The Rice County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution today establishing the offices of County Auditor/Treasurer and County Recorder be appointed rather than elected positions.

The Minnesota Legislature passed a law giving Rice County permission to move forward after a public comment period.

The public comments were received over the past couple of weeks, with just a few people voicing opposition to having the posts be appointed rather than elected.

Rice County Administrator Sara Folsted told commissioners before their vote that if approved, Rice County residents have 60 days to request a referendum vote on the issue, according to state statute.

Commissioners also accepted the Auditor/Treasurer's annual financial report for the year ended December 31, 2016.

In a multi-page cover letter addressed to the "Citizens of Rice County, Rice County Board of Commissioners, County Administrator and interested Agencies and Institutions" County Auditor/Treasurer Fran Windschitl says, "The economic condition and outlook for the County appears to continue to be improving with a 25-year low unemployment rate and a 9-year high new construction level."

Windschitl goes on to report, "Bank deposits were up 6.2% from the prior year and have climbed 36% over the past 10 years. Population increases have averaged .52% per year over the past decade. The three colleges and the State run facilities are major employers in the community, and have helped provide a stabilizing effect on employment."

The Rice County Auditor/Treasurer highlights some upcoming economic development projects like the expansion of Faribault Foods that will have an impact on the county's future tax base and employment.

Windschitl's report states, "Overall new construction is up 35.3% from last year for a total of just over $58.5 million. The last time new construction was at this level was in 2008. Unemployment has continued a pattern of decline, down from it's high of 8.8% percent in 2009 to 3.5% in 2016."

The report also says, "as part of a public safety initiative, the County Board approved hiring three new deputies for the Sheriff's Office and two new dispatchers for 2017."

Rice County Board of Commissioners Meeting July 25, 2017. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld