Board approves placing Freedom Rock outside courthouse

Published 9:09 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved placing a Freedom Rock outside the courthouse, likely on the north side.

Freedom Rocks originated in Iowa by artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II with a large 12-foot-tall boulder in southwest Iowa near the small town of Menlo, Iowa. In 1999, Sorensen painted a simple “thank you” to veterans on the boulder and has continued to honor veterans by donating his time for new murals on this boulder every May for Memorial Day, drawing in people each year to see what he has created. 

To expand this message further, Sorensen felt compelled to do more and set out in hopes of every county in Iowa having a Freedom Rock of their own. He has also painted a handful in Minnesota, including Kasson. 

The project will be paid for with funds collected by the American Legion Riders in Albert Lea and will depict local veterans or themes important to the county. 

The only potential county cost will be for electrical costs for a spotlight shining on the rock, said interim Freeborn County Administrator Jan Fransen. 

Fransen said the rocks often become a tourism destination. 

Representatives from the Legion Riders visited the board’s workshop last week describing more about the project. The group said it had sent a down payment to Sorensen to get on his list for projects, and he would likely not be able to complete the rock until next year or later. 

They said they have already heard a lot of community support for the project and estimated it would cost about $12,000, including Sorensen’s work and travel. 

Second District Commissioner Dan Belshan said he thought the paint on the rock would last longer if covered by a gazebo or some other structure. 

Third District Commissioner John Forman said there were two companies in town who could build a structure and would likely do so at a reduced rate or even free. 

In other action, the board:

• Approved a tentative agreement between the county and the Minnesota Public Employees Association involving the jail programmer unit for 2022-24.

• Voted to fill the vacant county assessor position. 

Human Resources Director Candace Pesch said the board recommends a person to the state and the state ratifies the appointment.

• Approved a grant agreement with Freeborn County Family Services and Children’s Mental Health Collaborative. The agreement has been in place for many years and helps support the county’s home visiting program.

• Approved a retroactive agreement for the Local Collaborative Time Study contract with the Minnesota Department of Human Services. 

Public Health Director Sue Yost said the agreement was retroactive because the paperwork had been sent late by the state.

• Approved an agreement with the city of Clarks Grove for prosecution of petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses. 

County Attorney David Walker said this was the first time it had been done for a city over 600 population. 

He said Glenville will be the last city without a prosecution agreement with the county other than Albert Lea.

• Accepted a reimbursement grant of about $26,000 from the Minnesota Department of Health for COVID-19 testing and mitigation in the jail. 

• Approved tax forfeiture parcels for the 2022 sale. By doing so, the board declared there were no conservation parcels.

• Approved a series of tax abatements for 2022.

• Approved a letter of support for a grant application for Winnebago Cooperative Telecom Association.

• Scheduled a board meeting for 6 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Freeborn County Historical Society during the first day of the Freeborn County Fair. 

• Placed custodian Charles Woolery on regular full-time status.