Carlton County mulls strategic planning, building needs
Carlton County Commissioner Gary Peterson continued to press the board for a strategic planning session using a trained facilitator from the Minnesota Association of Counties. Tentatively June 4 was chosen. The Carlton County Committee of the Whole meets at that date already. "It is important for us as board members and department heads to set down goals which we as a group can work towards," Peterson commented. The board concurred at its April 9 meeting.
"I had some mixed feelings about agreeing to architectural services for a plan to add on the Transportation Building as we approved at our last meeting," Peterson said. "I have heard rumors of possible building scenarios but have not been brought up to speed on these plans. I do know there was a space needs study done in 2007 but do not know if that still applies to these new plans."
County Coordinator Dennis Genereau reflected, "The 2007 study does a broader view rather than work in some of the building concerns and needs we have at this time. Security is a major concern in the current courthouse. Every nook and cranny is utilized for storage. Some routes taken to move stored items are not safe to use. County records need secure storage. The list of concerns is quite long."
"We have been working on building and program needs for the last two years," Commissioner Dick Brenner explained. "The Building Committee has had extensive discussions and input from all the staff. Nothing is set. We are waiting for the architect to tell us costs and possibilities before we go any further. This situation is quite fluid and certainly not decided."
Assessor Marci Moreland requested a new policy preventing deputy assessors from moonlighting work for other neighboring townships and counties. Moreland explained that one Carlton County assessor had seven bids for township assessing in St. Louis County. "St. Louis County wants to do all the assessing in the county," explained Moreland. "We pay to train our people and their work must be certified by the Department of Revenue. If they get in trouble in another jurisdiction while assessing on their off time, this impacts the program we run in Carlton County. I would like a policy set that moonlighting will not be permitted."
Commissioner Marv Bodie remarked, "I do not know if we can tell an employee what they can do with their free time. But for one thing, if they were to get into a professional problem, the loss of a license would mean termination." It was unclear if a policy would be worked on since the board appeared to have taken no action.
Land Commissioner Greg Bernu addressed the board on continuing land development in the county on undeveloped land which developers such as Land and Cabins, owned by Brian Weidendorff, are purchasing, building cabins on 20 acre parcels and selling hunting and recreational retreats. Land exchanges to consolidate county-administered parcels with privately held parcels continues. Bernu commented, "Landlocked county land is a nightmare to manage because of access and is not in the best interest of the County or our residents." Hunting and recreational freedom over large tracts of open land continue to be pressured by outside purchases of land.
Bernu also asked for direction on a timber sale that Potlatch Corporation had bought to supply their stud mill in Bemidji. The original sale price was about $45/cord for the pine. Usually what happens is that the saw bolts are harvested and the remainder unusable tree is marketed for pine pulp wood. The pine pulp wood market is struggling at this time and so on this particular sale, the remainder of the pine trees with the logging debris were chipped for fuel wood. Normal stumpage on fuel wood chips is $3/cord.
Potlatch has requested a reduction of stumpage because of market conditions. "They bid the wood at the set price at the time," explained Bernu. "It is a contracted price which the county fulfilled their part. We cannot help a change in the market conditions. They are on the hook for the added cost." The board concurred with Commissioner Brenner, a former Potlatch staff member, abstaining.
Highway Engineer Mike Tardy updated the board on legislation that is working its way through the Minnesota Legislature. A proposed bill would allow the counties to apply an additional $5 registration fee for vehicles registered in Carlton County. "This is one way to get funding for roads we all use," Tardy explained. The county board went on record supporting the legislation.
Carlton County Economic Development continues to expedite funding for flood relief. MIF funding has been approved for Northland Properties (Chad Beaulieu) of Barnum for $612,100, half of which is a grant after 10 years of business operation, and MSCC, Inc. (a daycare business) of Thomson for $23,546, half of which is a grant after 10 years.
Signs for Wright and Cromwell were approved with the use of Economic Development money, $1,000 each. The Mayor of Carlton along with the Kettle River and Barnum Clerk Bernadine Reed, was appointed to the Economic Development Commission. Gravel crushing bids came in higher this year due to increase fuel costs. Crushing at the Atkinson pit for county use came in at $3.07/cubic yard.