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YMC prepares for shutdown, discusses dam

June 29, 2011
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

GRANITE?FALLS?- The Yellow Medicine County Board braced for a possible shutdown of state government at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

Family Services Director Peggy Heglund briefed the board on the impact a shutdown would have on county services and revenue.

Heglund told the board the governor has requested payments continue for Medical Assistance and Minnesota Care. Other programs the governor is recommending payments continue for include: group residential housing programs providing housing assistance for foster care and assisted living, cash grant payments for individuals who rely on them for daily living, food support and Minnesota food assistance programs, and adoption assistance payment for families who have adopted a special needs child.

However, county programs affected by an interruption of state grant monies for county-provided services include Mental Health Service grants for adults and children, Disabilities/Semi-Independent

Living Skills program aid, and aid for children in foster care with relatives, Heglund said.

According to Heglund, it is not yet known whether the county will be able to spend Consolidated Chemical Dependency Fund monies, or if the state would pay for some of these programs if a budget agreement is reached later. It is also possible some of the state-aided programs will be permanently cut.

The board ultimately decided in the event of a shutdown the county will continue to support certain essential services, with a review every two weeks to determine which services are critical to the health and safety of county residents.

"For now what we're going to do is continue to pay for support services for individuals who are living in their own homes but who have a mental health concern, developmental disability, or families that have children that require some respite care," Heglund said. "We're not going to pay for child care except for families on the Minnesota Family Investment Program, those are the people who get a welfare check. We will continue to pay for medical care and cash grants that people need to maintain a daily living."

The board also decided to phase out county passport services in anticipation of new federal regulations that stipulate passport applications can no longer be accepted by the same people who process birth certificates and driver's licenses.

County Administrator Ryan Krosch told the board the county is currently meeting regulations but anticipates still more changes in federal regulations that will prohibit issuing passports in the same building birth certificates and driver's licenses are processed.

The board decided to phase out passport services as the Granite Falls Post Office takes up the function. The transition is expected to be complete around October-November.

The measure passed with only Commissioner Ron Antony voting against the measure.

"I feel it's one more service the county will no longer be providing," Antony said.

The board also discussed a demand by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to repair or remove the 105-year-old Minnesota Falls Dam located about three miles downstream from Granite Falls. The dam is owned by Xcel Energy and was formerly used for hydroelectric power. Xcel Energy has announced plans to dismantle the dam.

According to Board Chairman Dick Wambeke, Yellow Medicine County would like to replace the dam with rock rapids to maintain the level of the pool behind it.

"Repairing it would cost about $6 million," Wambeke said, "removing it would be about $2.5 million, so it's cheaper to remove it. It's a 15-foot deep dam, if they take it out the Granite Falls intake for the (Granite Falls Energy) ethanol plant is going to be totally out of the water. it's going to cost them about $2 million to go with an under river system."

Wambeke said the Granite Falls Golf Course watering system is fed from the river behind the dam, and expressed concern about the appearance of the riverfront in the city if the river level was lowered.

The board decided by consensus to organize meetings among interested parties to explore options for funding and ownership of rock rapids at a later date.



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