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Advocates of 4-H encourage use of county fairgrounds

Advocates for Freeborn County 4-H’ers on Tuesday spoke in favor of having an in-person showcase for students open to spectators in August at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds.

Lisa Dierks, regional director for University of Minnesota Extension, said in front of the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners that the Extension office would first be in favor of 4-H shows at the Freeborn County Fair, but if the fair is not happening, it would next be in favor of an in-person showcase with spectators.

She said safety protocols would be in place, and staff and volunteers would figure out how many people would be allowed in each building using a guideline calculator.

The discussion comes as the county board considers whether to have the Freeborn County Fair this year amidst COVID-19 restrictions.

Last year, the 4-H’ers participated in non traditional livestock shows in an outdoor arena, with all participants, family members, staff and volunteers required to wear face masks. Families were expected to bring their trailers into the fairgrounds, showcase their animals and then leave once their shows were complete. Youth moving on to the state fair showcased their livestock via a virtual platform.

Dierks said this year, so far, Ramsey County is the only county she has heard of that is not having a county fair at this point.

Matt Benda, a 4-H parent from the Twin Lakes 4-H Club, said Freeborn County’s 4-H program was started in 1922 and has been a long tradition that many are proud of.

Dierks and Benda requested the county board vote during its May 4 meeting to approve opening the fairgrounds for the 4-H program from Aug. 2 through Aug. 8, including spectators and visitors. These are the same dates for which the fair has been scheduled.

They said the decision needs to be made to allow families to plan and to allow time to line up judges.

In other action, the county board:

• Approved a contract with the Minnesota Department of Corrections for renewal of the two-year contract for the Sentence to Service crew leader.

Lyndon Stynson, director of the Probation and Pretrial Services Department, said under the contract, the county would pay 75% of the cost — or about $152,000 — while the Department of Corrections would pay the other 25%. The cost includes not only the crew leader’s salary, but also benefits, liability coverage, the van that is used for the program and tools.

Stinson said the crew typically gives about 6,000 hours per year to the community, providing services to the Freeborn County Fair, the vaccine clinic, the highway department and the environmental services department, among others.

• Approved a grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Health for COVID-19 vaccine implementation and response for $344,225. The grant will be for COVID response through Dec. 31, for things such as implementing activities as needed to prevent and respond to COVID-19.

• Approved a conditional use permit for Winnebago Cooperative Telecom Association to place fiber optics within the county right-of-way west of Albert Lea, connecting Conger, Alden and Albert Lea along Freeborn County Road 46 and 6660th Avenue.

• Approved a conditional use permit for Tony Mudra to construct a new 26,000-bushel grain bin in Freeman Township.

• Approved a conditional use permit for David Malakowsky to construct a new holding bin, grain dryer and grain bin in Freeborn Township.

• Approved the elimination of the training and compliance sergeant position in the Freeborn County jail and revising the existing detention deputy position job description to accommodate some of the duties.

Sheriff Kurt Freitag said some of the duties include assisting in training new staff and noted that the change was vetted through a consultant and deemed appropriate.

• Approved repairs for county ditches 23 and 15.

• Awarded the contract for repairs to county ditch J9.

• Amended the sales price to $1 for tax forfeited property in Hollandale.

• Approved placing Holli Mayer, assistant county attorney on regular full-time status.

• Accepted the resignation of Scott Sorenson, effective June 25, and voted to fill the position. Sorenson has been with the county since 1983.