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County faces stiff OSHA fine

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently audited Lake County and found violations in the Lake County Highway Department and others to a tune of $11,250 in fines.

They ranged from lack of safety measures like inadequate railings in work spaces, bad electrical outlets, and lighting problems.

Since then, the county has either fixed or abated the problems and is hoping to get a reduced punishment. At an informal hearing, the county was given two options.

One would be for a 50-percent reduction in the fines. They could pay it and simply move on.

The other option involves a 40-percent reduction in fines with the possibility of reducing it another 75 percent if workers compensation complaints go down by 25 percent over the next year.

In 2009, there were 18 workers compensation complaints. County Coordinator Matt Huddleston said at a Tuesday county board meeting that he thought the county could reduce complaints. He also said he didn't necessarily see a correlation between the OSHA violations and workers comp complaints.

Huddleston recommended going with the 50-percent discount.

Commissioner Tom Clifford said it may be a good idea to go with the 40-percent.

"I kind of like this challenge," he said. He said it forces workers to be safer and saw it as an educational opportunity.

Commissioner Brad Jones recommended going with the 50-percent reduction, with the encouragement of reducing workers comp complaints. Jones doesn't want to deter people from complaining.

No formal action was taken at the meeting Tuesday on what might be done.

Broadband pause

The board voted to suspend its contract with National Public Broadband until the funding application process continues for the proposed county-wide broadband project. It was meant to stave off any payments during a lull in the application process.

National Public Broadband is working on becoming a tax-exempt organization as well. If they were approved as non-profit, they could possibly provide municipal services at the lowest possible cost.

Antennas up

The county is looking at different areas where it can put towers for the new Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response radio dispatch system. Some of the locations could be remote.

The Federal Communications Commission has mandates that state regions have to switch from wideband to narrowband radios, which means new equipment would need to be purchased. All emergency vehicles would need to be compliant with the new system. The system could cost the county about $2.5 million over 10 years, and there are hopes that it will not be completely funded by the county. Cities are being looked at for funding as well as grant opportunities.

The system will have to be narrowband compliant which means the county must either go with the state's choice of ARMER , or some other kind of system.

Helping homes

The Lake County/Cook County's application for a Minnesota Small Cities Development Program grant for $355,200 to rehabilitate 16 owner-occupied homes in the area has been approved.

The Lake and Cook housing program has a deferred loan program within the two-county service area. If a person qualifies, they may receive a deferred loan. It doesn't have to be repaid unless you sell, transfer title or move from the property within 10 years.

Total gross annual income must not exceed eligible amounts based upon number of household occupants, which includes income from all members of your household who are 18 years of age and older.

The building must be a permanent structure. Manufactured homes are not eligible unless they are taxed as real property. It will also help if the property is in an area targeted for improvements.