St. Croix Valley Riders Children’s Christmas Party (12/14/2019)

Today's St. Croix Valley Riders Children's Christmas Party is another example that SCVR is more than a Motorcycle Rights Organization. Through donations of toys, time, and money dozens of local kids got to come see Santa Claus and pick out a gift. Thanks to SCVR President Mark Koon with Axel, Santa and Rhys Moreno and all the SCVR volunteers for giving back locally.

Today’s St. Croix Valley Riders Children’s Christmas Party is another example that SCVR is more than a Motorcycle Rights Organization. Through donations of toys, time, and money dozens of local kids got to come see Santa Claus and pick out a gift. Thanks to SCVR President Mark Koon with Axel, Santa and Rhys Moreno and all the SCVR volunteers for giving back locally.

Safety issues along Highway 95 (12/12/2019)

highway-95-denmark-township-mnSeveral constituents have brought concerns to me regarding safety issues along Highway 95 in Denmark Township. As you know MNDOT has been rebuilding Highway 95 to improve safety including widening shoulders, adjusting hill slopes to improve sight lines and adding rumble strips.

Based on concerns from area residents in relation to westbound 110th street, MNDOT and Washington County collaborated to install additional signage to give drivers more warning that they are coming to a stop sign at Highway 95.

Next construction season MNDOT will be installing stop signs with LED lights around the edge of the sign similar to this sign on E. Pt. Douglas Rd. at Hyde Ave. S. in Cottage Grove.

Next construction season MNDOT will be installing stop signs with LED lights around the edge of the sign similar to this sign on E. Pt. Douglas Rd. at Hyde Ave. S. in Cottage Grove.

Also, to address safety concerns with 4-way stops on Highway 95 at both 70th street and 40th street, MNDOT will be moving ahead with installing stop signs with LED lights around the edge of the sign similar to the signs on E. Pt. Douglas Rd. and Hyde Ave. S. in Cottage Grove.

Until those signs can be installed next construction season, Washington County will install red flashing beacons similar to those on 80th St. and Keats Ave in Cottage Grove. Several orange warning flags have already been added to the stop signs and stop ahead signs to draw attention.

Many of you know that these intersections, especially 70th and Highway 95, have been the location of several serious vehicle accidents. I want to thank both MNDOT and Washington County for working together on these solutions.

Several orange warning flags have already been added to the stop signs and stop ahead signs to draw attention.

Several orange warning flags have already been added to the stop signs and stop ahead signs to draw attention.

Cottage Grove Public Works plow driver (12/9/2019)

Please help our snow plow drivers by keeping a safe distance back and moving vehicles off the road. This keeps our drivers safe as well as the public. Thank you to Cottage Grove Public Works plow driver Craig Jaworski for letting me ride along today. Craig has been keeping our roads clear for 23 years.

Please help our snow plow drivers by keeping a safe distance back and moving vehicles off the road. This keeps our drivers safe as well as the public. Thank you to Cottage Grove Public Works plow driver Craig Jaworski for letting me ride along today. Craig has been keeping our roads clear for 23 years.

Eagle Scout earned 38 merit badges (12/7/2019)

Trey Wilhelm of Cottage Grove achieved Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable in Scouting. Trey earned 38 merit badges, 17 badges over the required 21. Trey's project was Operation Share A Bear where he procured 471 teddy bears that he donated to children at St. Paul Children's Hospital through donations he solicited from business and individuals. I was honored to present Trey with a House Resolution in recognition of his achievement.

Trey Wilhelm of Cottage Grove achieved Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable in Scouting. Trey earned 38 merit badges, 17 badges over the required 21. Trey’s project was Operation Share A Bear where he procured 471 teddy bears that he donated to children at St. Paul Children’s Hospital through donations he solicited from business and individuals. I was honored to present Trey with a House Resolution in recognition of his achievement.

It’s time to address Department of Human Services chaos (12/6/2019)

By Rep. Tony Jurgens

Most of us have heard the old saying “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

If this idiom is true, then a rather large blaze must be burning at Minnesota’s Department of Human Services, where it seems we’re hearing about a new example of agency dysfunction with each passing week.

To say DHS is currently plagued with problems is an understatement. Let’s review just some of the chaos that’s been found over the past few months.

In March, Minnesota’s nonpartisan legislative auditor reported on “pervasive fraud” in the state’s childcare system, costing taxpayers unknown millions of dollars each year. Due to her role in this fraud scandal, the DHS inspector general was placed on investigative leave. Nearly nine months later, the investigation is still not done, and she’s still drawing her six-figure paycheck.

This summer, the DHS commissioner, a deputy commissioner and the agency’s chief of staff all resigned.

Employees are also getting in trouble for pointing out problems — otherwise known as doing their jobs.

A worker at the Office of the Inspector General was fired after raising concerns with DHS. A compliance officer was retaliated against for talking about “serious non-compliance issues” with state contracts, and another employee received retaliation for trying to protect taxpayer dollars. The agency is also being scrutinized for not accommodating employees with disabilities.

Then there are the financial issues. Lawmakers have learned DHS broke the law more than 200 times on contracts totaling more than $52 million; overpaid chemical dependency providers by more than $70 million; and now owes the federal government $30 million on top of that due to overpayments to two tribal governments.

It even paid out $3 million for people who were already dead.

Just last week we learned that the agency now wants local governments to pay for its fiscal miscues. A recent TV report found that eleven counties in southern Minnesota have already received a bill for nearly $1 million from DHS stemming from the mismanagement of funds for substance use disorder treatment.

It’s important to keep in mind the State of Minnesota allocates nearly $19 billion every two years for human services needs in this state.

Over the years, I’ve heard from constituents who have discussed the importance of spending in these areas. So it’s pretty upsetting to see repeated waste and dysfunction occurring within the agency, and realizing that tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars were not delivered to areas of need.

In early December, the Minnesota House health and human services finance committee is scheduled to hold a hearing related to DHS.

We need all hands on deck — especially Gov. Tim Walz, House and Senate leadership, and the new DHS commissioner – to get to the bottom of the DHS mess and root out the proven waste, fraud, abuse, and mistreatment of well-intentioned employees within this agency. We owe it to Minnesotans to not only investigate the proverbial smoke that continues to rise from the DHS offices, but to finally put out the fire.