County officials voice concerns to area legislators

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 25, 2003

Three Mower County area legislators got an earful Saturday morning.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners hosted a roundtable meeting with the trio. Also participating were various county government department heads and other representatives.

State Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, and State Reps. Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, and Jeff Anderson, R-Austin, listened and, county officials hope, learned how concerned local government is about pending state budget cuts impacting their programs and services.

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Richard P. Cummings, 1st District county commissioner, chaired the meeting, with help from commissioners David Hillier, 3rd District, and Dick Lang, 4th District.

Hillier said one of the fears of county officials is the ability to fulfill more than 5,000 state and federal government mandates. If the Minnesota Legislature makes deep budget cuts to relieve a $4.58 billion state budget shortfall, "What's going to happen to all those mandates?"

Hillier said, the counties' lobbying group, the Association of Minnesota Counties, is urging all legislators, "When you're in St. Paul, you can see something that looks good on paper, but, in reality, may not be so good when it becomes law."

Hillier's and the AMC's advice: stop, look and get a second opinion from local government before acting.

From county department heads came more advice.

Margene Gunderson, community health services director, in a letter, said leave the Women, Infants, Children program alone.

Mike Sutherland, Mower County Assessor, asked the legislators to "leave the property tax system alone for a couple of years."

Tom Neilon, director of Mower County Correctional Services, urged support for restorative justice programs and rehabilitation for prisoners.

Nitaya Jandragholica, director of cultural diversity programming and a certified court interpreter, urged support for cultural diversity programs and services. "I'm not talking about illegals. I'm talking about refugees," she said.

Ruth Schmidt, income maintenance supervisor for the Mower County Department of Human Services, urged reform in the delivery of health-care programs and other services.

Carrie Randall, Family Collaborative Services coordinator, and Patrick W. Flanagan, Mower County Attorney, also spoke out about the possible impact of state budget cuts.

Bev Nordby, Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District manager, warned the legislators against impeding the progress made in encouraging conservation practices.

County commissioner Lang urged the DFLer and two Republicans to ignore party politics in order to do the right thing for all Minnesotans.

The legislators ended the roundtable discussion with an invitation to all to contact them with their concerns during the 2003 legislative session.

Lee Bonorden can be reached at 434-2232 or by e-mail at