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County Board Meeting December 21

Posted: 12/21/2021

Author: Julie Anderson

Category: County Board, Departments, Public Works

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The final Douglas County Board meeting was very busy. Commissioners made a number of decisions that will impact our residents and stakeholders. The highlights are provided in this article.

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners approved a plan to provide tuition assistance to Douglas County residents who are unemployed or underemployed and want to be retrained at Alexandria Technical and Community College.

The $500,000 in funds comes from the federal government. The money for the Douglas County Workforce Development Program will be used to provide training and education to more than 100 Douglas County residents from January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2024. Those receiving the assistance will be required to work in the county for one year following completion. Michael Seymour, the president of ATCC, and Jeff Wild, VP of Advancement and Outreach, appeared before the board to answer questions. They said this program will help many people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and that all of the schools areas of study will be available for participants who apply and are accepted into the workforce program.

County Attorney

Douglas County has agreed to participate in a nationwide settlement of claims brought against opioid distributors and manufacturers. Commissioners agreed to support the agreement which will bring $296 million dollars to the state, and they agreed to a plan dividing the settlement as follows: 75 percent for local governments and 25 percent for the state. Counties have until January 2 to sign on to this agreement.

Sheriff’s Office

The board approved two resolutions accepting donations for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Honor Guard and it agreed to an increase in civil process fees. Sheriff Troy Wolbersen told the board his office hasn’t raised these fees in 15 years and that the increases are reasonable.

Public Works

Board Chair Jerry Rapp opened a Public Hearing on County Ditch 17 so the public could offer any input before the county closed out the $877,559.00 project to repair the ditch located west southwest of the city of Brandon. The project replaced old drain tile and modernized the important water moving system.  Commissioner Tim Kalina suggested doing a televised inspection of the ditch prior to the 3-year warranty expiring so everyone knows the system is continuing to function well. 

A public hearing on the county’s 5-year Highway Improvement Plan is now scheduled. It will be held January 18 at 9:05 a.m. which is during a regularly scheduled board meeting.

Commissioners chose the low bidder, Tradesmen, to construct the Visitor’s Center at Lake Brophy County Park, and they agreed to hire workers to manually remove weeds at Brophy Park beach rather than treat the beach with a chemical process. The weeds will then be brought to Public Works to compost.

Social Services

Director Laurie Bonds asked for and received approval to sign contracts with Productive Alternatives, Alexandria Opportunity Center and Lakeland Mental Health Center for 2022. She also notified the board of a grant award to fund the Senior Coordinator position. 

Assessor

County Assessor Stacy Honkomp asked the board to approve the updated Abatement Policy which will require the board to give notice within 20 days to impacted school boards and municipalities when it approves an abatement of more than $10,000.00

Auditor/Treasurer

Auditor Treasurer Vicki Doehling shared that there was an issue with property taxes paid by Maritime Museum which is in the city limits. The impact to the county is a loss of $1,065.49 in property taxes.

Doehling also shared with the board updates to the county’s Investment Policy.

Finance

Finance Director Jill Frisell told commissioners after 2020 there was an excess fund balance of $1.2 million. She asked for a motion to transfer $948,744.00 to the capital projects fund. The commissioners approved her request.

Frisell also asked the commissioners to approve a letter of support for the American Rescue Plan Act Flexibility Act. This act would allow the funds to be used on a wider variety of projects and government services.

Land and Resource Management

Land and Resource Management Director Dave Rush walked commissioners through the proposed conversion of Smith Lake Resort to private ownership. The board approved the plan which will separate a house from the rest of the planned use development. The resort will become a mixture of 23 RV lots and six lots with privately owned cabins.

Rush spent the majority of his time explaining amendments to the Shoreland section of the Douglas County Zoning Ordinance, specifically addressing natural rock riprap, clearing, grading, and drainage, and stormwater management.

The Planning Advisory Commission (PAC) found that riprap is often mis-applied to lakeshores where it is not necessary. The PAC also found that vegetation clearing and lot grading activities that occur prior to a permitted building have frequently led to stormwater drainage issues on neighboring properties. Creation of a permit that requires submission of detailed plans for clearing, construction of stormwater BMPs, and final grade contours will assist Land and Resource Management staff in ensuring that lake water quality is protected, and neighboring properties are not adversely affected. Rush explained in more detail when a permit would be required. The board approved a one-year trial for the new ordinance.

Commissioners also approved the purchase of a Aquatic Invasive Species decontamination unit from the state auction website for $7,000. This would be a big savings over the market price of $18,000 to $23,000.

Two final items on the agenda.

One was to reappoint the county Veteran Services Officer. Jake Turner will serve at least another four years in his role. 

And the board approved a Memorandum of Agreement with the University of Minnesota for Extension Services for 2022-2024. The county contracts with the U of M for an Agriculture/Horticulture Educator and two 4-H educators. This next contract calls for an increase in the number of hours for the Ag/Horticulture educator and the addition of a 4-H program intern.

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