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Commissioners plan for 2011

Cutting costs and combining services top the list of priorities again this year for the Goodhue County Board.

The commissioners discussed goals for the county during their annual workshop Tuesday and said they are especially interested in resolving cost and structural issues with the recycling program and jail.

The price tag for the jail needs to be addressed this year, commissioners agreed. The facility is rarely filled even to half capacity, they said, but still has a large number of detention deputies and a complicated prisoner organization system.

"There's going to be a cost to running a jail, but the problem is it's just piling on," Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel said. "There just isn't an appetite to be all things to all people with our jail anymore."

Commissioner Ron Allen suggested shifting deputies from the jail to patrol or investigator positions, which he said could provide a chance to improve public safety while maintaining the same number of staff and resources.

The county is also exploring options to board prisoners from nearby counties, but County Administrator Scott Arneson said it remains to be seen whether that will be enough to mitigate costs. He said Sheriff Scott McNurlin plans to bring a proposal for addressing cost concerns to the board within the next few weeks.

The county's recycling program also is a priority. Commissioners said much of it is redundant in cities that already have their own programs and joining forces with them or partially or fully privatizing the service could save money.

Last year, the board voted to privatize the program but was unable to find a suitable buyer.

"We need to get out of the processing business," Allen said.

While it was good to set an example by starting the program, he added, it is time for the county to pass it on.

@Sub heads:Other goals

@Normal1: Commissioners also suggested pooling other resources among cities, the county and the state to eliminate redundancy and trim the budget. Commissioner Jim Bryant cited administration and engineering as two of many departments where government entities could easily share personnel and resources.

The commissioners also discussed the budget, with many expressing hopes of keeping the levy for 2012 as low as possible. Arneson said the county is

working on eliminating state aid, which has been volatile in recent years, from its budget after this year.

Improving Highway 52 and encouraging development along the road was key for the board as well.

"The best thing we can do to create jobs in Goodhue County is to correct Highway 52," Rechtzigel said. Other commissioners said they want to ensure the highway gets attention throughout the whole county, along with other roads that need improvement.

Commissioners mentioned additional priorities and suggestions for 2011, including:

• Improving the county's infrastructure and services such as broadband to increase its attractiveness to businesses,

• Passing countywide social host and seller/server ordinances,

• Possibly putting campsites at Lake Byllesby Park, which commissioners said could increase revenue and tourism,

• Working with the Legislature to ease some restrictions, including jail structuring and funding for the courts.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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