At its March 19 meeting at the Pine County Courthouse in Pine City, the Pine County Board of Commissioners heard a statement from Sheriff Robin Cole that many county residents and businesses have received unsolicited letters requesting donations from the Minnesota Sheriff's Association.
Sheriff Cole said that these letters appear to come from the Pine County Sheriff's Office and to be endorsed by Sheriff Cole, when in fact they are not from his office at all.
According to Sheriff Cole, the Minnesota Sheriff's Association is a legitimate organization, but did not have any authorization from the Pine County Sheriff's Office for its use as a vehicle for fundraising. Sheriff Cole said he has contacted the Minnesota Sheriff's Association and they stated that letters were sent out statewide as being "personalized" to appear as if they came from any given county sheriff's office. He added that the association has agreed to discontinue using this tactic in Pine County.
The board heard a presentation from Walter Leu of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Leu told commissioners that there is not as much money for county road projects as there has been in the past.
Congress has done away with earmarks, and those funds for transportation that used to come from Congressman Oberstar are no longer available. According to Leu, there is good news for the National Highway System, but bad news for other roads unless the state steps up.
Funding for federal and state programs through 2017 have gone from around $16 million to $7.2 million. This provides much less aid to the local programs than in the past. Although the federal funding in total is up from what it used to be, most of those funds are for the National Highway System, which would be I-35 in our area. He added that about one-third of the road system will have poor quality restoration materials to work with.
Asked about how the funding is progressing for Highway 70 from Rock Creek to the Wisconsin border, a stretch of highway that has been of much concern to Pine County because of a history of accidents and increased traffic, Leu said the plan is only for resurfacing in 2015. He said there was nothing in the funding for reconstruction, which would also require getting right-of-way rights to construct proper shoulders and straighten out the road in places.
Commissioner Mitch Pangerl asked Leu what the difference in cost would be between reconstruction of the highway and just doing an overlay.
Leu said it would probably amount to about $3 million per mile. The projected project for Minnesota Highway 70 for 2015 includes mill and overlay, profile corrections and turn lanes and is budgeted for $6,735,000.
The board approved the Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The plan includes changes in language and other small adjustments.
The board acknowledged joint resolutions with flood affected cities and townships that any properties acquired through the hazard mitigation programs Pine County is administrating will become the property of the city or township it is located in. The cities of Willow River, Sturgeon Lake, Rutledge and Kettle River Township have adopted the joint resolutions. Sturgeon Lake Township has not yet adopted the resolution, but it may when it comes before the township board.
These buyouts were appraised before the flooding. Cities are to take juristiction of the properties unless they don't agree to it. Then the county would take over, but it is the county's preference that the cities take charge.
The board agreed to a contract with Kanabec County for services from the Pine County assessor. Since Kanabec County not longer has the services of an assessor as required by Minnesota state statute, Pine County will provide its deputy county assessor four hours per week of onsite office time in Kanabec County and two hours per week of offsite technical support. Kanabec County will pay Pine County for these services and reimburse Pine County for all mileage expenses.