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.
BACKUS - Cass County commissioners approved an agreement with U.S. Forest Service Tuesday that will enable more revenue from forest service timber sales to be used locally to improve forest roads. The USFS representative from the Walker office Darla Lenz said about 30 percent of USFS timber sale proceeds currently come back to the local office. The USFS uses this money to contract road maintenance on some of the forest service roads. Some of those roads also are township roads in the county's unorganized township areas.
BACKUS — Cass County Board voted Tuesday to authorize Sheriff Tom Burch to negotiate a contract with another county to house 20 more Cass County inmates. Currently, Cass has a contract with Crow Wing County to house 40 inmates at the jail in Brainerd. With Tuesday's authorization, Burch first will try to negotiate with Crow Wing for a 60-bed contract. If that is unsuccessful, he will seek a contract with another neighboring county.