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Kandiyohi County, Minn., campaign strives to make roads safer

WILLMAR — Kandiyohi County is combining a public service campaign with tough law enforcement coverage to make roads safer.

At their meeting Tuesday, the Kandiyohi County Commissioners heard an update from Stephanie Felt from the county's "Safe Community Coalition" that's part of a statewide campaign called "Toward Zero Deaths."

The goal of the coalition is to reduce traffic-related deaths and serious injuries, said Felt.

That's a big task.

In 2012 there were 395 people killed in crashes in Minnesota and by Aug. 12 of this year there were 211 people killed on Minnesota roads, said Felt.

She cited statistics that traffic crashes are the "leading cause of death" for people ages 2-34.

Felt also said that records from the southwest region of Minnesota show that from 2008-12 about 1 out of three fatalities and serious injury accidents are 20-34 years old; about two out of three fatalities are male and nearly four out of five unbelted fatalities and serious injuries are males.

She also said statistics show that speeding in an "over-represented factor" in single-vehicle crashes, particularly for 15-34 year olds.

Because behavioral issues, like excessive speeds, distracted driving, lack of seat belt use and impairment are frequent issues affecting fatal and serious injury crashes, the coalition is hoping to change those behaviors with a combination of enforcement, engineering of roadways, emergency response training and education.

The commissioners praised the coalition for their work and approved a resolution declaring Aug. 31 as "Move Over Day" in honor of State Patrol Trooper Ted Foss who was killed in 2000 by a passing vehicle.

The commissioners accepted the resignation of County Assessor Tim Falkum, who is retiring Oct. 31 after nearly nine years with the county.

The commissioners thanked Falkum for his years of service and for giving the county advanced notice of his retirement.

Falkum told the board that a new law that requires assessors to be accredited by 2019 will make it challenging for rural counties to maintain adequately trained staff. He said staff in the Kandiyohi County assessor's office are either accredited already or are currently certified and have agreed to obtain the additional training and testing to become accredited. Individuals who serve as the top county assessor must have senior accreditation.

He said his staff is doing an "excellent job" and the office is in good shape. "I feel comfortable leaving the way it is now," said Falkum, adding that it's time for the county to get some "fresh ideas" in the assessor's office.

In other action:

- The commissioners agreed to appoint viewers and set a hearing date of Sept. 17 to establish outlet fees for the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative of Renville to discharge water into County Ditch 37 in Colfax Township. The co-op intends to construct a beet piling station at the site this fall, but the facility won't be used until next year.

- A conditional use permit was approved for Phillip Rupp to operate a dog kennel for breeding, boarding and training up to 30 adult dogs in a shoreland management district in New London Township.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750