Third time's the charm
Newly appointed Goodhue County Board Chair Ron Allen hopes that 2017 will be a year to focus on security, transportation and health care.
Each year, Goodhue County Board appoints a new chairman and vice chairman. This will be Allen's third time as board chair.
Until clear guidance is received from federal and state levels of government, Allen said he hopes the county officers can work together to discuss issues while keeping the public's best interest at the forefront.
Two new people joined the board this year, both with strong viewpoints: one who wants to encourage keeping taxes low straight off the bat and one hoping to make a long-term investment.
While the first meeting of the year got off to a rocky start, Allen noted that a big part of his job will be to listen and understand conflicting sides while continuing projects from last year.
"My goal as chairperson is: work with both points of view in order to make good decisions and investments at the best price for 2017," Allen said. "I welcome all viewpoints and think that it is healthy to have discussions that are transparent and open."
Other issues ...
Keeping taxes low will continue to be a goal, but it's not the only matter needing thoughtful attention. When looking toward extra security, Allen mentioned including upgrades and extra law enforcement to help keep the county safe.
"Law enforcement personnel will train with the (new) Bearcat," he said, as well as increasing the number of bailiffs to protect the four courts, and "enforce a strict security check at the entrance of the courthouse."
Neighboring counties, according to Allen, have had security threats on computer systems, causing voting, employee and taxpayer information to become at risk.
"The county has had on-going attempts every day and we need to remain vigilant in protecting your data," he said.
Transportation was another big issue in 2016, especially with the proposed high-speed rail through Goodhue County to Rochester. This could mean the county will have to again consider whether this proposal should make it through to Legislature. Other local projects need to be put in motion as well.
"The long-term transportation planning is focused on two bridges across Highway 52," Allen said of the Zumbrota and Cannon Falls bridges.
Solid waste concerns remain at the top of the list. The board has discussed how to make it easier for citizens to recycle by working on a better location in the area to drop off materials.
"The major environmental issue for 2017 is the continuation of working on solid waste and moving the county landfill into the state system," Allen said.
One of Allen's most highlighted concerns reflects the importance and continued work toward strengthening health care. He has seen improvements during his time spent on County Board, including more psychotherapy options and less wait time for patients, but he wants to see this momentum continue.
"There are many questions, such as the state and federal health care plans ... long-term issues for adults with mental health needs and child protection issues that will continue to be addressed this year," said Allen, who is a school psychologist.
Anticipating how political issues will be handled in the following months and next four years could be anyone's guess. For the first time since 2007, Republicans control the U.S. House and Senate and, come Jan. 20, the White House.