The Rice County Board of Commissioners today voted unanimously in favor of contracting with the Anoka County Medical Examiner's Office to provide those services beginning December 1, 2021.

County Attorney John Fossum explained to Commissioners the current agreement with Hennepin County has been in place for a number of years.  Fossum reported he and a couple or representatives from the Rice County Sheriff's Office met with the Anoka County Medical Examiner and were impressed.

There are four ME offices in Minnesota.  Requests for Proposal to provide the services in Rice County were sent to each office.  Hennepin and Anoka County responded.

Fossum says, "Both Hennepin and Anoka offered a per capita flat fee service.  Hennepin County's was far more expensive.  I think it was 252 thousand 658 dollars per year.  Anoka County was offering 153 thousand 858 dollars per year.  Hennepin County would provide the scene examination services for that amount but the examiners would be located in Hennepin County.  Would come out as needed and would try to get here within an hour."

"Anoka County offered to have something more similary to what we have now where they would have on call scene examiners and have them in Rice County and require them to be able to report to the scene within 45 minutes."

Sheriff Troy Dunn commented. "I think this is a good fix.  Not that with Dr. Evans and Dr. Reister things didn't go well.  Nothing is basically changing other than they're taking responsibility of a lot more and then we don't have to pay them to come and testify is another, I think, key thing.  I think this is a good choice for Rice County."

Commissioner Galen Malecha voiced concern over the ME not being located in Rice County.  Both Fossum and Dunn assured him the Rice County doctors were not upset over this change.

Fossum stated, "Appointing Dr. Strobel (Anoka County ME) as our County Medical Examiner is part of the contract the board already approved so this is what we need to move forward with this process."

Commissioners also approved a resolution adopting the 2040 Rice County Comprehensive Plan after some discussion.

Commissioner Galen Malecha initially said he was going to vote against adoption because he believed the plan could have been more aggressive in a couple of areas.  He cited land use sustainability, housing and transportation.

" I know certainly we can add some things as time goes throughout the course of changing things in the comp plan but I just personally think there were some things I would have like to have seen in the plan." Malecha commented.

Commissioner Steve Underdahl said he could move forward with the Comprehensive Plan, "But what I would suggest maybe is that we would move forward with this and we would look at asking staff to develop an RFP (Request for Proposal) for (land use along the I-35 corridor itself).  I was one of the concerns we heard from a lot of people.  Certainly within that area there is land that is not suitable for development that should be protected.  I know a Comp Plan is a guide but before we would go with any furthur steps within that area I think assistance to help guide us in protecting those sensitive areas and help us define where we should develop in that area."

County Planner Julie Runkel cautioned Commissioners saying, "You might need to narrow the scope a little bit more in looking at those area things and what we would do whether you adopt the Comp Plan or not is examining what we're going to do to move forward.  What are we going to do to implement this Comp Plan now?  How do we go about, what are the processes ? Some zoning changes that could occur.  There's things outside the zoning realm that are included in the Comprehensive Plan as well for housing and transportation.  We're recommending moving forward with a full transportation plan."

After hearing Commissioners were in agreement more specifics needs to be addressed in the future Malecha joined them in passing the resolution adopting the 2040 Rice County Comprehensive Plan.

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