November 14, 2013 | Volume 118, Issue No. 46

County to save with new medical examiners

Pine County is expected to save quite a bit of money in the next two years by getting a new offer for medical examiners.

Last Tuesday afternoon, the county board unanimously approved a switch to Midwest Medical Examiners, which are owned by Anoka County.

Medical examinations have been an unknown expense each year in Pine County. In 2012, medical exams cost $95,419 while in 2011, it was $48,409. In 2010, it was at $80,760.

The new contract calls for a fixed-rate proposal at $52,000 in 2014 and $55,000 in 2015.

The contract includes autopsies and lab work, but not court testimony, or a catastrophic event of five or more deaths.

“We believe they are highly professional,” said Pine County Administrator David Minke.

Gary Alberts, administrator for Midwest Medical Examiners, attended the meeting in Sandstone. Alberts said the company already provides service to 13 other counties in Minnesota.

The company has three full-time pathologists and is accredited by the National Association of Medical Examiners. There will be a doctor on call seven days a week, 24 hours per day.

“If you want a doctor to come to the county, we can do that,” Alberts said.

Alberts said the company also recently purchased a special scanner that can scan a body in 12 seconds. Other special services the company provides, Alberts said, are a separate room for families and a private viewing area.

The last six years, Pine County has used Dr. M.B. McGee. The county board unanimously approved the switch.

Regional housing plan

Cherre’ Palenius of Minnesota Housing Partnership (MPH) appeared before the board requesting their support in contributing between $5,000-$10,000 for a regional housing plan.

The board did not provide an answer on the proposed study saying it would have to go through the budget committee.

If a county completed a study alone, Palenius said it would cost between $25,000 and $30,000. She was gauging the interest of six counties in the region to see if they would combine their efforts into a single plan. Palenius said if the counties agree, they would ask the Initiative Foundation for further assistance.

Pine City has already committed up to $3,000 for the study. The Sandstone council was informed on it last week, but has not reached a decision.

Palenius said the study would assist developers in making a decision on whether to invest new dollars into an area, and would help increase the tax base.

“We have to invest a little to get something back,” said county board chair Stephen Hallan.

Pine City had a housing study from the 1980s while Hinckley’s last study was done before that, Palenius said. Mora could not wait and decided to do its own.

Palenius added that Pine County residents were the biggest users of the Lakes and Pines energy assistance program. In a handout to the board, Palenius indicated there were 96 homeless people in Pine County.

Emergency

management grant

The board approved the yearly Emergency Management Performance Grant from the state of Minnesota. The county will need matching funds of $23,288.

Denise Baran of the Sheriff’s Office gave an update on the history of the organization.

“It has grown to be more than just a plan,” Baran said.

“We are not just sitting on our hands,” Baran told the board. “We have learned from the last declaration (the flood),” Baran said.

Baran said the match by Pine County will be soft money since a portion of the chief deputy and sheriff are already considered to be emergency management duties.

The motion was approved unanimously.

Road dispute solutions

The long-discussed dispute on Schmedeke Lane in Wilma Township has a possible resolution.

County Auditor Cathy Clemmer said the dispute has been going on for a number of years and there have been a number of improvements made on the road, but there has been an impasse between Eldon Schmedeke, the county and the township.

The board was given two options, one in which to improve the road as is by adding gravel costing $10,000. The second option would be to improve the road utilizing requirements of Wilma Township costing $26,000. Clemmer explained the price difference is due to county requirements, which can be accomplished with less expense. Clemmer also reported the county had already spent $30,000 on this road.

Clemmer recommended the county expend $10,000 in county land funds to repair this road. In return, both the Wilma Township and Schmedeke would have to also agree with the plan.

Clemmer said not everyone would be happy with this compromise, but the matter needed to be put to rest.

When done, the road would be taken over by the township. If either Schmedeke or Wilma Township did not agree to the plan, it would not go forward.

“This road would suffice for sale in tax forfeited lands,” Clemmer told the board. “We could sell it today.”

Eldon Schmedeke, speaking from the audience, said that he had not been made aware of this proposal until the day of the meeting. He said the county should spend the additional $16,000 and stated it would not come from taxpayers since it was from land funds.

“This is not for me. This is for the county,” Schmedeke said.

The $10,000 road fix plan was unanimously approved by the board.

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