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Martin County talks legal publications

FAIRMONT — Martin County Commissioners took care of several housekeeping measures on Tuesday. The board approved a motion designating the Truman Tribune as the official legal newspaper for 2021, after some intense discussion.

The board received three bids from three different newspapers, coming from the Truman Tribune, Fairmont Sentinel, and the Fairmont Photo Press. According to County Attorney Terry Viesselman, Minnesota statute states that the bid is to go to the lowest bidder but the board may reject any offer if, in its judgment, the public interest so requires.

Discussion centered around whether circulation numbers equated to transparency, along with comments from constituents on their preferences.

“If you were to reject the low bid, you would have to state what your public interest reasons are,” said Viesselman. “In the past one of the issues that has come up was low circulation, but that’s less of an issue with newspapers posting online.”

Commissioner Kathy Smith stated that her concern revolved around publication numbers being lower for the Tribune than the other two.

“I know from personal experience that I have a family member that would never ever be able to go on the internet and look at public notices,” Smith said. “There are people out there who can’t access the internet for many reasons, but would benefit from being able to see it.”

Koons also weighed in.

“Transparency to me is not 9,000 less homes getting the paper,” Koons said. “The Sherburn Casey’s [General Store] and the Welcome Casey’s have the paper and they sell zero. Transparency to me is everybody gets it.”

Two separate motions were made to award the bid to the Truman Tribune, with the first motion tied between Koons and Smith voting no, and Commissioners Elliot Belgard and Steve Flohrs voting yes. After realizing an impasse was not amenable, a second identical motion was passed unanimously, with the intent to look at the situation more thoroughly in the future.

Turning to another matter, the board heard a brief update from County Engineer Kevin Peyman.

“We doing pretty well, we survived the snow over the holidays,” he said. We had lots of cars and things to go around, but we did okay.

“Our gravels [roads] are pretty hard and dry. We have had our road graders out these last few days, and we’ll continue to have them out. We normally have them out in the spring, but hopefully, this will keep them in better condition. Otherwise, we’re pretty much business as usual this year.”

In other action, the board:

— Accepted a $1,470 donation to the Martin County Veterans Service Office and the CARES Act Small Business Grants.

— Passed a resolution to adopt and implement the WatonwanRiver Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan.

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