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County Board Meeting October 20

Posted: 10/20/2020

Author: Julie Anderson

Category: County Board, Departments

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Auditor Treasurer/Finance Director

Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer/Finance Director Char Rosenow is retiring. She submitted her letter of resignation/retirement to the board at its October 20 meeting. Rosenow has been with the county more than 36 years. Her last working day will be Friday, February 26. Board Chair Keith Englund told Rosenow he is very grateful for all the work she has done. Vice Chair Jerry Rapp personally thanked Rosenow for her excellent job, a sentiment that was quickly repeated by all board members.    

Rosenow will remain incredibly busy until she leaves office.

She is overseeing the process that distributes $3.5 million dollars in CARES Act funds to Douglas County businesses and nonprofits deemed eligible. The CARES Act funds will be used by businesses and nonprofits to compensate for losses due to COVID-19. The businesses include restaurants, assisted living facilities, childcare providers, dentists, hair salons, trucking companies, and many others. The grants were capped at $50,000 per company or agency.

The city of Alexandria contributed $355,000 to the county to assist those businesses and nonprofits. The city asked the county to sign a Memorandum of Agreement. Rosenow asked for permission to sign that MOU as well as potential future ones from other cities which may give their unused funds to the county.  

The county is using some of its federal funding for COVID related supplies and equipment. Rosenow presented the board with a list of items already approved by the budget committee. Counties need to spend their dollars by December 1.  Chair Englund asked Rosenow if the county can get that done. She responded, “we will give it our best to get everything ordered”.

Commissioners also approved Rosenow’s request for an agreement to contract with Arbitrage Reporting Services to assist with the issuance of $5.5 million in General Obligation Solid Waste Revenue Bonds for the Pope Douglas Solid Waste mining project.

County Coordinator

County Coordinator Heather Schlangen brought a motion to move board meetings to the 822 Douglas Street building following the November 3 election. This will allow for a greater number of people to attend the meetings in person while maintaining the COVID required 6 feet of distance. The December 3 budget hearing  will also take place at the 822 Douglas Street building.

Facilities Maintenance

Facilities Director Rod Naab asked to proceed with the remodel on the garage at 822 Douglas Street. Commissioners approved his request.

Land and Resource Management

Director Dave Rush presented information on two residential developments on Lobster Lake which came before the board at its October 20 meeting. Commissioners gave their approval of the final plan for the Red Pine Ridge development and they gave approval for the preliminary plan for Bohemian Triangle which includes a variance to not connect to the central sewer because it’s over a mile away.

Plans, like these two developments, are first presented to the Douglas County Planning Commission which carefully reviews the developer’s intentions regarding stormwater management, protective covenants, vegetated buffer zone and other considerations. The Douglas County Land and Resource Management office then reviews the plans and asks the board for preliminary approval. Once the developer or owner agrees to the preliminary plan, the board then votes on a final approval. The county believes it is very important that new developments do not negatively impact existing neighboring properties or nearby lakes, rivers, or streams.

The board approved a conditional use permit to allow the indoor and outdoor storage of recreational equipment including lakeshore equipment, watercraft, motorhomes, RV’s, and fish houses at a business on State Highway 29 near Miltona. The permit requires the owner to limit the display area for products and services and provide a method to screen the stored goods —suggestions include a six foot high privacy fence, two rows of conifer trees, or buildings with an eight foot sidewall height. Outdoor lighting may not exceed 20 feet and watercraft or other items that are not in working condition may not be stored at the location for more than 90 days.     

Commissioners also approved a conditional use permit to allow Andrew McDaniel to sell and repair small engines for lawnmowers and outdoor boat motors and to the winterize and store watercraft in the off season.  The permit requires the business be operated in a neat and orderly manner, so it is not a detriment to the neighboring properties. The board acknowledged the business will create increased traffic but should not create excessive congestion. The applicant has operated a lawn care and snow removal business on the property, located in Miltona Township, since 2018, and the Land and Resource Management office has not received any complaints. Commissioner Charlie Meyer asked who will monitor the oil and other potential hazards listed as a condition to the permit. Rush says it will be complaint based and his staff will respond.

In an effort to maximize efficiency, the Land and Resource Management Office asked commissioners for permission to extend a contract for temporary administrative support which has been provided for the last 5 months by an employee of the Soil and Water Conservation District. The staff member has assisted the Land and Resource Management office with answering phones, assisting with customer questions on permit applications, website updates, on-line permitting and much more. 

Public Works

Park Superintendent Brad Bonk asked the board to support a resolution for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to maintain the cross-country ski trails managed by the Douglas County Parks Division which the board did.

Board Chair Keith Englund also thanked Bonk for responding to the emails he has been getting regarding Pilgrim Point. Members of the public are asking if there will be public input sessions if the county closes the purchase. Bonk said yes, and the public input sessions will occur early next year.

Recorder’s Office

Douglas County Recorder Mary Skillings asked the board to approve the annual FTP License Agreement with Data Abstract Solutions. The board approved it.

Douglas County Library

Library Director Dawn Dailey asked commissioners to approve her filling a fulltime library position. This vacancy was created when a fulltime staff member requested to be moved to part time. Commissioners approved.

Veteran Services Office

A Miltona company called Paint the Woods Paintball made a $145.00 donation to assist veterans in need. VSO Jake Turner asked commissioners to accept the donation which they did.

Social Services

Community Human Services Director Laurie Bonds requested the board approve the latest contract for the Senior Coordinator position. The 2021 contract is with Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging which provides a $35,019 grant to help pay for the position. The senior coordinator has direct one-to-one contact with consumers asking about long-term care services, housing options, caregiver support, Medicare, public benefits, and pension rights.

Bonds also asked the board to accept what she called a very generous $750 donation from Horizon Public Health union members to be used for extras, not covered by other programs, for children in the care of Douglas County Social Services.

Bonds provided an important update on Medicare open enrollment. CentraCare sent notice they will not be contracting with Humana in 2021. Humana is a very popular Medicare insurance supplemental policy so this could potentially affect many Douglas County residents who are referred to CentraCare specialists. Bonds said she would keep commissioners apprised of any last-minute agreement that could change that situation.

Lease for County Gym Space

Commissioners agreed to extend the lease with the Alexandria school district for use of the gyms in the service center. That lease will be extended for 6 months.

Items from the Floor

At each board meeting, members of the public are invited to share their thoughts with board members. Jerome Kastreba from Douglas County asked commissioners to assist in resolving the contract issue between Douglas County and law enforcement employees who have worked without a contract for 10 months.

Commissioners thanked him for coming forward and told him arbitration between the two sides will begin Wednesday, October 21.

Public Works Director and County Engineer Tim Erickson and Assistant Public Works Director Scott Green answered questions from commissioners at the end of the meeting.

Commissioner Charlie Meyer asked again that manhole covers on CSAH 46 (McKay Avenue) be fixed. He says his constituents continue to complain to him about driving over the covers which do not have a smooth surface.

Commissioners received an update on County Road 7. They learned the biggest issue is the weather. Snow on Tuesday, October 20 will hamper ongoing efforts to remove organic material below the old road. That material was likely put in place nearly a century ago and was not strong enough to support work done to improve the new road.  Erickson told board members, “We know we’re doing the right thing, it’s just unfortunate that we have to do it so close to November. “

Green told the board the goal is to get the road filled and get it compressed. He says he believes they will get the road open before winter and says the detour on County Road 15 is holding up well.

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