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County continues program support

FAIRMONT– On Tuesday the Martin County Board of Commissioners decided to once again support the Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC) summer youth internship program. The county has been supporting the program since 2012.

Tammie Hested, Family Resource Coordinator for MVAC was present on Tuesday to share some updates on the program with the commissioners.

She said that applications began coming in before Christmas and to date she has received 21.

“That’s by far the most I’ve ever had and I think that speaks volumes,” Hested said.

Over the holiday break Hested met with the majority of the applicants and said that a few have since dropped out for various reasons, with one citing low wage.

Fourteen applicants will be chosen for the program with the rest going on a waiting list for the following summer.

For the program, Hested matches the applicant’s interests and areas of study with willing, local businesses. This year she has three new work places on board– Fairmont Area Schools, Integrated Tax Services and Becker Financial Group. These are in addition to repeat businesses like Easy Automation, Nu-Way and United Hospital District.

“I’m very impressed with these students. They’re so talented and have so many goals. I really try to promote the reason for this program and what we’re trying to get out of it,” Hested said.

Margy Hendrickson with MVAC then spoke about another youth program within the organization. She said that they have other youth who participate in employment experiences and for that they’ve raised the wage from $12 an hour to $13 an hour for up to 200 hours and for up to 400 hours there’s an opportunity to raise to $14 an hour.

“We were trying to look at the Martin County Internship program to match that by raising it to $14 an hour,” Hendrickson said.

She said that MVAC is also involved with Waseca’s internship program, which was modeled after Martin County’s and shared that they have opted to raise their wage to $15 an hour.

Finally Hendrickson noted that minimum wage did go up again at the start of the year and is currently at $10.85.

“We want to look at the education these students are going through. Most are going for a four year degree so we want to make sure that we’re paying them a viable wage.

Heather Gleason with the South Central Workforce Council added some information about the new earned sick and safe time and said that the youth participants would be impacted by that as well.

“Across all of the programs we’ve had to arrange for additional funding needs based on the earned sick and safe time,” Gleason said.

She said because of that and wage increases, some changes to a contract were being presented to the board.

Commissioner Kathy Smith questioned why the contract was just being brought up for approval now as the county’s budget was already approved.

Gleason said that it took awhile to learn all of the aspects of the earned sick and safe time, which just went into effect in January.

Smith asked the commissioners what they thought about raising the wage to $14. Commissioner Richard Koons said if the goal was to bring people back to the county, he felt it was a good raise. He made a motion to approve and the motion passed.

The commissioners have $55,000 included in the 2024 budget for the program.

Smith said, “thank you for doing the program for Martin County. It’s a great program and many people are supportive of it.”

Hested said she will return to a county commissioner meeting in June and bring all of the interns with so that they can share about their placement with the board.

Moving to other matters,County Engineer Kevin Peyman shared some information on pavement construction alternatives. He spoke about bituminous surface treatments, done on newer surfaces, as well as the overlay/mill and overlay process.

In other news, the board:

— Heard from Planning and Zoning Director, Pam Flitter, who provided a year-end review of the Martin County Feedlot Program.

— Set two public hearings for single family housing tax abatement for 10:00 a.m. and 10:05 a.m. on Tuesday, March 19.

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