Mongeau wraps up term with ‘State of the County’ remarks

clay county commission

Judge Jade Rosendahl (foreground) administers the oath of office to newly elected or reelected county officers. From left, Commissioner Kevin Campbell, Commissioner Jenny Mongeau, Sheriff Mark Empting, County Engineer Justin Sorum, Commissioner Paul Krabbenhoft and County Attorney Brian Melton. (Photo/Nancy Hanson.)

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

The Clay County Commission kicked off the new year Tuesday with oaths of office for officials who won election in November and their selection of Frank Gross to chair the board and David Ebinger to serve as its vice chair in 2023. The highlight, though, was the annual State of the County address delivered by outgoing chair Jenny Mongeau.

Mongeau, who has served on the commission since 2015, described the past 12 months as a time of continual change, challenge, opportunity and growth. “While dealing with the ongoing remnants of COVID-19 and workforce challenges, there have also been opportunities like record low unemployment, recruitment of additional child-care providers, and county facility upgrades,” she said. “Clay County remains dedicated to meeting the growing demand for services.”

She highlighted that growing demand in a review of the county’s many offices and services. As an example, she cited the County Recorder’s Office implementing a new parcel management programs to increase the efficiency and consistency of recording real estate transaction. The office’s management of birth, death and marriage records, she added, will have added importance as residents apply for REAL IDs before the deadline of May 2025.

Noting a decrease in the number of recorded property sales by the Assessor’s Office, she pointed out that sales prices remained strong for agricultural acreage and both rural and urban residential properties. The Planning and Zoning Department issued 166 building permits, 29 use permits, 13 variances, 30 minor subdivisions and one major subdivision during the same period.

Clay County also adopted the 2045 Comprehensive and Transportation plan during 2022, intended to guide land use and development in the county for the next 20 years. “The plan highlights the value that Clay County places on its existing rural and agricultural character,” Mongeau said, “while ensuring a thoughtful, balanced approach to growth and development.” She added, “It recognizes the importance of our agricultural and natural resources while looking for new opportunities to support economic vitality.”

The commission chair pointed out the continued attention paid by Public Health to all infectious diseases, including coronavirus. In the third year of the pandemic, the department provided 1,674 primary vaccine series and boosters for COVID-19 and distributed 10,000 test kits. The department also partnered with school districts across the county in support of student peer suicide prevention programs.

The 16-bed Clay County Substance Use Crisis Center (formerly known as the detox center) served more than 1,300 clients from Clay and 31 other counties. Applauding the $5 million grant secured from the state of Minnesota for a new substance use crisis center with twice as many beds, she noted that ground will be broken in May 2023. Completion is scheduled for 2024.

At the commission’s previous meeting, they learned the County Auditor/Treasurer’s Office received the audit findings from the State Auditor’s Office — an “unqualified opinion” of the county’s financial statements. “This unqualified opinion confirms that Clay County’s financial statements conform to all applicable accounting standards,” she said.

She noted that the new Resource Recovery Center, long in the planning and construction, is scheduled to open to the public Feb. 6, replacing the current transfer station and providing both a covered citizen drop-off and expanded household hazardous waste department. Its completion will be celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house Jan. 31.

After detailing progress in the rest of the long list of county offices, Mongeau concluded, “Lastly, I would like to acknowledge and extend appreciation for the amazing ongoing work of all our county employees.” More than 620 men and women currently work for Clay County. “You are the ones doing the hard work,” she continued, “being the face of the county, and carrying out the strategic vision of this board. We appreciate you so much.” Newly elected Commissioner Paul Krabbenhoft signs the oath of office. 

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