Service $17,620.50; Zinniel Tree Service $35,500; and Carr’s Tree Service $39,499.

• A memorandum of understanding with AFSCEM Local Union No. 1204 (Hwy) for substitute snow plow operators in case of emergency. Substitute snow plow operators would be temporarily hired if the Brown County Highway Dept. doesn’t have staff available to operate snow plows due to leave of absences. The proposed wage would be Grade 12, Step 13, $29.65/hr. without benefits for temporary positions.

• Certification of a land tract the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently secured an agreement to purchase about 100 acres from Gregory Mikkelson, Section 34, Sigel Township. The property would be open to the public and managed as a Waterfowl Production Area as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Commissioners tabled the item Feb. 2 with a stipulation to notify abutting property owners, getting a list of other properties and talking to landowners, and getting a reference from another county regarding noxious weed control.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service District Manager Todd Luke told commissioners Feb. 2 that the land purchase could create economic benefits including bird watching, hunting and better downstream water quality.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. Feb. 23 in the Brown County Law Enforcement Center Training Room. Zoom access is available by calling Brown County Administration at 507-233-6600.

(Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nu

journal.com).

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