3/29/2013 10:11:00 AM County board hears about 4-H program
By Paul Martin
With over 600 young members, and 274 screened volunteers, the Goodhue County 4-H program is the largest in Minnesota outside the metro area, Coordinator Mamie Luhmann told Goodhue County Board in her annual report on March 19. Luhmann came to the post in June 2012 from six years as Wabasha County Coordinator, and was for 13 years a student member when growing up in Goodhue County.
4-H -Head, Heart, Hands and Health - is best known for teaching skills in farming and homemaking. This side of 4-H continues to be strong. "Our General Livestock Judging Team finished 2nd in the State, and 10th nationally," said Luhmann with pride. "Any child can benefit. Numbers are now about 50% urban, 50% rural." Many take part in a national initiative to explore science, technology, engineering and math. "One great program is underwater robotics," she explained. "Kids use robots to do real life stream sampling for water quality."
2013 Goals are to increase partner programming (for example with the YMCA), to tackle recruitment and retention, and to develop funds. "We want to know why some kids leave before graduation," said Luhmann, "and figure out how to meet their needs better."
Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy
4-H in Minnesota is part of the University of Minnesota Extension, which continues its work of education and research in agriculture and other fields. Ruthanne Koski works as a Community Nutrition Educator in Goodhue County. "I teach kids healthy nutrition in schools where over 50% qualify for free lunches," she told the Board. Among these are the Special Education schools for K-6 students in Wastedo and River View for 7th-12th graders in Cannon Falls, and also Maginnis High School, which is part of the Red Wing Correctional Facility.
Koski also teaches healthy eating to Seniors, for instance at Lake Pepin Plaza in Lake City, Zumbrota Towers in Zumbrota, and the Pine Island Senior Center. Koski also runs "Reality Bites" in Red Wing, a program that teaches kids who are graduating out of foster care how to run a budget, cook for themselves and become independent.
Also active in Goodhue County is the Master Gardener program, which now has over 30 active volunteers.
The Extension offers free help on household and food questions by calling its Answerline at 1-800-854-1678, and free expert help on farming from its Farm Information Line 1-800-232-9077. Both lines can also be accessed by visiting its website http://www.extension.umn.edu.
Mining Committee to Safeguard Local Aggregate Mines
Land Use Management Director Lisa Hanni updated the Board on the progress of the Mining Committee, which was formed to regulate industrial-size "frac" sand mining in the County. "Most of the 'heavy lifting' was done last year," said Hanni, "so we are now working on details, and trying to influence regulation at the State level."
An important part of the revisions proposed for the ordinance is a 1,000-feet setback from properties for new and extended mines. This can be reduced to the current 300 feet with the owner's agreement. Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel voiced concerns from local aggregate quarry owners. "They want to know if they will be able to extend their pits," he said. "It is important that we allow for aggregate mining within the county. Otherwise, road repair costs will rise a lot, especially for the Townships." Hanni agreed to invite mineowners in to talk with the Committee, starting with a meeting scheduled for Zumbrota in April.
Hanni noted that many at state level recognize that a large share of the good drafting of controls is coming from Goodhue County. Rechtzigel agreed, and said "Our point to the State is that we need you to do the technical work that we don't have the resources to do."
Lake Byllesby Land Transfer
Public Works Director Greg Isakson informed the Board that agreement has been reached with Dakota County to transfer ownership of some County land around the Lake Byllesby Dam to them. Goodhue County's 40% stake in the dam was sold in 2011 to Dakota County for $1. In return, Dakota County will do all the upgrades required by tough new Federal regulations, and receive all future revenue from electricity generation.
"Phase 1 of the work will be just downstream from the dam, and will be done by midsummer," said Isakson. "Phase 2 will be installing new gates. That will take all winter. The final Phase 3 in 2014 will be to excavate material that has gathered behind the dam. We will have to relocate our fishing pier at the County Park. When we have done so, it will be the best fishing spot on Lake Byllesby!" Isakson explained that the transfer is just about ownership. The County line will not move, and, since this is County land, it is non-taxable.
Hanni and County Attorney Steve Betcher explained that the reason for the transfer is that, without it, there is no way Goodhue County can avoid liability in the event of a problem with the dam. Further, there is no way to buy insurance against such claims.
The area will also see the building this summer of a 190-foot footbridge just below the dam. The bridge will carry the new Mill Towns Trail over the river into the Dakota County Park. The Trail will leave Cannon Falls along the south bank of the Cannon River, and is planned to reach Faribault once complete. There will then be a continuous foot, bike and ski trail from Red Wing to Mankato.