Group planning wetland project

FAIRMONT — Martin County commissioners on Tuesday heard from Kassy Dumke, a biologist from Ducks Unlimited, concerning a prairie wetland restoration project.

“We’re working on an acquisition of 147 acres in Fox Lake Township,” she said. “The cool thing about this acquisition is that it’s really showing what conservation groups are doing in Martin County. We’re really targeting our work in areas where we can build upon our existing complexes and make them better.

“In this case, these 147 acres fall between two wildlife management areas, so after restoration this new tract will be a wildlife corridor between those two areas. After we acquire the tract, we will be restoring the wetlands out there. Something new is that we hope to fence the tract in to allow for grazing in the future.”

The land will be situated between the Rooney Run and Seymour Lake wildlife management areas.

Dumke said that while the land is owned by Ducks Unlimited, it will be responsible for all taxes. Later, the land will be donated to the state, at which point the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will make a payment in lieu of taxes.

Turning to another matter, the board heard an update from Sarah Eischens, district supervisor for the Sentence to Serve program. Along with crew leader Jon McDonald, Eischens shared information concerning the fourth quarter of 2018.

“We had about 45 crew members, and out of that 45, 18 completed their hours,” Eischens said. “They were able to pay off $4,238 in fines, $172 in fees and completed 1,878 hours over the quater.”

She went on to share how job rates are determined.

“Each project is rated according to what it is, so if it’s carpentry it’s a little higher in dollar value than picking up ditches,” she said. “The dollar value for projects completed this quarter was about $498,000, and I think that’s a good testament to the hard work they’re doing out there.”

McDonald noted some of the challenges faced by work crews during the harsh winter weather.

“The last few weeks have been a lot of snow removal,” he said. “The extreme cold weather is hard because we’re restricted on what we can do outside. We help out the county guys if they need help, and we do shovel for CREST. Indoor work is slow this year, which is kind of unusual.”

Eischens noted that work had to be cancelled for a couple of days in January because of the cold.

“We don’t want anyone to get hurt,” McDonald said. “Our No. 1 goal is safety.”

Commissioner Elliot Belgard said he is appreciative of the work done by Eischens, McDonald and work crews.

In other action, the board:

o Approved motions to sponsor the cities of Welcome and Sherburn for 2019 local road improvement funds.

o Approved a motion to allow County Engineer Kevin Peyman to sign a contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for payment in the amount of $2,262 for use of county roads 32 and 39 as a detour during upcoming construction work on Interstate 90.

o Passed a resolution to authorize Martin County Emergency Management Director Abigail Nesbit to sign an Emergency Management Performance Grant Program agreement in the amount of $22,471.

o Approved a motion to accept the retirement resignation of County Auditor/Treasurer James Forshee. Forshee will retire effective July 5.