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  • The Pilot Independent

    Cass County Board recognizes employees, holds public hearings

    By by Simon Whitehead Special to The Pilot-Independent,

    2024-06-11

    The Cass County Board of Commissioners met June 4 in Walker to recognize county employees and hold two public hearings.

    Deputy Sheriff Brian Sewell and County Agency Social Worker Cassandra Shoop were recognized for one year of service, although both were on duty at the time and could not be recognized in person.

    Kevin Lee, one of the directors of the Longville Area Ambulance Service, presented a first quarter summary of activities and finances. Major destination hospitals were Brainerd, Bemidji and Crosby. Expenses were close to the budgeted amount and were helped by a 10 percent subsidy increase and $116,220 awarded to the LAAS by the State.

    Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk opened the first public hearing at 9:15 a.m. for the second reading and final adoption of the Cass County Subdivision Ordinance 2024-02. There were no public comments, and the hearing was quickly closed.

    Environmental Services Director Jeff Woodford and County Planner Scott Wold solicited numerous agencies and survey consultants with the aim of streamlining procedures to establish subdivisions. The county team started afresh, using the Hubbard County guidelines as a starting point.

    The new ordinance will allow for a smoother internal process and will be easier for the public to access and understand. A motion to accept the rewritten ordinance was carried.

    A second public hearing began at 9:25 a.m. to discuss the Cass County Capital Improvement Plan 2024 with the Five-Year Forecast. There were no public comments, and the hearing was closed.

    Chief Financial Officer Becky Toso explained how the plan is intended to address the county’s immediate (five-year) and future capital needs. The forecast layout incorporates funding sources first, followed by scheduled projects by year, and the projected ending fund balance for the Capital Projects fund.

    The Budget Committee approved a levy of $900,000 to support the upcoming capital needs of the county. The motion to accept the Capital Improvement Plan was passed.

    Toso then asked the commissioners to receive and file the Financial Update from 2023. Cass County seems to be in a break-even mode and saw a $3.5 million positive net change in the fund balance largely due to the market value of securities at year end. The Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) came in at just over $3 million, like in 2022. The year 2024 will be the ninth year of the 0.05 sales tax that has supported many local road projects.

    Health Human and Veteran Services ended the year with $500,000 added to their fund balance. Of this amount, $116,000 was collected and restricted for opioid response. The report was noted and filed.

    Toso received approval to authorize bids for the 2024 Audit, which would take place in 2025. The audit is an effort to find ways to reduce spending and lessen the levy burden for taxpayers.

    Land Commissioner Mark Gossman asked for a public hearing Aug. 8 regarding a land exchange. The Land Department discovered a cabin encroachment after completing a survey. The parcel with the cabin is owned by Julie Madison Trustee. The Madisons acquired the property years ago, after a land exchange with the Land Department.

    To rectify the cabin encroachment on the north side of the property, 66 feet will be exchanged between county and Madison ownership on the south side of the property.

    County Highway Engineer Darrick Anderson presented the 2023 Highway Department Annual Report — a detailed report that can found on the Cass County Website under Commissioners meetings and “agenda.”

    To summarize, many important projects were accomplished in 2023 under Anderson’s leadership thanks to the dedication of his excellent staff, both in the offices and on the roads. Those projects included the completion of Highway 5 between Hackensack and Longville, County 70 east of East Gull Lake, and the partial completion of the Highway 37 between Highway 371 and County 34. The final project is hoped to be completed in 2024.

    The Board also approved Anderson’s request to advertise and fill a full-time Engineering Technician 1, Grade 27. With the retirement of Randy Brueland after 25 years of service, it is more cost effective to hire a full-time technician rather than to contract out the work.

    A motion was approved for the purchase of crossing improvements at the Sunup Ranch crossing on CSAH 18 for $10,863. This is a highly utilized crossing especially for walking horses, and the current flashing beacon system is experiencing operational issues. The proposed plan is to install solar-powered 36-inch “crossing ahead” signs with perimeter flashing lights as well as double-sided beacon lights at the crossing.

    The Board adopted resolution 34-24 approving final payment to Anderson Brothers Construction for Contract 60514 for $8,273,040.16 related to the County 5 project, which was funded with about $2.41 million in federal funds, $2.43 million in state aid and $1.71 million in Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) proceeds.

    Anderson Brothers Construction also was awarded a contract for $2,099,974.06 for future work on County Roads 48 and 155.

    The next board meeting will be on the road June 18 in Salem Township beginning at 6 p.m.

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