The Rice County Board of Commissioners held a Committee of the Whole Work Session today in the Commissioner's Room at the Government Services Building in Faribault.  One item was on the agenda with the meeting lasting about 90 minutes.

Environmental Services Director Julie Runkel outlined various specifics located in the preliminary draft of the Comprehensive Plan 2040 and requested input from Commissioners. The County Board along with County Planning Commissioners are members of the Steering Committee in charge of putting the document together.

Runkel got exactly what she asked for, input.  Following previous meetings it was suggested a chapter on sustainability be added.  Commissioner Galen Malecha of Northfield commented, "You know sustainability, global warming, so on and so forth is a lot bigger than what we're kind of even addressing here.  This is a great start but I think we need to go a lot further with the sustainability portion."

For example the draft does encourage more composting in Rice County which prompted Malecha to ask Runkel, "Are we going to start food composting at the landfill?"

Runkel responded, "That's hard to say and actually the solid waste plan will be coming before you in the next couple of months. Certainly we are looking at exploring better ways to get rid of the organics from actually being (in the) landfill.  Putting up a compost site at the landfill though becomes a bit more difficult."

"We've explored that in the past and will continue to explore that," Runkel added, "Certainly the state right now we are really pushing from the solid waste administrators group to have the state (provide) some more funding statewide.  There needs to be more facilities that are available."

Malecha was not pleased with the public input saying, "I don't think we've done a great job of allowing public input and you know it really comes down to, this is the people's plan.  It isn't just us five commissioners.  This is about the people and this is about how they want to see their county shaped for the future.  Not just us five and not the planning and zoning board.  This is about them, the people and somehow we need to do a better job of and unfortunately we are in the middle of a pandemic so how do we do that?"

Commissioner Jeff Docken believes they have given many opportunities for people to give their input asking, "What else would you do Commissioner Malecha that we haven't done? We haven't touched this since (the pandemic) started.  Today is the first meeting that we see this so I don't know what the opportunity would be that you would do.  What would you want to do would be my question that would involve the public more or give them more opportunity to be involved?"

Malecha replied, "So we specifically had those meetings in Northfield, Faribault and Forest Township and I believe that we need to continue. When I don't know because again the pandemic presents limits so I don't even know when you are going to be able to have that meeting.  I do think we need to have public engagement or public input meetings on this plan."

Commissioner Steve Underdahl of Faribault felt there might be too much asked of the municipalities in the plan.  Malecha agreed.

Commissioner Docken commented the sustainability definition was the best he has ever seen.  Commissioner Dave Miller of Faribault agreed.

The document says, "Sustainability focuses on meeting the current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.  The concept of sustainability is composed of three pillars:  economic, environmental and social. Sustainability encourages decisions be framed in terms of environmental, social and human impact for the long-term, rather than on short-term gains."