Mower Co. candidates share views on issues affecting the county

Published 8:05 am Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The second portion of Tuesday’s Mower County Candidates Forum also presented the public with additional information for those running for two county commissioner seats.

Incumbent Jerry Reinartz and challenger Penra Grimley, both of whom are seeking to represent District 3, discussed the need for conservatively saving money for Mower County taxpayers.

One of the major talking points included the shortage of treatment facilities for individuals with mental illnesses. After the Minnesota Legislature agreed to use state dollars to offset the lost federal funding for the following year until the end of April 2019, the cost would then have to be taken upon by individual counties once this timeframe ends.

Email newsletter signup

Reinartz stated that this cost shift would ultimately come back to place additional tax burdens on Mower County residents, seeing an increase in taxes and that there’s still a significant need for funding in health services.

“This is a constant thing,” he said. “$330,000 was cut from Health and Human Services and this put a big bump in our budget. It’s an unending problem.”

Grimley agreed, stating that from her experiences of working with the Mower County Health and Human Services, she had seen additional expenses placed on transporting individuals to far places because there was a shortage of mental health beds and facilities in Minnesota.

“We need to be getting them the services they need,” she said. “We should be making steering committees to help us focus in on what we can do.”

District 4 incumbent Tony Bennett and challenger Jeff Baldus, were asked on the state of roads and maintenance for Mower County and how they would go about addressing the needs to repair them, and whether to revert some of the blacktop roads to gravel.

“Roads have been a pain,” Bennett said. “We have 400 miles of paved roads, but the cost of petroleum has increased and it’s more expensive now than what it was a long time ago. We have wind projects where we put those funds toward roads and bridges, and we should be seeing some improvements within the next couple months and years.”

“Having safe roads and bridges are really important and essential for our county,” Baldus added. “Our farmers, businesses have to move product around state roads and bridges that are safe.”

Both Grimley and Baldus brought up term limits for county board, and wanted to bring newer people into office to offer additional perspectives in making decisions for Mower County.

“It’s time for a change,” Baldus said. “It’s time to get someone new on the board. I’m a conservative individual and I’m OK with asking questions of ‘why’ and making tough decisions.”

Grimley expressed that she wanted to change meeting times for the Mower County Board because many members of the public weren’t able to attend day meetings because of scheduling conflicts with work.

“I’ve had to take some paid-time off for some budget meetings,” she said. “I want us to start meeting outside of normal business hours and provide access to everyone.”

However, Reinartz explained that there wasn’t a “demand” for meetings to go beyond normal business hours and that he had always seen the county hold sessions during the mornings even prior to him joining the Mower County Board.

“There is no difference in results for night meetings,” Reinartz said. “If there was a demand, I wouldn’t argue and would go along with that. But, there is no demand.”