WALKER-Participation has been high among people being booked into Cass County Jail for a voluntary new program designed to diminish recidivism, Jayne Crawford, county social worker, told the Cass County Board Tuesday, July 2.

Of the 267 individuals booked into the jail in May and June this year, 198 agreed to meet with a social worker and 146 or 55 percent completed the screening.

The concept is to screen participants for chemical dependency and mental health issues and to give them referrals to the full range of support services available.

The majority of people Crawford has seen have substance abuse issues, she said.

Only 26 percent refused to participate. A few could not, because there was not a social worker available before they were released from jail.

The goal is to see them within 24 hours of arrest and before they go to court.

They can connect with mental health specialists by video conference directly from the jail, Crawford said. People do not have to have insurance to participate, she added.

The goal is to get them enough community support that they do not reoffend, Crawford said.

County Administrator Joshua Stevenson said whether or not this is a factor, the jail has admitted fewer inmates since the program began.

Tuesday, the county board signed a resolution to participate in a nationwide program to share with other jurisdictions throughout the country what works and does not work in programs like this.

Chief Financial Officer Sandra Norikane reported the preliminary 2018 audit of Cass County financial records shows the county had a net positive balance of $3,639,105, most of which is committed to designated projects such as road construction, but that the $784,445 general fund balance could be considered discretionary.

She said the final state audit should be completed in August.

Spending the first half of 2019 appears to be generally running in line with budget projections, she said.

Norikane also reported a recent court judgment has ordered the federal government to pay an additional amount withheld from the county's 2015 to 2017 federal payments in lieu of taxes.

It appears in years when congressional bills passed with the PILT being "discretionary" the shortages occurred, but when the bills were passed as "mandatory" the full amount was paid, she said.

She has not been notified yet how much additional money the county will be paid for 2015 to 2017.

Amounts due in 2018 and 2019 have been paid in full, she said.

Human Services Director Kelsey Schwartz reported Cass County was notified the county meets the state's pay equity compliance rules.

Acting as the Board of Equalization June 17, the county board approved lowering the property value on 20 properties the assessing department recommended. Those value reductions ranged from $3,700 for a mobile home to $122,800 for a property containing a large amount of bog.

The board also reduced by $25,000 one property the assessing department had not recommended reducing, but agreed with the county's appraisers not to reduce 13 other properties.

In other action July 2, the board:

Approved listing contact information for county offices and county commissioners in the Farm and Home Publisher Cass County plat book. The listing is free to the county.

Approved paying the final $5,000 of a $65,000 grant to the city of Hackensack to restore the retaining wall along Birch Lake for the city's fishing pier. Total project cost was $87,500.

Approved the county serving as election administrator for Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School District's operating levy referendum and Northland Community Schools at Remer's special election to fill two board seats. Both will be Nov. 5.

Approved a contract with Sharon Grossman to provide guardianship/conservatory services at $25 per hour for a maximum of five hours per month through Dec. 31, 2019.

Approved canceling debts owed to Health, Human and Veterans Services Department. Forty claims totaling $36,272 were owed by people now deceased. Two worth $375 were uncollectable. Thirty-seven were owed where the statute of limitations has run out. Those totaled $23,417.

Referred to the budget committee requests from Central Minnesota Council on Aging and the Initiative Foundation for financial support in 2020.