It was a packed house in the meeting chambers Tuesday morning, as the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners met and were joined by dozens of citizens who were in attendance to show support for the consideration of a resolution declaring Sherburne County a 2nd Amendment sanctuary.
The board started the meeting with an open forum session, during which a maximum of five residents are allowed to address the board for up to three minutes each.
The first speaker, Jim Newberger, asked that Chair Raeanne Danielowski amend the rules to permit more than five speakers, as long as the 15 minute total time limit was not exceeded.
Danielowski agreed to the request and Newberger went on to name a list of area legislators who support the second amendment resolution before yielding the microphone to Jim Bonin.
Bonin, who serves as the leader of the Sherburne 2A Defenders, asked the board to add the resolution to an upcoming meeting agenda and to pass it as soon as possible.
Several additional speakers addressed the commissioners, proclaiming the importance of the Constitution, before Big Lake City Councilman Paul Seefeld spoke about the Veterans in the room and the oath they have taken to uphold the Constitution. He also asserted that two townships have taken a stance in favor of the resolution and he hopes that there are cities that will be joining the effort in the near future.
Wendy Nelson spoke about her experience in traveling to the Metro area to take a class in order to receive her permit to carry. At that class, she said she learned that the reason the rioting didn’t spill over last summer into North Minneapolis is because the community formed a local militia, who patrolled the streets and protected their families and businesses via their 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms. She urged the commissioners to “think deeply” about the resolution and what it would mean for Sherburne County residents.
Two other speakers, including Dennis Smith of Big Lake, spoke of their efforts in collecting a total of over 1,300 signatures in support of the initiative.
With that, the fifteen minutes was over and Danielowski thanked the attendees for their thoughtfulness and respectfulness in sharing their concerns.
For many months, the county has been collecting data and looking at safety improvements along the Co. Rd. 20 corridor, specifically where it intersects with Co. Rd. 3.
Two different speed studies have been done, following MnDOT requirements, and signage has been added, along with rumble strips and highly reflective markers.
County Administrator Bruce Messelt has worked with several county departments, as well as Commissioner Felix Schmiesing and local citizens and Palmer Twp. officials, all of whom have concerns about the safety of the rural intersections.
The result was a proposal from Messelt to conduct a pilot program study at the intersection by adding LED lighted stop signs and working on a policy for the county to be able to address similar intersections.
An analysis of statewide data has allowed Sherburne to move ahead with improvements, but Messelt felt that having local data could be important and would reflect local driver behavior.
In addition, the pilot program would look at enhanced traffic controls such as dynamic speed signs and the role they can play in helping to control speed on certain county roads.
Public Works Director spoke in support of the study, noting it would allow his staff the opportunity to develop the policy as they collect data.
The initial costs of the project would be in the range of $15,000 and the commissioners agreed it would be money well spent.
Schmiesing made a motion in favor of the project, noting that while data is important, sometimes community input needs to also factor into the equation.
All five commissioners voted in favor of the pilot project.
Human Resources Director Tammy Bigelow spoke to the board regarding the upcoming performance evaluation for Messelt, seeking input into the process and timing.
Current practice includes gathering multi-rater feedback from department heads and other personnel, along with Messelt’s self-evaluation (referred to as a 360 degree review).
Schmiesing felt it important for the board to have on retainer an outside employment attorney to guide the board and answer questions if any arose during the review process. He felt it would put the County Attorney in an awkward position if she were to get stuck in the middle of any issues because of her close relationship working with both the commissioners and Messelt.
Commissioner Tim Dolan sought clarification from Schmiesing about the plan, asking if the outside counsel would simply be a contingency plan in case something did arise. He also noted that Messelt’s contract currently calls for agreement if any changes to the review process are to be implemented.
Schmiesing replied that the outside counsel may never be used, but the board should have plans in place before the process begins and it had nothing to do with County Attorney Kathleen Heaney’s qualifications. He stated he didn’t want to put either she or Messelt in an uncomfortable situation, a stance that was echoed by Commissioner Lisa Fobbe.
Messelt was asked about his comfort level about the changes and he said he will review the contract and can work with Chair Danielowksi on agreement for the details.
“Whatever the board wants, we will make work,” Messelt said.
The commissioners set the date for the review to coincide with the August 17 meeting.
Assistant Administrator Dan Weber presented a business relief program to the board that spells out guidelines for distributing some of the county’s ARPA funds.
The program will call for a $20,000 max grant to affected businesses who can show a significant revenue loss comparing the first half of 2019 to the same period in 2021.
Sole proprietorships will have a $10,000 limit and will use data from the same period when applying for the relief.
At the urging of Dolan, the board also directed Weber to look at a livable wage requirement for businesses, something the county already uses in its tax abatement application.