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WABASHA COUNTY BOARD -Candidates agree zoning too strict

CORRECTION RAN FRIDAY (11/1/02)

Pete Riester, a candidate for the Wabasha County Board 4th District seat, said he favors keeping the present zoning ordinance but ironing out any problems that occur with it. He wants to continue studying the need for an elevator in the courthouse, improving the highway maintenance shops and other matters, but has not said if he supports them. The contract for hauling county trash to La Crosse, Wis., is completed. Those facts were incorrectly reported on Page 5B Wednesday.

----------------------------------------------------------- By John Weiss

weiss@postbulletin.com

Six men running for three Wabasha County commissioner districts said that if they are elected, the county's year-old zoning ordinance will be changed to make it less burdensome.

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Voters will also get a chance to say how they feel when they vote yes or no to a non-binding question on the Nov. 5 ballot: "Should Wabasha County continue to administer its zoning ordinance?"

None of the six vying for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th commissioner districts said the entire ordinance should be scrapped, but all agreed that it's too broad and doesn't fit some areas. All want to modify it, though they vary as to what degree.

District 2

John Moechnig, who is running against Dave Windhorst in District 2, said the zoning ordinance lacks common sense. For example, the number of houses allowed per acre for those who live in an area but don't farm, is the same throughout the county. He favors allowing more homes per acre in wooded areas and along the Zumbro River bottomland. But, he would keep the current limits on non-farm homes in prime farmland. Such a change would allow more homes to be built in the county, which would result in a larger tax base. He said he'd also like to hire a human resources director so county hiring is more consistent.

Windhorst said the county needs zoning restrictions over and above the ones mandated by the state, such as shoreline protection. But "the people are still the ones paying the bills; they have some rights too." Strict zoning might be OK for big counties but not for primarily rural Wabasha, he said. Besides changing the zoning ordinance, he said the county must improve its jail.

District 3

In the 3rd District, Commissioner Merl Norman is being opposed by Don Springer, whom Norman defeated two years ago.

In the past two years, Norman said, the county has saved money by using fewer outside consultants. And, improved roads are making it safer for commuters to Rochester and children riding the bus to school.

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Norman said he voted against the zoning ordinance because it's too restrictive. For one thing, he said, some townships are 90 percent tillable while others are mostly forests and floodplains. Yet, all have the same limits on the numbers of non-farm homes. Another thing the county needs is better access to the veterans service office. The office is now in the basement of the courthouse, which does not have an elevator. He would like to see the office moved out of the courthouse

Springer said revisions are needed in the zoning ordinance, but he is against throwing out the whole thing. He favors fixing it to preserve farmland and family farms. In the four years he was on the county board until being defeated two years ago, he said he helped keep taxes down while helping the county improve its technology. All without adding staff. The jail needs work, but Wabasha should consider joining with other counties on a new one, he said. The jail is not for hardened criminals, so "we don't need the Taj Mahal of jails," he said. He also wants to make the veterans service office more accessible.

District 4

In District 4, Commissioner Pete Riester is being challenged by Ed Schuth.

Riester said the zoning ordinance is here to stay and problems with it will be ironed out. One thing the county needs to look at in the next four years is getting a new contract with La Crosse, Wis., for taking Wabasha County's solid waste. He also favors building an elevator in the courthouse, improving the highway maintenance shops, seeking grant money to improve failing septic systems and finding some way to get affordable housing. The main concern for him, though, is the budget since the amount coming from the state and federal government is decreasing.

Schuth said the county's zoning is much too strict, and he favors writing a new one. The county has to keep some zoning because of state rules, he said. He favors allowing everything in the county now to remain under a grandfather clause, but he doesn't want to see a home built near a hog feedlot or a feedlot built next to an existing home, he said.

In District 1, incumbent Eugene McNallan is running unopposed, as is incumbent Dave Harms in District 5.

District 2

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BOX: John Moechnig

Age: 62

Home: Rural Lake City.

Family: Married; four children, nine grandchildren.

Education and work history: Lake City High School graduate, member of the U.S. Army Reserve eight years; manager of customer services for DiAcro in Lake City for 10 years and is a dairy and beef farmer.

Government experience: Clerk of West Albany Township for 32 years; chairman of the county planning commission 32 years.

Why should voters pick you? "I have strong, proven leadership experience in government affairs and extensive experience and the ability to stand up for what I believe is right."

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BOX: Dave Windhorst

Age: 47

Home: Rural Mazeppa.

Family: Married; three daughters.

Education and work history: Mazeppa High School graduate; farmer and lifelong Wabasha County resident.

Government experience: Zumbrota-Mazeppa School Board nine years, two years as chairman.

Why should voters pick you? "Common sense. We have to get back to listening to the people."

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District 3

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BOX: Merl Norman

Age: 64

Home: Rural Zumbro Falls.

Family: Married; four married children, 13 grandchildren.

Education and work history: Law-enforcement training, was a police officer with Rochester Police Department, operates heavy equipment and has a background in ag sales.

Government experience: Zumbro Township supervisor, was on the county township association and is a member of the Wabasha County Board.

Why should voters pick you? "I think I'm old enough that I've had a lot of experience with budgets, paid taxes for many years, raised children. (I will) make a good fiscal commissioner."

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BOX: Donald Springer

Age: 32

Home: Elgin.

Family: Married.

Education and work history: Bachelor of science degree in nursing; registered nurse at Saint Marys Hospital.

Government experience: He was on the Wabasha County Board four years and was on the Elgin-Millville School Board for five years.

Why should voters pick you? "I believe that I am the most qualified for the position due to my experiences as Wabasha County commissioner and being on the Elgin-Millville School Board."

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District 4

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BOX: Pete Riester

Age: 45

Home: Rural Wabasha

Family: Married, four children

Work and education history: Self-employed, he rents out farmland and works with propane and service and installation of heating equipment. He has a high school diploma and took a two-year course in heating ventilation and air-conditioning at Red Wing Vo-Tech.

Government experience: He has been on the county board four years and volunteers for fair board and Coffee Mill Ski Corp.

Why should voters pick you? "I'm persistent, straightforward. I don't flap in the wind. I try to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people."

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BOX: Schuth

Age: 65

Home: Rural Wabasha

Family: Wife, five children, 15 grandchildren

Work and education history: Farmer, graduate of St. Felix in Wabasha, has farmed all his life.

Government experience: None

Why should voters pick you? "Because I'm honest, and I've got common sense."

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