Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

County Board holds hearing on new Barnum Garage funding


About a dozen citizens attended the hearing on funding a new Carlton County Transportation garage in Barnum on Tuesday, July 9, held during the regular meeting of the Carlton County Board of Commissioners. The need for additional space at the Barnum site drew few comments. Most people attending voiced concern that using the ½% sales tax for funding the building would hurt projects that were needed on County roads.

County Engineer JinYeene Neumann had a power point presentation of the County program now occurring at the Barnum shop. She explained that 20 employees work out of the Barnum facility which was built in 1975 and added onto in 1978. Space is limited. In the 1970s, dump trucks were 25 feet long and motor graders were 27 feet long. Now dump trucks are 39 feet long and motor graders are 39 feet long. Currently, snow plows need to have their blades mounted outside the current shop regardless of weather conditions because all the trucks with blades cannot fit in the building with the rest of the equipment housed there.

Updating the present garage and adding enough square footage to make a building of 50,184 square feet would cost in the neighborhood of $10 million. A 20-year bonding program would have to be issued and paid for in full or part from three sources: ½% sales tax for County roads above the number of 100; a wheelage tax paid when County residents buy their new license tabs; and/or a property tax levy.

The County Engineer explained that $600,000 was needed for an annual payment on a $10 million building program. Property taxes would have to rise about 2.5 % to cover that. Paying it out of the ½% sales tax revenues would curtail one-third of the construction projects listed for that funding. Twenty dollars per vehicle license renewal would fund the bond payment. Vehicles exempt would be motorcycles, business trucks and truck/trailer combinations, collector vehicles, and tax exempt and state-owned vehicles.

Comments came from at least seven constituents attending the hearing. Most people wanted the revenue from the ½% sales tax protected. Kettle River contractor Kevin Peura remarked, “Once you start to take from a dedicated fund that is to work on the roads, it’s easy to raid the funds again and again until it is gone. I have spoken to 30 to 40 people and no one is in favor of touching the ½% sales tax road funding.”

Judy Isaacson of Moose Lake voiced concern that the poor condition of County gravel roads has not been addressed yet. Heavy recreational traffic later in the summer and fall takes its toll on rural roads. Spring breakup has especially shown the poor condition of rural roads in this county.

Both Commissioners Peterson and Thell have heard from their constituents that the ½% sales tax fund should not be used. Peterson said he is considering $10 coming from the wheelage tax and $10 coming from property taxes. Commissioner Thell said his constituents are satisfied with a wheeage tax. Commissioner Proulx said his constituents have reached their limit of taxes and the ½% sales tax funds would raise no one’s taxes. Commissioners Brenner and Bodie spoke of some combination of funding, but options are being looked at. A vote may be taken at the next County Commissioner’s meeting later in July.

The County Board approved the minutes of the June 24th meeting in which three votes concerning building a new jail were approved as unanimous board votes: one vote concerned the hiring of BKV to bring a recommendation for a jail building project to an August board meeting; one approved looking for a bonding attorney to protect the County’s bonding position; and the third was to look for a proposed bonding firm. We regret any confusion that clouded the action of a unanimous board vote on these matters.

County Coordinator Dennis Genereau presented an overview of the University of Minnesota Extension program in Carlton County. He said there has been a discussion of how the local program is supervised. The local program is being reorganized and a firm proposal will be presented soon.

The Director of the County Collaborative, Donna Lekander, is being considered as a supervisor for Extension services staff. Extension has asked that the County take over the By-products Program. It has been suggested that the By-products Program be called the Soil Improvement Program.

Commissioner Proulx asked, “Will there be any cost to the County budget?” No direct answer was given at this meeting.

County Attorney Lauri Ketola said she has been assessing the staffing in her department. There are three legal secretaries all doing similar work. After consulting the Human Resources department, Ketola will have one of her legal secretaries become a senior legal secretary.

The County Attorney reported that Window, which is based out of Hinckley and handles the domestic abuse work for Carlton County, has lost its program funding from the state and Federal governments. She said the situation is fluid at this time. Sources have told this reporter that the former director of Window has retired.

Continuing Board discussion centered around a possible jail site. Commissioner Peterson observed, “The Carlton High School site is the best site for a new jail and would save substantial construction costs.” Commissioner Brenner explained that the Carlton School District has decided to run for another year in spite of current maintenance issues and a major budget deficit. The School Board wanted to know the last possible date the County needed for the school site to be considered for the jail proposal. Brenner said we just need to wait and see what they do.


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