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Cass County Board: Work on Leech Lake watershed plan continues

BACKUS—The Leech Lake River One Watershed One Plan likely will be ready for

Cass County Board approval by the end of this summer.

This plan is the first of three multi-county water plans, which if approved will replace the county's water plan for a specific watershed. The plans are designed to cover each whole watershed and cross county boundary lines. Kelly Condiff, Cass County environmental services technician, discussed the plan with the county board Tuesday, Jan. 15.

The Leech Lake River plan covers about 8,450 acres in Cass and Hubbard counties.

It is in a public comment period through Jan. 28, then must be approved by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources by March and has a Sept. 27 deadline for both counties and their local boards of soil and water conservation to approve it before it would take effect.

If approved, the plan will enable a local plan committee with representatives from the two counties to receive annual BWSR grants for projects designed to protect the watershed rather than to have to compete with other jurisdictions for future grants, Condiff told the commissioners.

All projects would be voluntary, he said.

Cass also is involved with Crow Wing County in a similar plan for the Pine River Watershed and with five counties in a plan for the Upper Mississippi Watershed.

In other environmental services business, the county board approved designating a full-time position rather than part-time for the aquatic invasive species technician, eliminating zoning permit intake duties from that job.

In other business, the county board:

Referred to the planning commission a request from Kay Huddle to reclassify 0.14 acres in Pine Lake Township from water-oriented commercial to shoreland residential.

Heard from County Engineer Darrick Anderson, who informed the county board he will meet with township officers 3-5 p.m. Feb. 13 at the land department building in Backus to inform them about county highway projects planned for this summer.

Anderson also invites townships to partner with the county if they want to bid with the county for calcium chloride gravel road treatment, land striping, gravel application, noxious weed control, crack sealing, maintenance construction projects, culvert orders, street sign replacement or highway shop building projects.

Town road gas tax allotments also will be presented.

The county board approved a memorandum of understanding with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe to enable the band to consolidate access to Shingobee Island south of Walker to a single lane onto the frontage road and add turn lanes on Highway 371 at no cost to the county.

The county would continue to maintain and make future improvements to the frontage road.

Anderson also obtained board approval to attend the National Association of County Engineers annual meeting in April in Wichita, Kan.

Approved Land Commissioner Kirk Titus to set the county's annual land sale for 9 a.m. June 22 at the courthouse in Walker.

Non-conservation parcels to be sold range from small city lots to a 97.6-acre site and an 80-acre site, both in Poplar Township. They include six 1-acre sites in Castle Addition to Bigwater in Sylvan Township and three 1-acre sites in Wilderness Park in Meadowbrook Township.

City lots for sale will be in Backus, Bena, Cass Lake, Federal Dam, Lake Shore and Remer. A complete list will be posted on the county website at www.co.cass.mn.us.

Elite Environmental Services submitted the lowest of five bids at $2,194.50 to remove asbestos and other regulated materials from seven buildings on tax-forfeited land parcels in preparation for demolishing the buildings.

Received a progress report from Probation Director Jim Schneider, who updated the county board on progress since it approved accepting a grant two years ago to participate in a project to try to keep the county's youths, especially minority youths, out of juvenile detention facilities.

This is a nationwide program, which first was tried in Minnesota in Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties in 2005.

Cass is one of eight Ninth Judicial District counties to enter a project together. These Ninth District counties are predominantly ethnically white, with the highest minority population being American Indian.

Seven of the eight counties are member counties for operating Northwestern Minnesota Juvenile Detention Center at Bemidji.

To this point, Schneider said, the study has looked at what these counties have done to try to keep youths out of detention facilities and, more importantly, what they have done or could do to prevent children from committing offenses in the first place.

The focus now will be on how to change the system, how to work with youths and their families to break the cycle, Schneider said.

Tuesday, the county board appointed Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk to represent Cass on the eight-county Northern Region Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Committee.

Accepted an $11,000 donation from Imperial Foundation's Scott Stuart and a $17,500 grant from George W. Neilson Foundation for the sheriff's K-9 unit. The county plans to expand to two K-9 units.

Learned the county earned $1,343,146.76 in interest on investments in 2018, or 136 percent of what was expected in the budget. This is also well above 2017 earnings, which were $934,923.94.

Approved a purchase of service agreement with the Family Safety Network to provide services to children and families to prevent child abuse and to assist children and families involved in child abuse.

In 2017, the Family Safety Network provided direct services to 120 children whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence and/or child abuse.

The Family Safety Network is paid from and up to the limit of proceeds from the Radiothon to End Child Abuse. The 2017 radiothon receipts were $5,084.99.

Approved paying up to $5,000 each in 2019 to Robin Hewitt, Miriam Tell, Mark F. Wildgen, John Parkin and Jay F. Wilimek to provide adult and child mental health services to Cass County clients.

Approved paying $72.50 per hour in 2019 to Nystrom and Associates to provide home-based mental health services and in-home family counseling.

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