MARSHALL - Lyon County Commissioners approved the purchase of two items - a payment drop box and an ATM - meant to help members of the public do business at the Lyon County Government Center. Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer E.J. Moberg brought the proposals to commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday.
Moberg said both items would help alleviate some inconveniences for customers at the auditor/treasurer's office and driver's license counter. Three times a year, the auditor/treasurer's office receives tax payments from area property owners, as well as complaints about late tax penalties, Moberg said. One common complaint is that taxpayers' schedules don't always allow them to drop off payments during business hours. Having a drop box at the government center would give taxpayers more leeway to get checks in on time, he said. It's an option that other counties have pursued.
"Meeker County had one installed this spring," Moberg said.
Moberg presented commissioners with two price quotes on a metal drop box for tax payments. The drop box could be mounted on a wall or a brick post and would be checked by auditor/treasurer staff each day. The post-mounted option would cost about $750. Moberg said the board should consider the location of the drop box and optional costs like an additional security camera to watch it.
"I think we should give it a try," said Commissioner Rodney Stensrud. Commissioners thought the best location would be by the government center entrance nearest the public parking lot and bus stop.
The board voted in favor of buying the post-mounted drop box.
Moberg also presented the board with price quotes on an ATM for the government center. The state of Minnesota currently doesn't allow the driver's license counter to accept payments by debit or credit card, which results in a lot of inconvenience. For example, Moberg said, between July 15 and July 30, the auditor/treasurer's office got 25 comments or requests about finding the nearest ATM to the building. Sometimes, people who leave to find an ATM simply don't come back, he said.
Moberg said he researched options for leasing an ATM for the government center, as well as for buying one. Under the lease option, he said, "the base cost is $99 a month." Alternatively, the county could purchase an ATM from a vendor. The county would be responsible for filling the machine with cash. The ATM would have a user fee, Moberg said, and the amount of cash withdrawn from the machine would later be reimbursed to the county.
"I think if we want to go ahead and do it, we should buy it," said Commissioner Charlie Sanow. He said the county should also set up a separate account with funds to keep the ATM filled and consider a security camera near the machine.
Commissioners voted in favor of purchasing an ATM for the government center.
Later at Tuesday's meeting, board members voted to contribute some funding toward an accessibility project at the Tracy Public Library. After renovating a downtown Tracy building as a new library location, the library is now looking at adding features like wheelchair lifts to make it handicapped-accessible.
Tracy Library Director Blair Nelson said the library has received a grant for two wheelchair lifts. The grant would provide $59,000 toward the project, with $29,000 coming from local funding. Nelson and Tracy City Administrator Michael Votca asked if the county would be willing to contribute funds to the lift project.
County Board Chairman Rick Anderson said contributing to the project could be considered economic development for Tracy. Amenities like public libraries help make a community attractive to new residents and businesses.
"I would like to see (us give) at least $10,000," Anderson said.
Board members voted in favor of giving $10,000 in funding for the project.
The county also heard updates from the Discover Southwest Minnesota Partnership and the Marshall Area Transportation Group. In 2012, the board had agreed to form a partnership with the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce to provide county economic development services. MACC Director Cal Brink said Discover Southwest Minnesota has worked to promote economic development opportunities in Lyon County, from providing detailed information on available properties and resources, to encouraging tourism through programs like Hunting Works for Minnesota.
Brink said the transportation group was "becoming well-known" as an advocate for road and safety improvements along Minnesota Highway 23. Several of the group's goals, like a pedestrian underpass connecting Southwest Minnesota State University and Marshall High School, and safety improvements at the intersection of Highway 23 and Lyon County Road 7, have been completed. Transportation group member David Sturrock said the group will now be looking at building awareness and support for concerns of the Highway 23 regional corridor.
While limitations on state transportation funding will likely make it difficult to expand four-lane traffic on Highway 23, Brink and Sturrock said, there are still many opportunities to work toward making the highway safer and easier to access.
Brink and Sturrock said the transportation group is no longer lobbying in Washington and will be asking for less funding from the county for 2014. Brink said Discover Southwest Minnesota will be requesting $36,000, and the transportation group will be requesting $6,000 in funding. Commissioners voted to approve the requests.