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Cass County Board: Downham selected as board chairman

WALKER — Cass County commissioners Tuesday selected Dick Downham as chair and Bob Kangas as vice-chair for 2017.

They set regular board meetings to begin at 9 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month at the courthouse in Walker and the third Tuesday of each month at the land department building in Backus.

Exceptions will be the third Tuesdays of May through September when the board will meet at various city and town halls around the county, beginning each of those meetings at 6 p.m. Exact locations will be announced this spring.

The commissioners will host a work session following the regular board meeting Feb. 7 to train on the new board packet software and another work session Feb. 21 for the auditor-treasurer's presentation on election functions in that office.

They approved the same County Board Meeting Rules of Business as they approved the last two years.

Pine Cone Press Citizen of Longville submitted the lowest of three bids to win the 2017 legal notice publication contract for 2017. Their bid ran about 5 cents per column inch lower than that of the Pilot-Independent of Walker.

Historically, the Pilot-Independent has won the county legal notice publication contract for many years, according to Administrator Joshua Stevenson, who researched old county board records.

The county pays not only to have legal notices published, but also pays to advertise job openings and other items during the year that are not required to be published by law. Cass buys ads in about 23 different publications during each year that are not part of the legal newspaper contract.

Cass' total publishing costs ran about $133,000 over the last three years, according to Stevenson. Of that total, he said, Cass paid $30,000 to Jobs HQ, an online and print advertiser to advertise job openings. They also publish job openings in many local newspapers in addition to the legal publication contractor.

Legal notice advertising is not the highest amount the county pays to any one advertiser, he said.

The Press Citizen offers free distribution of their news and advertising print publication to 6,650 recipients, largely in the central part of the county. Most of its 173 paid subscribers live outside the county or seasonally leave the county.

The Pilot-Independent's newspaper has a paid circulation of 1,903, 1,318 of whom live in the county. Gail DeBoer, Pilot-Independent reporter who spoke at Tuesday's meeting for her publisher, who is recovering from surgery, said their shopping guide, The Co-Pilot, is distributed free to 7,700 recipients.

With the second lowest bid, the Pilot Independent will publish the second financial statement this year.

Cass Lake Times, the third bidder this year, has usually qualified for the second financial statement publishing when Pilot-Independent has won the primary legal publication bid. This year, they did not qualify for any county legal notice publishing.

The commissioners discussed the fact none of the publications serving Cass County residents covers the entire county.

"I don't know which way is the best way to inform our citizenry," Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk concluded. The vote to award this year's contract to Pine Cone Press Citizen was unanimous.

Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Anderson obtained board approval to send a county information newsletter with property tax statements again this spring. The tax statements will be mailed sometime in March, she said.

Among the topics in the newsletter will be highway projects, aquatic invasive species updates, information about the county website and a report on the new transportation sales taxes collected and where the county will spend that income.

Cass commissioners approved paying the 53.5 cents per mile IRS mileage rate to employees and committee appointees. Employees generally are required to use a county vehicle when available. If a county car is available and they choose to use their own vehicle, their mileage rate is reduced to only 26.75 cents per mile.

Employees who travel for county business that involves overnight travel in Minnesota and who provide a receipt may get reimbursed up to $51 per day for meals and incidental expenses, which is subject to tax withholding. A $64 expense rate is allowed for overnight travel to Olmstead, St. Louis, Hennepin and Ramsey counties and $59 for Dakota County.

Cass pays employees up to $20 per day, with receipts provided, for expenses without overnight travel elsewhere in the state. Cass does not pay meal or incidental expenses for travel inside the county.

Travel outside Minnesota is based on a table posted on the county website at www.co.cass.mn.us.

The board approved a contract with the Minnesota State Auditor's Office to perform the county's 2017 annual audit and approved paying the $14,356 annual Association of Minnesota Counties membership dues.

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