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

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Funding method approved for Barnum garage upgrade


August 1, 2019

Carlton County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to upgrade the Barnum Transportation Garage and attach a large addition to create a 50,000 sq. foot plus facility. Modern road equipment is considerably longer than the needs of the current 1970s style building. Working area and staff safety were driving factors for the new facility. The Transportation Department will continue to use the present facility during the construction phase which should be completed by late 2020.

Funding to make the $600,000/year payments on a $10 million bonding package for the construction was considered from three sources: a property tax increase, a wheelage tax on each vehicle licensed in Carlton County, or drawing from the ½% sales tax funds currently dedicated for fixing County roads numbered above 100.

A hearing earlier in the month and numerous phone calls brought out strong resistance to using the ½% sales tax revenues for any use other than the County roads numbered above 100. Rural residents wanted to continue upgrading the rural transportation network and urban residents were more concerned about not paying any higher property taxes.

Commissioner Tom Proulx, a Cloquet resident, made a motion to take the whole $600,000 from the ½% sales tax revenues. Currently about $2 million is coming in annually. He stated the move would draw from current revenue streams and no additional tax burden would be put on Carlton residents. The motion died for lack of a second. Fourth District Commissioner Mark Thell of Wrenshall made a motion to use a $15 wheelage tax to raise $450,000 and the rest to come from revenues above $1.8 million from the ½% sales tax. Commissioner Marv Bodie seconded that motion just to open the topic for discussion.

Fifth District Commissioner Gary Peterson stated, “My constituents have been very vocal and feel that the money raised for the ½% sales tax was dedicated for roads with numbers over 100. Because of their input, I suggest we should take $10 wheelage tax to raise $300,000 and the rest to come from a property tax. In that way absentee property owners would have to pay for a strong County road program.”

In the final vote for a $15 wheelage tax to raise $450,000 yearly and $150,000/year coming from the ½% sales tax funds, the motion passed with Brenner, Thell, and Bodie in favor and Proulx and Peterson against.

Chair Brenner led the discussion of hiring bond counsel by asking, “Do we really need bond counsel when a decision has not been made on how to fund the new jail?”

County Engineer Neumann said that with the approval of a new Barnum garage, bond counsel was needed to advise the County Board on the best way to issue $10 million bonds for the project. Hiring bond counsel passed unanimously.

With little fanfare the County Board of Commissioners approved unanimously to move to appoint a new auditor/treasurer. Recent legislation gives the County Board the power to appoint the position which has been an elected position since the formation of Carlton County. The retirement of long-time Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert has given the Board the opportunity to consider this move to appoint the position.

A hearing on the change is scheduled for August 13, during the regular meeting of the County Board. The hearing must be published in the paper for two weeks, the hearing held, and 30 days after the Board approves appointing the position, the Board’s decision becomes final.

After the hearing and County Board’s decision to proceed, 10% of the County registered voters can request an election on the issue. The specific law concerning this action is Minnesota Statutes, Section 20, 375A.1205, Appointing County Officers, Subdivision 1.

A major restructuring of the County Extension program is in progress. The County Board approved Collaborative Initiatives Director Donna Lekander to be the supervisor of the Extension program at this time. Zoning and Environmental Services Administrator Heather Cunningham was considered for the supervisor position. Cunningham said that her role as the regulator of the environmental rules for biosolid application would become a conflict of interest.

No decision has been made yet for an Ag Tech position to handle the biosolids program. Sixty percent of Extension income comes from the biosolids program. It is suggested that the biosolids program should now be called a Soil Improvement program.

Highway Engineer Neumann reported that the tractor that was purchased years ago for biosolids application for farmers using the program is now under the control of the Transportation Department.


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