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October 1 County Board Meeting

Posted: 10/01/2019

Author: Julie Anderson

Category: County Board, Departments

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Douglas County Commissioners made a series of important decisions at the October 1 board meeting. These decisions impact residents, visitors, business owners and county employees. We’ll share their actions, but first, let’s start with a nice recognition.

Commissioners whole heartedly endorsed the Minnesota Association of Library Friends award to Georgia Wahlberg. Wahlberg is being recognized as the “Stand up for Standout Friends” member of 2019. This former teacher has been a member of the Douglas County Friends of the Library since 2008 when she became treasurer for the friends’ group. She currently helps with the membership/public relations committee: she maintains the membership list and, according to Library Director Dawn Dailey, she does a wonderful job at keeping track, right down to the penny, of all donations.

Wahlberg is active with Master Gardeners and she uses her knowledge and time to make Friends of the Library a fun and exciting place to be. Dailey says Wahlberg is also very humble. Upon getting the award, she said, “There has to be someone else who deserves this more than I do!”

We disagree Georgia. Congratulations!  

In other news, Commissioners moved forward with proposed health insurance rates for employees. Open enrollment begins October 2 and ends October 31.

The county expects to soon own the former First Lutheran Church building in Alexandria. Assuming the closing occurs as scheduled, the county will begin removing asbestos. Commissioners approved a bid of $44,175.00 from ECCO Midwest to do the work. The bid includes an additional $1,600.00 for a tank in the boiler room.

Commissioners approved $50,000 to assist with a building project for North Country Food Banks which supplies food for eligible residents in Douglas County. The funds will come from the 2019 budget if available, or the 2020 budget.

 The board agreed to take in $137,346 in grant money from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. The natural resources block grant money will be used for local water management, wetland conservation, shoreland and septic treatment systems.

Winter is fast approaching, so commissioners once again approved the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to maintain cross country ski trails in the Douglas County Parks and they approved of a Western MVP 3 snowplow from Alexandria Recreational Vehicles for a Parks Department pickup.

Residents near County Ditch #6 will see a redetermination of benefits. The Drainage Authority finds the existing benefits, as determined in prior drainage proceedings, do not reflect reasonable present-day land values, nor do they reflect the current lands benefitted or damaged by the drainage system. Commissioners also okayed repair work for Branch #2 on that ditch. The work will be done next year and is expected to cost between $8,000 and $12,000.

One of the contracts the county has is with a medical examiner. County Attorney Chad Larson says he’s been very pleased with the work done by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office and Dr. A. Quinn Strobl. He asked the board to reappoint Dr. Strobl as the county’s medical examiner through December 31, 2021. The board complied with that request.

One of the informational sessions that generated a lot of questions from commissioners involved discussion of what’s called a lodging tax for visitors staying at resorts. Currently there are two marketing efforts for resorts: Lakes Area Marketing and Explore Alexandria. Explore Alexandria is funded through a lodging tax imposed on visitors in the city of Alexandria and several townships. Only the resorts in the lodging tax area receive promotion from Explore Alexandria. Tara Bitzan, from the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, Greg Bowen, owner of Brophy Lake Resort in La Grand Township, and James Feist with Explore Alexandria, shared the idea of having a county-wide lodging tax to promote all resorts. Bowen says his guests don’t mind the additional lodging tax and he’s had great success being included in the promotional efforts. Bowen says he also appreciate everything Lakes Area Marketing does but added its budget doesn’t begin to compare to Explore Alexandria. County Attorney Chad Larson will conduct research into the details before commissioners make any decisions.

Another interesting presentation came from Pope Douglas Solid Waste Executive Director Steve Vrchota and Environmental Coordinator Nathan Reinbold.  

They explained an ambitious project for which they are seeking state bonding funds along with county funds. Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management provides a number of benefits to county residents and visitors. It turns garbage into steam which it sells to 3M, Alomere Health and the Alexandria Technical & Community College, it provides a household hazardous waste drop off site and recycling area and it has begun an Organics Composting program. Did you know 32 percent of garbage is food waste or soiled paper?  That’s a lot.

Pope/Douglas Solid Waste would like to expand to broaden the reach of all its efforts. They are proposing an $18.9 million project and hop the state Capital Assistance Program (CAP) will provide $8 million in funds. You can learn more about this important county agency at http://popedouglasrecycle.com/index.php/about-us/facility-expansion-retrofit-renovation/

Finally, commissioners were very interested to learn the latest on licensed childcare providers in the county. Laurie Bonds shared the results of a provider survey sent to all 100 childcare providers in Douglas County. Sourcewell is contracted to provide the licensing services and received very high marks from those responding to the survey. Providers indicated they liked the website Sourcewell created, a booklet that has the required forms and information about licensing and they are always able to get ahold of the district resource person.

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