Even though the idea wasn't overly popular, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors voted to make some repairs to a county-owned building during the weekly meeting on June 4. At issue was roof repairs on the county's Annex building, located on the corner of Tenth and Broadway, which houses the Palo Alto County Engineer's Offices as well as the St. Patrick's Association Irish Gift Shop.
Earlier this Spring, the rubber membrane covering a portion of the building's roof began to tear away from the roof. After contacting a roofing contractor, an estimate for repairs was received by Palo Alto County Auditor Carmen Moser for repairs to the roof. At the same time, several local contractors had also looked at the building to give their opinions on the structure.
H&S Roofing of Spencer submitted bids of $18,813 to repair half of the roof with a replacement rubber membrane, and $11,000 to replace the other half of the roof with rubber membrane. The roof is in two sections, as the back half of the building is only a single story, as opposed to the front half, which is two stories tall.
One local contractor had advised against making any repairs to the building due to its age. Other suggestions included placing the old membrane back on the roof and weighting it down with concrete block. However, concerns over liability were raised if the membrane were to detach completely from the roof and land in the street.
Other ideas the supervisors have considered over the past couple of weeks have included trying to sell the building, or possibly even demolishing it.
Supervisor Linus Solberg opened the discussion on June 4 about the building by noting he had sent out a letter to 300 of his constituents, explaining the issue and asking for their opinions. According to Solberg, the replies came back 9-to-1 against spending money to repair the roof.
"I'm against fixing it," Solberg said adamantly. "To me, that is the biggest waste of taxpayer money we've made since I joined this board. My constituents are against this."
"But the county has owned that building for 80 years and haven't put any money into it," Auditor Carmen Moser noted.
"I've had people tell me we need to preserve it," Supervisor Jerry Hofstad said.
Palo Alto County Clerk of Court Mary Ellen Munn reminded the board that her office uses one of the vaults located in the Engineer's Office to store court records, which the county is obligated to do by the state judicial branch. "If we didn't have the vault there, we'd have to have someplace else to store records," Munn pointed out.
"I think we have to fix it," stated Board Chair Ron Graettinger. " We can't sell a building with a bad roof if that's what we would decide to do in the future."
"We're just buying time right now by fixing it," agreed Supervisor Keith Wirtz.
Supervisor Ed Noonan moved to accept the H&S Roofing bid for repairs to the building, and after receiving a second to the motion, Graettinger called for a roll-call vote. Hofstad, Wirtz, Noonan and Graettinger voted to repair the roof, with Solberg casting the lone nay vote.
Auditor Carmen Moser then presented the board with a proposal to purchase 12 Precinct Atlas Polling Place systems for the various county and city elections conducted in the county. Earlier in May, a demonstration of the Precinct Atlas system was made to the poll workers and other interested parties.
"I think that our county offices are doing more than some other counties offices are lately, with drainage work and our road bonding," noted Keith Wirtz. "I guess I think if this is something that would help our Auditor's Office with their work, then I'm in favor of it.
The system is comprised of a laptop computer, label printer, barcode scanner and a mouse, with a cost of $919 per system. A total of 12 systems would be required for general elections in the county. The county would not be charged for the Precinct Atlas program, but a charge of $1,500 per year would cover yearly support and equipment maintenance and a charge of .02 cents per registered voter would bring the total cost for 12 systems to $12,660.94.
As part of the purchase, Cerro Gordo County, who developed the program, would install the program on the laptops and would test all of the equipment prior to delivery, and provide training for local workers.
"This will help the precinct workers the most," Moser noted. "It makes sure all voters are treated the same."
Deputy Auditor Robin Jamison noted that in the demonstration of the program in May, the local precinct workers took to the system quickly. "They loved it," Jamison stated.
"Well, I just don't think half of the people in the county should be voting absentee," Ed Noonan stated. "A person goes out to campaign, and people have voted three or four weeks early. That's not right. And, people tell me they are unhappy they can't cast their vote in their hometown on Election Day. If we're going to spend money, why don't we buy more voting machines?"
"This is about the precinct workers, not election machines," Jamison said.
"In Oregon, voters do not go to the polls," County Treasurer Mary Hilfiker stated. "They all cast their ballots absentee. That's a trend that's growing across the country."
After discussing whether to purchase 12 systems or 14, to allow two more machines for city elections, a motion to approve the purchase of 12 systems was made by Wirtz. Graettinger offered a second and on a roll call vote, Graettinger, Wirtz and Solberg voted Aye, with Noonan casting a nay vote. Supervisor Jerry Hofstad was not present for the discussion.
The Board approved the hiring of Margaret Drost as Office Manager for the County Attorney's Office upon the recommendation of County Attorney Lyssa Henderson. Drost has previous experience in the Palo Alto and Emmet County Clerk of Court offices and in the private legal sector.
The supervisors also approved a two-year contract for long-stick excavating for drainage work from Valley Contracting of Estherville. Valley submitted a bid of $54,000 while the current contractor, MichaelSon, Inc.. of Armstrong, bid $54,800 for the service.