On a split vote, Cass County commissioners Tuesday, Jan. 5, decided against taking any position on the controversial Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposal to stock muskies in Gull Lake. Kevin Egan appeared before the board to ask the commissioners to pass a resolution asking the DNR to study the issue for two more years before making a decision. He said without support for a delay, the DNR is expected to make a decision this month or next month. Egan told the board the issue has strong proponents and opponents.
Cass County Board elected Jeff Peterson chair for 2016 and Dick Downham vice chair during the board's first meeting of the year Tuesday. The commissioners will hold their first meeting each month on the first Tuesday, beginning at 9 a.m. All meetings will be held at the courthouse in Walker with the exception of election days, Aug. 2 (primary) and Nov. 1 (general), which will be held at the land department building in Backus. Second meetings each month will begin at 9 a.m. the third Tuesday from January through April
Cass County commissioners on Tuesday, Dec. 15, adopted a final 2016 levy and budget, a capital equipment list and set salaries for elected officials. The final levy will include a 4.19 percent increase from 2015, as presented at the Dec. 1 public hearing. That is down from the preliminary levy set in September, which was 6.4 percent higher than 2015.
Cass County commissioners adopted a timetable Tuesday, Dec. 15, to begin the process to seek a replacement for retiring county administrator Robert Yochum. Cass County created its administrator position in 1996. Yochum has been the only person to fill the position during the intervening 20 years. The county will advertise for a new administrator from Jan. 10 to Feb. 12. Department interviews with candidates may be conducted following the board's regular Jan. 19 meeting.
The Cass County Board adopted a one-half cent local option sales tax Tuesday night, Dec. 1, that will be spent on road improvements and repairs. The unanimous vote followed public hearings on the new sales tax and on the 2016 proposed budget and levy. The board will not vote on the final budget and levy until the Dec. 15 regular board meeting, which begins at 10 a.m. at the courthouse in Walker. A growing number of counties have adopted the local transportation sales tax as state aid road funding has fallen behind county highway maintenance costs.
Cass County has reached the point where not enough money is coming into the county to keep up with costs to maintain the roads, so county engineer David Enblom proposes to use a state-allowed option for a half a cent county sales tax. If enacted, the sales tax is projected to bring Cass County $1,072,131.51 per year. Cass commissioners were scheduled to hold a public hearing at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, at the courthouse in Walker on the optional sales tax.
Several top Cass County government personnel, including the administrator, have announced plans to retire in 2016. The Cass County Board on Tuesday, Nov. 3, named commissioners to serve on search committees to replace those retiring. The full board will begin searching for a new county administrator in January to prepare for Administrator Robert Yochum's retirement at year end.
Cass County State Aid Highway 7 (CSAH) remains closed to through traffic into Longville at least through the end of October. CSAH 7 is expected to reopen at the latest right before deer hunting season in November. This means anyone wanting to enter Longville from the south or east must use alternate routes. The Cass County Board approved the closure earlier this month.
BACKUS - Hackensack-Onigum-Walker-Akeley Family Center will wind down operations between now and the end of this year and close all operations in 2016. Tuesday, the county board referred to the budget committee an evaluation of whether the county should continue funding family centers at the same level in 2016, considering that the funding level was designed to help five family centers. Now, there will be only three.
BACKUS - Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has notified Cass County by letter the DNR dropped plans to offer mineral lease sales within the county during 2015. The county only became aware of the proposed sale of minerals from under land the county and private individuals own after a DNR representative spoke before the board late this summer. The mineral sales from under 6,638 acres had been advertised to bidders June 22, but not in local newspapers.