Updates on Housing Stability Team, Protecting Soil and Groundwater, Homelessness, and, Legislative Interests


Olmsted’s Housing Stability Team Receives and Award

The 2022 Community Service Award was presented to the Olmsted County Housing Stability Team.  The award was presented by the Zumbro Valley Medical Society.  The award recognizes the “outstanding leadership and quantifiable results in elevating the general health of the community.  ZVMS recognized the many ways that the Olmsted County Housing Stability Team serves our community members experiencing “houselessness” – through outreach, transitional housing, and the Empowering Connections and Housing Outreach (ECHO) Center.”

What Olmsted Has Done to Protect Soil Health and Groundwater

  • The county initiated a program to reduce nitrates in the groundwater.  The first phase is to increase the acres using cover crops.  6,598 acres were enrolled in the program and additional acres totaling over 13,000 were added by farmers.  Phase two which will include small grains and alternative crops will begin in 2023 growing season.
  • About 12,000 linear feet of grass waterways were installed to protect top soil from run-off.
  • Water and Sediment Basins were created to hold run-off rain
  • About 3 acres of critical habitat were shaped and seeded to protect from destruction
  • Clean water diversion projects were completed on farm feedlots
  • Manure Management plans were completed for about 4,000 acres
  • $137,901 in project cost sharing was provided to protect soil and water
  • The Greater Zumbro River Watershed Management operated for the first year with a project in Kalmar and Salem Townships.
  • The WinLaC  (Winona, Olmsted, Wabasha, and Huston counties) One Watershed One Plan Partnership was in its third year of operation; funds were used to continue groundwater protection projects in the Root River Watershed.
  • Grade stabilization structures were completed in Orion Township to protect Mill Creek (a designated trout stream)
  • Olmsted continues to monitor watersheds of the four major branches of the Zumbro River to learn how rain events affect water quality of surface water.
  • The Soil and Water division hosted eight outreach events with about 290 attendees; this is in addition to hosting booths at the County Fair, Arbor Day, Earth Fest, and presenting at Community Ed classes.
  • The Second Annual Tree and Native Plant and Seed sale was held; most of the seed and plant materials were planted in the urban area.
  • Soil and Water partnered with the city of Rochester and Eastside neighborhood with the “Lawn 2 Legumes pollinator habitat Program.”

For more information to:  Olmsted Soil & Water Conservation District 2022 Year in Review (arcgis.com)

Homeless and Unsheltered

The County has a long track record of assisting homeless and unsheltered residents.

The gaps that have appeared are because the number of unsheltered has grown faster than the county has been able to resolve each individual case.  Here are some of the steps that the County has taken by year:


The County provided cold weather shelter


The County started to work with the Corporation for Supportive Housing

The City of Rochester and the County supported a shelter in summer


The County developed the Housing Stability Team

The Pandemic Occurred which increased the number of people seeking shelter

The City developed a Day Center at Mayo Civic

The County created isolation space (for homeless diagnosed with Covid)

The County’s Housing and Rehabilitation Authority partnered with a non-profit to create transitional housing.

A duplex was purchased for unsheltered families who are in process of qualifying for permanent housing


The County supported a Year-round shelter

The ECHO Center was opened – this center starts working immediately with residents at the shelter to begin the process of seeking permanent homes


An increase of the number of homeless residents recently released from a hospital was noted. (These are homeless people who were in the hospital and released without a plan for returning to wellness.)

HRA purchased a building at 105 North Broadway

In Cooperation with Mayo and Mayo School of Medicine, Street Medicine was launched

A Community Shelter Workgroup was formed

Currently Numbers experiencing homelessness: (numbers are at given point in time)

400 – the approximate number of students in the Rochester School District

200 – the approximate number of Single Adults

50 – the approximate number of Families

The County is working with the State to insure that Emergency General Assistance is fully funded, developing plans for a warming center that has more room and that can provide a central point for many of the services provided by non-profits, dealing with an increasing demand for housing stability, and trying to resolve the increase number of rental evictions (since the end of the pandemic).

Sheltering the unsheltered and housing the homeless is a Community Effort.  Unfortunately, the County cannot do this alone.  I support the County’s efforts to create a Community workgroup to assist in resolving homeless and unsheltered issues.

What Legislation Am I Watching

  • The State budget surplus is still at $17.5Billion
  • Cannabis Bill: Olmsted is working with other counties to insure that the Legislature provides money to cover increased costs due to legalization.  I am happy that Pubic Health will be included on the cannabis advisory council.
  • Solid Waste (Trash/Garbage) Management: Counties fund most of the costs of dealing with trash.  The State, over the years, has continued to reduce its funding. A bill has been introduced which will restore some State funding.
  • Public Health Emergency Unwinding:  Much administrative work must be done in Public Health and Social Services to return to pre-pandemic services.  Proposed legislation sets out a framework for applications, eligibility, renewals, and terminations of public health and social service programs while continuing medical assistance coverage for children.
  • Election Worker Protection Bill: This bill would prohibit interference with an election official’s ability to conduct an election or intimidation with an intent to influence the official’s performance or duties.
  • Early voting Expansion:  A senate bill proposed to create an 18-day period (including weekends) for early voting prior to a federal, state, or county election.  The proposal would also close early voting at 3PM the day before the election to allow election officials to prepare for Election Day.
  • I am hopeful that this bill will also allow early voters to put ballots directly into the tabulator rather than in an envelope.  I am hopeful that the State will provide adequate funding for the Election Staff to operate the extended time for early voting.
  • Construction Materials Sales Tax Exemption:  This proposed bill could be a significant savings to the county budget.  The former sales tax exemption bill was so onerous that local governments found that it was impractical; this bill is supposed to make the exemption easier.
  • Housing:  Their currently is a $3Billion package for housing:  $1Billion to increase the supply of homes and rehab public housing; $1Billion in one-time money to address current housing challenges; $1Billion in ongoing structural investments including a state-based rental assistance program for families with children and down payment assistance to address the home ownership gap. Another bill which Olmsted supports would provide $210Million annually to all 87 counties via a formula and $60Million to cities with 10,000 or more residents for housing projects.

Other Legislative Action worth watching

  • Both Governor Walz and the GOP have proposals on returning money in the form of checks to taxpayers.
  • Both the Governor and GOP have proposals on exempting Social Security from Minnesota Taxes
  • There are several bill on Child Care
  • Bonding Bills
  • Transportation on Roads and Bridges
  • Re-monumentation of the Public Land Survey System:  Many of the monuments – Section corners, etc., were done a long time ago and the markers have deteriorated or disappeared.  Also, it is known that many of the old markers conflict with current land deeds. This bill would start the process of re-monumentation.
  • Juvenile Detention
  • Probation Reform
  • State Funded Medical Examination for Sexual assault cases
  • Broadband Funding
  • Drainage (Farm Field and ditches) Legislation
  • Possible creation of a Department of Children, Youth and Families
  • Tax Bills

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