County, MVAC ready for interns

FAIRMONT– The Martin County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday heard from Tammie Hested with Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC) about the Martin County summer internship program. Traditionally, the county has contributed to the program which provides students from Martin County attending a two or four-year college with the opportunity to intern at a local business related to their field of study.

Hested said no changes were made to the cost of the program from last year to this year and that interns will earn and hourly wage of $13 an hour. The county has budgeted $55,000 to fund the program, which includes administration work, staff costs and wages for participants.

“We have 14 pretty much ready to go. They’ve all interviewed and we’re waiting for a couple of approvals,” Hested said.

She said there were a few interesting majors this year, including one in global studies. That student will likely be interning with Project 1590. Hested said there are a few new businesses hosting a student this year, including Kenway Engineering and Sterling Drug Pharmacy.

Commissioner Jaime Bleess shared about a workforce meeting he recently attended in Mankato which representatives of several counties attended. He said only Martin County and one other county, Waseca County, have an internship program.

“Martin County gets talked about as being the leader in this in a positive way. To be new and sit down in a group of commissioners all over southern Minnesota and hear that only two counties are doing it and we’re one of them… I’m really impressed with what you’re doing,” Bleess said.

He added that he’s had two daughters go through the program and that the program proved beneficial for both of them.

Hested said a goal of the program is that students will want to move back to Martin County to live and work here after having a positive experience with the internship.

“I think it opens their eyes for sure to see there’s a lot of opportunities here and it shows the importance of networking. The number one way to find a job is through people you know. There’s never enough networking opportunities for students,” Hested said.

In other business Bob Long with Larkin Hoffman Firm gave an update on the county’s state bonding request to aid in the construction of the proposed Martin County Regional Public Safety and Justice Center.

The county has been working with Larkin Hoffman for lobbyist services for about three years. The firm is lobbying on behalf of the county for both state and federal funding.

On Tuesday Long said that the justice center committee went to the capitol last week and met with both Representative Bjorn Olson and Senator Rich Draheim.

“In a nutshell, the house capital investment committee, the bonding committee and the full house ultimately acted on a bonding bill that does not include the Martin County project at this point. The reason we were given for that is that they were basically giving out smaller projects,” Long said.

He said none of the projects he saw that were included were over $13 million. One similar project, the Hibbing Regional Public Safety, which is combined fire and police, received $10 million in the house bonding bill.

However, Long said, “There’s going to be a second bonding bill. The senate is where our main effort is right now.”

Long said a new bill is being prepared because there’s so much competition in Minnesota. Senator Sandy Pappas, chair of the capital investment committee, is proposing to use state surplus money to spend on public improvement projects like correctional facilities, state hospitals and other local projects.

“We are hoping, and we’ve asked Senator Draheim for support, to go to Senator Pappas and ask her to include the Martin County Public Safety facility in her new bill,” Long said.

He said the bill will likely be released next week and that he will keep the commissioners informed. However, he told the commissioners to brace themselves as getting the amount they’ve asked for is unlikely.

“We’re probably looking at a smaller dollar amount to get in the bill. We’re hoping for something in excess of $10 million, but we might not get $19.2 million,” Long said.

Long also gave a brief update on the status of the federal funding request. He gave compliments to County Coordinator Scott Higgins and Executive Assistant Julie Walters for their work on the application and letters of support that went to representative Brad Finstad.

“I saw some other applications from other parts of the state and I can say without question that Martin County’s was the best, the most thorough,” Long said.

In other news, the board:

— Approved the reappointment of Hugh Fraser and the appointment of Rich Perrine to the Martin County Park Board.

— Authorized recruitment of a Sentence to Serve crew leader following the retirement of John McDonald.

— Approved the 2023 park/camping fees for Martin County, which are unchanged from 2022.

— Approved a contract with Duininck Construction for bituminous overlay in the amount of $4,832,752.

— Approved a contract with Jensen Excavating for Cedar and Waverly township bridges in the amount of $1,271,821.

— Approved a contract with Jensen Excavating for bridge replacement in the amount of $260,778.

— Approved the hire of Natalie Splinter as finance manager in the Auditor/Treasurer’s office, effective April 10.

— Approved the resignation of a part-time and full-time correctional officer and authorized recruitment of both positions.


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