Townships discuss 2011's challengesAs the March 8 township elections approach and officials organize budgets and initiatives, representatives from Goodhue County townships gathered to discuss what issues they will face this year.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
As the March 8 township elections approach and officials organize budgets and initiatives, representatives from Goodhue County townships gathered to discuss what issues they will face this year.
From budgets to crime, the annual township meeting Feb. 5 included a wide range of topics and discussions with county, law enforcement and state officials.
Street sign replacement
As townships, like other government entities, face tight budgets, some officials expressed concern about the cost of meeting new federal traffic sign requirements. All signs must soon meet regulations on retroreflectivity, the amount of light that reflects back to drivers so signs can be seen at night.
By the end of January 2012, each township, and the county, must have a plan in place for testing retroreflectivity on signs in their boundaries and replacing those that don't meet the standard.
Warning signs such as stop and yield signs must meet the requirements by 2015, and overhead guide signs, including all street signs, by 2018.
Greg Isakson, Goodhue County Public Works director, suggested townships evaluate the necessity of their signs and remove unneeded ones to cut the costs of replacing them.
The county announced this will be the final year it organizes dust control services for the townships.
Of the 284 participants utilizing the service last year, only 10 were on county roads, Isakson said. The rest were on townships roads.
At least seven townships already head up their own programs, he said, and there are many options of local vendors to contract with for the service.
County Attorney Stephen Betcher said downsized police departments are having trouble curbing minor crime with smaller staffs.
"We're focusing our small police forces on major crimes," Betcher said. "It's addressing a problem, but missing an opportunity for prevention."
Betcher also told officials the county is working to improve strategies for handling domestic violence cases, including educational measures such as informing victims about the availability of restraining orders.
Sheriff Scott McNurlin encouraged township officials to work with the department and officers and to be aware of happenings in their area, especially now that staffs are stretched.
"This is a time when we need to rely on one another to affect public safety," he said.
Sentence to Service fees
Carolyn Holmsten, finance director for the county, reminded township officials that starting this year there is a user fee for the Sentence to Service program. The charge per crew is $200 for a full day of work (eight hours) and $100 for a half day (four hours).
Holmsten said the need for the fee stems from an increased cost to the county for the service; the state has trimmed its financial support.