County commissioner candidate: Concentrate on core services

Published 7:51 pm Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Incumbent Freeborn County District 2 Commissioner Dan Belshan believes county taxes are too high.

Dan Belshan

“I’d like to concentrate on our core services — public health and human services, public safety and transportation, roads and bridges — cut non-beneficial, non-mandated services, take a close look at needs and wants, and go by hard facts, not feelings,” he said. “The county cannot continue to fund all the non-mandated services it has in the past.” 

Belshan called for the county to take a financially prudent approach and fund fewer budget requests.

“County commissioners are the county’s key policymakers,” he said. “It is our job to oversee the county’s management and administration, take part in long-range planning and manage the county budget and finances. If we abdicate our responsibilities and do not look carefully at each issue and resolution, we are not doing our job.”

Belshan said he is “constantly looking for ways to save (the) county money.”

“Some ways have been made easier by technology,” he said. “Instead of sending a group of employees to casinos and resorts for training and certification, we can use in-house audio/video conferencing, the internet, FaceTime and Skype, resulting in savings in lost work hours and travel, hotel and meal reimbursements.”

Belshan called for every county department to cut its spending by 1 percent.

“We have been warned that we will have double-digit levy increases in the future if we don’t start cutting,” he said.

He said the county needs to check on wheelchair handicap accessibility in first-floor, southeast restrooms and possibly upgrade power-assist doors and signage.

To Belshan, traffic needs to be slowed for Oakland residents and Oakland Baptist Church School children in Oakland.

“The speed through Oakland on Freeborn County Road 34 increased when the railroad removed stop signs,” he said.

Belshan credited the city of Glenville’s Economic Development Authority for awarding $2,000 to three growing businesses in Glenville.

“It shows that we don’t need a huge bureaucracy to attract young people to the community,” he said.

A Glenville-area farmer, Belshan, 63, is seeking his sixth term on the board. He is squaring off against Ken Osmonson. Belshan was first elected in 1998.

 

Mayo Clinic Health System’s transition of most inpatient services to Austin

To Belshan, Mayo Clinic Health System’s transition of most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin “is not positive for the health care and economic growth of Albert Lea and Freeborn County.”

Belshan questioned who would want to live in Freeborn County without a full-service, acute-care hospital.

“The county’s role is not to build another hospital, but to facilitate cooperation between providers and the community,” he said. “Commissioners are the Community Health Board. We can request from the state less regulation and more tax incentives for providers and workers, to retain full-service health care for the good of the community.”

 

Transportation

In lieu of Freeborn County facing a $5 million yearly transportation funding shortfall through 2025, Belshan said Freeborn County needs to keep up with the city of Albert Lea and the state of Minnesota on crack-filling and chip sealing to preserve roads.

“Our county gravel roads are class 5 gravel — sand with little gravel — and in poor shape, rather than class 2 — with limestone fines and rock,” he said. “Class 2 has been proven by townships to be cost-effective over time and gives a better road.”

To Belshan, the county needs to cut unmandated services that do not have financial benefits to the county after it increased the gravel budget and added wheelage and sales taxes for transportation.

“Put those dollars into repairs and maintenance, and continue to press the state of Minnesota for more outstate funding,” he said. “We should continue to hire summer part-time help and institute a better training program. We could also share engineers and staff as other counties have done, and use savings in salaries toward roads.”

 

County strengths

To Belshan, the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office is good at patrolling and keeping the county safe.

“Our new administration is looking for ways to make the county more efficient,” he said. “The county drainage ditch systems are self-funded totally by landowners in each system, without using any other money, and are functioning well in spite of several years of heavy rains.”

Belshan said the Public Health Department does well at educating young families on nutrition, health and safety and conducting vaccinations and school health screenings.

 

County weaknesses

Belshan suggested replacing employee overtime hours with paid time off.

“We need to do a better job of maintaining county roads, which are the arteries of commerce,” he said. “In spite of an added $1.8 million in wheelage and transportation taxes, we are not doing normal maintenance to preserve roads, such as crack filling, chip sealing and using class 2 gravel.”

To Belshan, those are “cost-saving measures in the long run.”

“Highway Department management also needs to improve communication and cooperation with the public,” he said.

 

ICE contract

To Belshan, the contract Freeborn County has to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees is a plus and should be continued.

 

Freeborn County attracting employees

For Freeborn County as an employer to attract and retain employees, Belshan said “we need to have a good working environment with open communication between management and employees.”

“Staff should be encouraged to express ideas and give solutions,” he said.

To Belshan, younger employees value quality of life indicators as much as wages and change jobs more frequently than older people.

 

Continuing improved communication between county, city boards

Belshan said he “was instrumental in forming the resource-sharing committee with the city of Albert Lea, and am on that committee.”

“We met infrequently when there were few issues,” he said. “Recently, health care and the location of a new fire station have caused more discussions, so I think when we set our calendars for 2019, we should include at least quarterly resource sharing committee meetings.”

 

Belshan’s greatest asset and motivation for running

To Belshan, he listens to constituents, returns calls, is open-minded and does research to find solutions. He said he is accessible by phone, email or from his website.

“I’m not afraid to ask tough questions and look for common-sense answers,” he said.

Belshan said he is running for re-election because “many constituents encouraged me to seek re-election, and I have the time and energy to continue to serve. I enjoy solving problems and helping people.”

 

District 2 Freeborn County Commissioner Dan Belshan is facing challenger Ken Osmonson for the seat. See Osmonson’s Tribune election profile here.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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