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July 2022 County Board Meetings

Posted: 07/21/2022

Author: Julie Anderson

Category: County Board, Departments

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The Douglas County Board of Commissioners met twice in July. The first meeting was July 6, the second meeting was July 19.

July 6 Meeting

Horizon Public Health

At its July 6 meeting commissioners heard from Horizon Public Health’s Administrator Ann Stehn. She shared the highlights of their 2021 Annual Report. That report can be read in its entirety at: https://secureservercdn.net/166.62.109.7/l20.4b0.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Annual-Report-2021-C.pdf

Pope Douglas Solid Waste

Steve Vrchota, the Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management Director asked for a resolution to issue $7.155 million in General Obligation Solid Waste Revenue Bonds. Douglas and Pope Counties alternate years in which they issue bonds to continue the operation of the facility. 

Assessor

Assessor Stacy Honkomp asked for approval of two 4-year contracts the county assessors’ office routinely enters into. The request at this meeting was for contracts with Lake Mary Township and the city of Garfield.  The county assessor’s office provides assessing services for all cities and townships in the county except the city of Alexandria.

Auditor/Treasurer

Commissioners denied a request by a cabin owner to abate the late tax penalty payment he received. He said he paid his taxes late because of distraction from the May 12 storm damage at his cabin on Lake Darling.

Public Works

Park Superintendent Brad Bonk presented the board with a resolution to support the Mountain Bike Trail project at Lake Brophy County Park. Bonk had successfully applied for a $100,000 grant with no match from county. Those funds were provided from the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The mountain bike trails should be open for riders later this summer.

Commissioners okayed increasing the beaver bounty from $75 to $100. This bounty goes to a trapper who consistently removes beavers which cause a variety of damage in the county.  

Public Works Director Tim Erickson was given approval to move forward with purchasing an old gravel pit. He will go back before the board when he has a purchase price for commissioners to review.

Land and Resource Management

The board approved excavator/landscaper license applications and final and preliminary plats presented by Director Dave Rush.

Rush was then joined by Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District Water Planner Danielle Anderson. Together they presented the Long Prairie Watershed Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan. This plan, which Commissioner Jerry Rapp played a role in developing, presents the path forward for a watershed that is shared by Douglas, Todd, Morrison, Otter Tail, and Wadena Counties. It outlines issue priorities such as: stormwater runoff and groundwater contamination, resource priorities, and goals. Those goals include phosphorous reduction, runoff reduction and drinking water protection.   

There will be an August 18 public hearing on the plan.

Emergency Management

Emergency Management Director Julie Anderson provided an update on the May storms recovery process. She shared the May 12 tornado/derecho has been declared a major federal disaster which provides FEMA funds for debris removal, emergency protective services and damage to public infrastructure.

Assessor Stacy Honkomp shared the extensive work her office has done to document homes destroyed and damaged by both the May 12 and May 30 storms. Storm impacted homeowners will be eligible for their property taxes to reflect the damage and destruction. She is also planning to apply to the state for property tax relief.

Land and Resource Management Director Dave Rush provided details about the June cleanup on Maple Lake. He thanked the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County Public Works, Department of Natural Resources, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for their assistance with the three-day project. The county hired two local lake service providers to help raise large pieces of storm debris out of the lake and safely bring it to the north public access where it was sorted into dumpsters for proper disposal. The debris was considered a safety hazard.

July 19 Meeting

The first presenter was Betsy Hills, Assistant Administrator with Horizon Public Health. She presented the commissioners with a revised Memorandum of Agreement outlining the financial responsibility for Hospice of Douglas County.

Hills also took time to recognize the hospice staff and the services they provide. She said Hospice of Douglas County is an exceptional program and has received many honors. She said the staff work hard to provide seamless care to some of the county’s most vulnerable people.

Next on the agenda was a watershed presentation from Micayla Lakey with Pomme de Terre River Association. She reviewed her outreach efforts to educate people about the Pomme de Terre River Association and explained how Douglas County is getting a very good return on its money for participating in the watershed.  

Veterans Services

The Veterans Service office requested the board accept a $100 donation from a veteran’s family to be used for veterans in need and a $1,000 donation from the Alexandria based VFW Auxillary for veterans in need.

Social Services

Director Laurie Bonds asked commissioners to approve an annual contract with a company that finds relatives of children needing out of home placement and an agreement with District 206 which provides transportation for children in foster care. This is a 50/50 split in costs between the school district and the county.

Bonds also presented a contract with Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging for the Douglas County Senior Services Coordinator. The coordinator, currently Dinara Dykema, provides a number of important to service to senior citizens in the county including: coordinating the annual Senior Expo which works to reduce vulnerability to fraud, the NAPS senior food distribution program, Medicare 101 educational sessions and much more.

Auditor/Treasurer

Vicki Doehling asked the board to approve an Election Administrator position, which is a role she currently fills while also working as the Auditor/Treasurer.

Public Works

Public Works Director Tim Erickson was given permission to award a contract for construction of a roundabout near the YMCA on County Roads 82 and 46.  Central Specialties was the low bidder. Most of the work will be done in 2023 and the county decided to go for the less expensive option of using asphalt for the center circle rather than concrete.

The board also awarded the annual contract for bridge inspections in the county. The county has requested an additional 12 bridges be inspected in addition to the required ten under statute.

Land and Resource Management

Director Dave Rush responded to a request from Commissioner Jerry Rapp who asked to discuss minimum lake lot sizes in Douglas County. Commissioner Rapp says the county’s lakes are deteriorating and he believes the increase in the number and size of homes on lakes over the years is playing a part.  Rush explained the county divides lake development into three categories: general, recreational, and natural environment lakeshore.  Each category has different requirements for development. Commissioner Charlie Meyer pointed out that 90% of lake lots already have structures on them, leaving only a small number of lots to consider for larger lake lot sizes. Rush says a state report discusses 100 to 120 minimum width with 30,000 feet as a minimum. No formal action was taken.

Finance

Finance Director Jill Frisell asked for permission to fill an Assistant Finance Director position. This was the job she held before being promoted to director. Commissioners approved the request.

Emergency Management

Director Julie Anderson provided another storm recovery update. She said the Storm Recovery Center hosted by the county July 7 was well attended by storm impacted residents. She gave a thank you to those providing services including:  Douglas County Assessor’s Office, Greater Alexandria Area Realtors which is providing grants of up to $1,200, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Region IV South Mental Health Services, Lutheran Social Services, Outreach Food Shelf, Horizon Public Health, West Central MN Communities Action and Pope Douglas Solid Waste.

Anderson shared with the commissioners that the county, state, and Small Business Administration (SBA) completed a survey July 14 to determine whether the county met criteria for an SBA declaration. That criteria includes 25 destroyed homes and 40 percent underinsurance. According to the state, Douglas County has met the criteria for the May 30 storm and the Governor will make a request for assistance.

She said the Douglas County Assessor’s office has added a few additional properties it has viewed and now puts the damage to taxable properties at 21 million dollars from May storms.

Anderson said additional lakeshore clean up on Maple Lake is still in the logistical phase. And she said the federal government has the request for a major disaster declaration for the May 30 tornado event. It’s expected a decision will be made in July.

County Attorney

County Attorney Chad Larson appeared before the board and shared that his office is currently short-staffed and he is requesting flexibility to hire a qualified attorney to replace one that departed. The board allowed him that flexibility. He also introduced new Assistant County Attorney Breanna Goracke.

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