Wright County gets ready for big election effort

On Nov. 6, tens of thousands of Wright County residents will head to the polls and cast their ballots for the 2012 elections.
The intention is that the process will only take a few minutes and their civic duty will be completed in a short period of time. However, getting things to run smoothly during Election Day has been months in the making process at the Wright County Courthouse.
Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala has been spending the last few weeks finalizing what is going to be a massive undertaking on election day because, while citizens head to their local polling place, his office is overseeing the entire county’s election requirements, which is more than meets the eye.
“We have 41 precincts in Wright County and 77 unique ballots,” Hiivala said. “There are several individual factors that go into each ballot that include everything from the presidential election to elections for school districts and hospital boards. Each precinct has to have its own ballots and many of them have to have more than one depending on where within that precinct someone lives.”
Hiivala said that more than 500 people will be involved in the election process. In Monticello, for example, he said 24 workers will oversee the polls, which open at 7 a.m. and don’t close until 8 p.m. With so many people and so many differences in the ballots, even within the same precinct, advance planning has been key.
“We started training preparation in the spring,” Hiivala said. “It’s a fairly long process. We’ve had 15 training sessions to get everyone up to speed with what they will have to do and have been in frequent communication to handle any questions we’re getting from the different precincts.”
A large voter turnout is expected given that there is numerous national, state and local election races and controversial ballot questions that have mobilized supporters on both sides. But, Hiivala said in Wright County, the right to vote is always taken seriously, whether the presidential election is taking place or not.
“It impresses me that voter turnout in Wright County is always so consistently high,” Hiivala said. “We are always above the national and state average for turnout and, while voter turnout is typically much higher during presidential election years, in Wright County, that doesn’t seem to matter. Turnout is always high here.”
In items on the Oct 23 agenda, the board:
* Accepted the September revenue/expenditure guidelines. Through 75 percent of the budget year, the county was at 65 percent of revenue projections and 72 percent of expenditures. Hiivala said the report did not reflect state aid money that was due to the county Oct. 1, which has since arrived, that pushed the revenue total up to the 75 percent level to keep the budgets on pace.
* Authorized $5,000 to be paid by both the county and Stockholm Township to make repairs to a one-mile segment of Rhodes Avenue that leads into Collinwood Park. Collinwood is one of the most heavily used county parks and much of the traffic that travels along Rhodes Avenue is heading into the park. Parks Administrator Marc Mattice admitted that the road repairs requested would merely be “a Band-Aid” for the short-term and that a major road project is needed. The road was originally paved in 1986 and there has been very little in the way of maintenance. Several large potholes and frost boils are on the road, but a full overlay project would cost close to $200,000 by Mattice’s estimates. The Stockholm Town Board agreed to call an emergency meeting to get approval so the project can be completed before the winter freeze hits.
* Approved a labor contract agreement with the Teamsters Local No. 320. The contract will run through Dec. 31, 2014.
* Accepted the September monthly activities report from the Tri-County Regional Forensic Laboratory report.
* Approved a memorandum of understanding with the cities of Albertville, Cokato and Waverly, as well as French Lake Township for the purchase and storage of salt and sand for the 2012-13 snow/ice control season.
* Authorized a loan agreement for a partnership program to target best management practices in dealing with water quality issues in the Crow River Watershed. The county approved being the sponsor for loans received from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to address clean water partnership projects within the Crow River watershed and appointed Wright County Environmental Health Officer Bill Stephens as the project representative for the county.