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Guest Column: Crow Wing County commissioner shares an end-of-year message with constituents

District 2 Commissioner Bill Brekken remains committed to ensuring that the county offers excellent programs and services while maintaining sensible budgeting practices.

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Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

Dear District 2 friends and neighbors,

As I reflect on my third year in office, I am both proud of what has been accomplished and humbled by the amount of work still to be done.

The world looks a lot different than when I took office; however, I am still committed to ensuring that our county offers excellent programs and services while maintaining sensible budgeting practices.

2021 presented many challenges and opportunities for our community. Two areas that were particularly impacted were the local economy and the environment.

Small businesses are the cornerstone of our community, and I proudly supported initiatives that help them navigate this difficult time. One way the county supported local businesses was committing $6 million of our federal CARES funds to go directly to them through grants.

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I believe it is crucial that these organizations continue to employ community members and provide much needed goods and services.

The second way we offered support was through the dedication of $500,000 of federal ARPA funds for grants to child care providers. These providers play a key role in our local economy by providing care for our youngest residents, ensuring that their parents can remain in the workforce.

Related to these issues is the need for additional housing. We established a Housing Trust Fund, which sets aside money to invest in projects that directly address our workforce housing shortage.

This past year we also focused on preserving and protecting our natural resources. Together with Cass County, we established the Pine River Watershed to protect the water quality in the northern half of our county. Our residents, businesses and visitors all depend on having access to clean, safe water.

To further protect water quality, Crow Wing County made it easier to establish lake improvement districts, which allow lake property owners to use their own tax dollars to fund projects to protect their lakes.

In addition, I am proud of how county staff has collaborated with lake associations to help slow the spread of aquatic invasive species.

2021 also saw an important community conversation around short-term vacation rentals. This issue impacts both our local economy and the environment. After years of analyzing the effects of short-term vacation rentals, the county finally established an ordinance that balances the rights of the property owners with the impact of their rental unit on the neighborhood and the environment.

Of course, these are only a few of the initiatives and projects that took place in 2021. If you have an issue that you’d like to discuss, please contact me at 218-232-0257 or at bill.brekken@crowwing.us.

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As I prepare for 2022, I plan to expand my focus on workforce, housing, child care and broadband. These economic drivers will help keep our taxes down and build a strong economy.

I hope you each had a merry Christmas and have a happy new year. I look forward to continuing to work with and for you.

Bill Brekken is the Crow Wing County District 2 commissioner representing the cities of Crosslake, Jenkins, Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point and Nisswa.

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