Four New County Commissioners.
- Spent a lot of time orienting new commissioners to all of the areas of county responsibilities.
Public Health Care Insurance Renewals
- After the pandemic the Federal Government required that everyone receiving assistance had to reapply.
- We reviewed Over 40,000 families and individuals to comply and make sure that no one had a gap in their insurance coverage.
Best Place to Work
- Recognized by Workforce Development as one of the Best Places to work in SE Minnesota.
- Our pay scale and benefit package is excellent.
- Last year the entry level wages were raised significantly.
New Nature Center Opened.
- Education about our natural world.
- The most visited venue in Olmsted County.
- A great place for kids to explore and learn and families to gather.
Awarded $23 Million for Capital Improvements by the State Legislature
- $10million for the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)
- $8million for Graham Park Exhibition Center
- $5million for the Highway 14/Country Road 44 Intersection.
Opioid Settlement Funds
- Awarded $7.2million over the next 18 years
- Short term focus
- Improved access to Naloxone
- connect people to recovery programs
- harm reduction
- education prevention.
Diversity Equity and Community Outreach Team
- The Community Outreach team was expanded (3 funded by Olmsted, 1 funded by the City).
- This is a very successful program by responding to community 911 calls that do not need a police officer.
- This reduces people being brought to jail and entering the justice system by providing emotional and behavioral intervention and follow up.
Public Health Re-accreditation
- Olmsted Public Health received a 5-year re-accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board.
- Olmsted County is one of the few counties in Minnesota that can demonstrate that we meet and exceed National Standards for Public Health.
Expanded Justice Tower Services
- Renovations in the Government Center 4th and 5th Floors were completed to meet the growing need for Court Rooms and Court Services, Jury rooms.
- This includes space for the Dodge/Olmsted Community Corrections Program.
Regional Public Safety Training
- Construction began on a 17,500 Regional Public Safety Training Center and is expected to be completed in Fall 2024.
- This is a facility for all public safety personal and will have space for several training to take place simultaneously in indoor classrooms.
- It will also provide space for emergency response departments to coordinate services in the event of a natural disasters.
Drinking Water Protection
- Soil Water Conservation District continued its efforts to protect groundwater through programs to reduce the use of nitrates.
- We started this program with $3million but added another $2Million.
- Currently, about 7,000 acres are enrolled in this program. We will add more acres in 2024 and 2025.
- I expect these funds will run out in 2025.
- Because of the success of these programs and the danger of nitrates seeping into the groundwater, I am hoping either the State or Federal programs will pick up the funding so that we can continue this very successful program.
- We dedicated 2 social workers to work with schools to resolve homeless issues for students and their families.
- We know that creating a stable home is one of the keys to successful educational outcomes.
- We bought a building to house up to 12 families, it will be operated by Family Promise Rochester. Case management and other supports will be provided to get the families stable so they can transition back into the community.
- Throughout 2023 Olmsted has been consulting with Community Partners to develop the strategies that will guide the county over the next four years.
- Innovative solution, high quality service and compassionate care have been the hallmark of Olmsted County. I will continue to support programs and services to continue this legacy.
A Look Ahead to 2024
- Start Construction on Interchange at Highway 14/County Road 44 and improvements to County roads 3 and 5 intersections.
- Received $5million funding from Minnesota Housing to build low-income senior housing. This will be a 46-unit facility on Mayowood Road. This will be developed and operated by the Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
- Start construction on the Materials Recovery Facility.
At the Legislature
In addition to the Capital Improvement Bond requests, Olmsted County will be working on:
- Redesign of the Department of Human Services (DHS)
- Working on Legislation to create secure facilities to treat individuals with Acute and Chronic Mental Illnesses. And providing more services for mental illness.
- Working to create facilities that will provide secure facilities that will assist youth with severe behavioral issues through compassionate program so that the youth can return to the community and engage in productive living.
Capital Improvement Funds requested of the Minnesota Legislature.
- $12.5 million Capital Improvements to Graham Park that will transform the space into useable function for Olmsted County residents. A place community and cultural connections to take place.
- $1.5 million An improvement to Lake Zumbro Park that will bring it up to a County Park Standard and allow for expanded use of fishing at an upgraded pier, picnic space, small craft launching, bathroom facilities, and ADA accessible standards.
- Environmental Stewardship. 17.4 million for Further improvement for the Waste to Energy facility.
- Increase the Reuse facility
- Reduce the amount of trash that goes into the combustion chamber
- Recover more material that can be sold and recycled into new products.
Set the stage for the Next Generation Green Energy
- organics make up about 20% of the load. The organics then become a usable resource to create another form of green energy (biogas) and fertilizer.
- eliminating the carbon through reduction or capture.
- And we are setting the stage for the Next Generation Green Energy by putting in place the infrastructure that will be needed for Hydrogen Production and Storage.
Environmental Task Force
- Environmental task Forces with knowledgeable experts will begin. First up will be the design of the community use of the Reuse, Recycle, and Reduce facility to efficiently accommodate businesses and individuals who bring their own trash to the Waste to Energy facility.
- This is the first of many task forces that the County will employ to make the environment better.
- I expect that we will learn a lot from the first task force.
- Future task forces will supply information and technical knowledge that will allow the County to achieve carbon reduction and the production of Green Energy.
Improving the Environment with Biochar
Biochar is a specialized form of charcoal produced by pyrolysis which is a controlled burning process. This produces a form of carbon which can sequester carbon and prevents the emission of CO2 and CH4 (methane) into the atmosphere. The biochar product can be used to supplement poor soil and improve water quality. Biochar promotes microbial growth in soil. It binds with nitrogen, phosphorous, ad other nutrients; these qualities make it a useful tool to improve rop yields, reduce water usage, and reduce fertilizer use and helps to prevent fertilizer runoff.
Biochar can be used to reduce Olmsted’s emissions and carbon footprint. It is estimated that biochar could capture 66,000 tons of CO2. (This is just from wood waste.) This is CO2 that would not be released into the atmosphere. This carbon capture would help offset other carbon releasing sources such as internal combustion engines. In addition, Biochar can also be used to purify stormwater runoff, feedlot runoff, and retention pond water.
I support the county’s investigation into biochar production as one more additional too to create climate sustainability and to protect our water.
Olmsted received assistance from Minnesota Housing to build a low-income senior project. This is a $13 million building with 36 units. It will be built on Mayowood Road.
Also, the Olmsted County HRA Board will make a decision in February to move forward with a decision to buy the Old Town Estates building. This will be used for single room housing for low-income persons. Some units will be preserved for low-income people recovering from medical procedures, and some units will be reserved for 18-22 year old low-income clients.
The Old Town Estates, if purchased will not be fully operational until the current leases expire in mid-2025. All current residents will be allowed to continue living at the site.
The addition of Old Town Estates, the Mayowood senior housing project, and the family housing building that was purchased in 2023 will greatly help to reduce the homeless population in Olmsted County.
Absentee Voting Begins for the 2024 Presidential Primary
Absentee voting for the 2024 presidential primary starts Friday, January 19 and ends March 4. (March 5 is the election day for the primary). Olmsted County follows all the state laws pertaining to elections; more information and answers can be found on the Minnesota Secretary of State website.
Voters can apply for an absentee ballot online.
Please know that voters can also vote absentee in person at the Elections Office starting January 19.