The Brown County Commission met Monday morning and among items discussed was potentially hiring a negotiator to work with any wind farms that may approach Brown County.
Brown County Attorney Kevin Hill presented a resume and letter of interest from attorney James Neeld, who worked as a negotiator for Nemaha County as they created agreements with wind farms. Hill advised the commissioners consider Neeld’s proposal and have a negotiator on hand at such a time wind farms might potentially approach the county.
Commissioner Richard Lehmkuhl emphasized that no wind farm has approached the county in recent months – last discussions were with former commissioner Dwight Kruse when there was a public hearing.
Hill said if the county procured the services of Neeld, it would be as a proactive measure to have him in place if and when discussions would arise again. Lehmkuhl agreed that the transmission lines for the Nemaha County wind farms will go through Brown County when the time comes so negotiations will need to be made.
Commissioner Bill Pollock said he didn’t feel the county needed to retain an attorney for these services, as most residents he talked to weren’t interested in window farms being established in the county. He also expressed concern that a negotiator would work for the wind farms – not in the county’s best interest.
Hill said there was not a retainer fee for Neeld, he would just be readily available to the county at such time they would need his services and bill only for time spent working for the county. Hill also said that if approved by the commission, Neeld would work for the county – not the wind farms – during any potential negotiations. He said Nemaha County officials spoke highly of his services – which do specialize in negotiation with the wind farms. He said the commission could decide to handle negotiations on their own, going “in blind” to discussions with the wind farms, but hit was his advice that utilizing the services of a specialized attorney would be beneficial.
He said from the legal standpoint, they can’t prevent wind farms from establishing in the county, so the best interest of the county would be to have someone with experience represent them in discussions.
“He is only as active as the commission wants him to be,” he said.
Hill provided the commission with a copy of the agreement. The commission decided to table any decision for two weeks, until the March 15 meeting, in order to gather more input from the public and speak further with Nemaha County officials concerning services received from Neeld.
In other business:
* Hiawatha Community Hospital CEO John Broberg provided a monthly hospital update. He said 70-80 percent of the staff has received the COVID-19 vaccine. He also said health officials continue to encourage the use of masks to keep COVID cases low.
He said very few cases of influenza have been seen – this number is low nationwide as well – and he credits the use of masks to keep the spread of influenza low.
Broberg also discussed the hospital’s recruitment efforts to replace three retiring physicians within the next year and a half. He said the hospital has already signed a resident for 2022 and are working on two more to replace retiring physicians Dr. Julie Rosa’, Dr. Pete Rosa and Dr. Bryon Bigham.
Broberg also told the commission the hospital had spent $762,000 of the $2 million bond that was received when they refinanced. Roofing and eave work added up to $111,000, a new CT was $340,000, surgery equipment added $169,000 and funds were also spent for sterilizing and washer, along with equipment for cleaning washers.
* The commission voted to approve Resolution 2021-7, extending the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Resolution for 60 days.
* The commission voted to extend the bid opening for tubes and bands for one week due to the fact that an e-mail was not received on the bid specifications.
* Brown County Clerk, Dawn Boyles, presented the annual township and cemetery reports for the commission’s review with the exception of Powhattan Township. The commission voted to approve the reports as presented.
* District 2 Foreman, Jerry Hisle, reported on the culvert replacement due to the storms of 2019 and the FEMA funding requirements.
* Dean Tollefson, Brown County resident, discussed that there is a gentleman researching the history of Willis.
* Hay bids for the Transfer Station’s approximately 60 acres of brome hay ground were as follows: Troy Kolb with a bid of $1,875 total and Compton Brothers with a bid of $2,250. The commission voted to accept the bid of $2,250 by the Compton Brothers.
* Larry Alsup, Allied Business Solutions CEO, visited with the commission about the telecommunication audit services Allied Business Solutions has to offer. Alsup will send more information for the commission to review.
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