Absentee voting and early in person voting for the coming General Election in November continues heavy reported Auditor/Treasurer Kathy Korteum at the Adjourned Session of the Carlton County Board of Commissioners on Monday September 28.
Carlton County has had about 21,000 registered voters but this is early in the election cycle, and with registration available on election day at the polls that number will probably rise.
“There is a huge increase in Absentee balloting,” commented Korteum. “Request guides for asking for a mail absentee ballot have come from several sources including the Secretary of State. Since the opening of voting, 50 people personally come in every day to vote. There is a chance they may have already requested an absentee ballot. Extra staff time in my office is needed to check the register to make sure that there are no problems with double voting.”
At this point in the voting cycle 8,100 absentee ballots have been mailed out when the usual requests are for 4,000. The mail in ballots have also gone out for all those jurisdictions that do their balloting by mail.
People voting in person at the Auditor’s Office have quite often commented they wanted to make sure their vote counted. Post Office officials say that they are confident they can handle those ballots that are mailed in. Voters using the mail system are urged to post their ballots at least one week before Election Day. If the ballots are postmarked by Election Day there is a seven-day delivery grace period after that date for the ballots to arrive at the Auditor’s Office and be counted.
Due to the increased costs for the General Election the Board of Commissioners gave approval to use CARES Act funds or any other undesignated funding to cover those expenses.
The County Board approved a preliminary 2% levy for the budget year 2021. This is set to raise $28,790,977 from the taxable property in Carlton County. The final levy amount will be approved sometime in December with a Truth in Taxation hearing on December 8 at 6PM at the Transportation Building.
In several areas of the County budget there is speculation that the increase could be cut some more. The final figure for health insurance has not been finalized. The gas tax revenues for the Transportation Department are now going to be reduced by 11% instead of the projected 15%.
Enbridge and Northern Natural Gas are going to get some tax refunds according to the settlement from the Minnesota Tax Court. Auditor Korteum said that the money will come from excess funds but “will not make a big hole.” Assessor Kyle Holmes added that new home building has historically been at a .5% level but is now at this time at 1% which is “quite robust.” Increased overall property values spreads the tax burden out and requires a slightly less tax burden on each taxpayer.
In other County news:
A hearing for a peat mining lease on 300+ acres in what is known as the Wright Bog was held during the Adjourned Session with no public participation and no letters. Premier Horticultural who has the processing plant on Highway 210 just west of Cromwell has applied for the lease. They supply such sources as Home Depot. The lease is at a base rate of $10/acre/year with an increase every four years of the 25 year lease duration. Royalty rate is $6/ton which can be increased each year.
The Board approved a $6.2 million settlement in a negotiated court settlement with Shawn Olthoff who had become a quadriplegic during a shooting incident. $2 million came from insurance and $4.2 comes from County excess funds.
After revue by a consultant the Soil Improvement Program SIP will continue under the Extension Program. Supervisor Donna Lekander reported that lime and lime/ash will still be available through the program at no charge except for delivery costs. Products offered will come from MN Power (wood ash), PotlatchDeltic (wood ash), SAPPI (wood ash, lime, ash/lime mix), and Specialty Minerals Inc. (lime). The department will help farmers contact the WLSSD who supplies the biosolids.
Lyn Jutila of Cloquet who has served nine years as a volunteer on the advisory committee has been commended for her service and her position will be advertised for a new appointment. Rebekah Lund of Cromwell and Steve Risacher of Wright are reappointed to the advisory board.
Commissioner Gary Peterson reported with sadness that Township Representative for the County Committee of the Whole Jim Newman of Skelton Township had passed away this last Friday. Jim was a long time township supervisor for Skelton, active in the County Fair, and on the Barnum School Board. He and his wife had been recognized as Grand Marshalls for the Barnum Spring Fever Days, noting his strong leadership for our rural area.