LS County weathers 2012, looks forward to new year

For Le Sueur County, like many government entities, 2012 was a year of continuous budgeting, working with union groups and weathering health care and insurance costs.

Darrell Pettis, the Le Sueur County Administrator and Engineer, said the biggest challenges for the county came in the form of substantial health care and insurance costs for its employees, as well as the unknowns with the state and government. Add to that the state shutdown and changes in revenues and taxes with the repeal of the Homestead Market Value Credit. At times, it made for a challenging year.

“We’re an entity of the state and have to take what it throws at us, and when it happens,” Pettis said.

He said all of the unknowns from the state have forced the county, like many entities that receive money from the state, to constantly examine their budget. What was once something that was finalized at the end of the year and not revisited for eight months, is now a yearround issue, Pettis said.

So how did the county deal with these issues? Pettis said they cut back some county hours a few years ago, and did not do a lot of hiring in 2012. He said the county has had a rash of retirements, which has helped hold the numbers down for the last couple of years.

He complimented the union group for being realistic in their goals and wants, and said the unknowns have forced all departments to work together.

“We haven’t had to lay off anyone, but we’re not doing a lot of hiring either,” he said.

Pettis added that the county also held off on some capital purchases, such as squad cars, until they wait out what the state is going to do and how the numbers fall.

A big change for the county in 2012 came with the implementation of the federally mandated Allied Radio Matric for Emergency Response (ARMER) system. The system brings the county up to federal 800 mhz requirements that promotes more efficient use of the VHF and UHF land mobile bands. Normally these bands are congested, but with narrowbanding, it frees up more channels.

Pettis said several fire departments in the county have received grants for their upgrades and new equipment. And since its implementation in mid-December, he said the system has been working well.

“It’s pretty stable, and we don’t rely on cell phone towers,” Pettis said. “And we get great coverage.”

In 2013, Pettis said the biggest projects include the completion of the 1.5 miles of reconstruction of the Waterville portion of County Road 14, as well as more seal coating to prolong the roads, as well as the replacement of a couple of bridges.

A big issue, Pettis predicted, will come with water issues in the county, specifically with the lakes and drainage systems countywide.

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