The Cass County Board heard a report Nov. 19 from the Eelpout Committee of the Board on the 2020 Eelpout Festival set for Feb. 20-23.

It was reported that festival organizers must submit an approved trash and sanitation (portable toilet) plan to the county so that a water surface permit can be issued by the Sheriffs Office. The permit ensures that the city of Walker and local businesses take responsibility for sanitation and trash removal that includes trash and sanitation on the lake.

Also discussed was the issue of abandoned vehicles and fish houses left on the lake. If stranded, the Sheriff’s Office will help people back to shore, but they are not responsible for removing structures or vehicles that are stuck or abandoned on the ice.

At the Sept. 9 Walker City Council meeting, the council approved a request from Chase on the Lake to close Fifth Street North from Cleveland Boulevard down to the City Pier and to place a 49- by 98-foot tent at the bottom for Eelpout Festival 2020. There were six conditions that will need to be followed including passage around the tent, passage on Cleveland Boulevard, having a porta-a-john and trash plan, and securing the tent without damaging the street or public property.

Environmental Services

Environmental Services Director John Ringle reported on well water monitoring. The history of water well monitoring throughout Cass County evolved from early state, federal, and private tests that look at drinking water toxicity in private wells and aquifers.

Recent forest to agriculture land conversions, and increased irrigation for farmlands in the Pineland Sands area of Cass County has spurred a new interest in groundwater toxins related to nitrates and agricultural chemicals used in farming practices.

Ringle noted that “there is very little public data compiled to indicate any real trend in groundwater quality.” He also noted “very few of the wells [that were tested] showed a level of concern.”

There has been voluntary testing in the Pineland Sands area of Hiram and Deerfield townships regarding nitrogen, one of the toxins that comes from herbicide and pesticide runoff that drains into groundwater wells and aquifers.

Ringle did report that several agencies have done testing including Minnesota Pollution Control Agency testing for pollutants,  DNR testing for water levels, Department of Agriculture testing for agricultural toxins such as pesticides and fertilizer (nitrates), and /department of Health testing for private drinking water supplies.

Assessor’s report

County Assessor Mark Peterson reported the county’s progress on tax classification of short-term vacation rental properties such as VRBO, Airbnb, etc.

The Assessor’s Office mailed out 270 letters to property owners who have been identified as short-term vacation rentals.

They will be asked to respond to determine the primary use of their property for tax classification purposes. A Department of Revenue directive dated May 21, 2019, instructed assessors to “identify and classify short term vacation rental properties commercial for the 2020 assessment.”  

Peterson noted that identifying properties that utilize the option of renting to vacationers is very labor intensive often taking hours to complete. He also noted that the issue is being discussed in the Governor’s office.  

Highway Department

Highway Engineer, Darrick Anderson presented a request to improve and widen the shoulders on County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 2, in west-central Cass County,  to accommodate ATV traffic that is using the shoulders of the road to access the various trail networks along CSAH 2, instead of using the Foothills State Forest campground.  

The length of the road affected is approximately 2.4 miles, and the projected cost is an estimated $180,000.

The project is eligible for 80 percent funding from the State Park Road Account. The County’s portion is estimated at $36,000.

Sourcewell partnership update

Michelle Tautges, representing Sourcewell, provided an update on partnering with the county and a new regional service for the elderly.

Sourcewell collaborates with the county on monthly director meetings, bi-annual meetings with county supervisors, monthly database updates, legally non-licensed monitoring inspections, rule 13 audits, licensing actions and variance requests.

Sourcewell also offers adult foster care licenses. They are partnering with four counties for adult foster care including Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties, which provides cost savings for partnering counties through pooling of resources and provides consistency regarding licensing.

Longville Ambulance update

Kevin Lee, North Memorial Ambulance, reported that Longville Ambulance Service revenues increased due to rising patient numbers in the third quarter. Longville budgeted for 233 and served 273 patients comparable to 2018 when 252 patients were billed.  

The top three destination hospitals for patients were Brainerd 28, Bemidji 17, and Crosby 15. Deer River and Cass Lake received nine patients each with Grand Rapids seven, and Park Rapids three, while AirCare delivered eight patients.

Recorder’s report

Recorder Katie Norby reported that due to equipment malfunctions, Thrifty White Drug will no longer be taking photos for passports. A motion was passed to allow the Recorder’s Office to purchase new photo equipment that should pay for itself in six months to a year, as a $12 fee is assessed for new photos, with an average of 100 to 200 new photos taken each year.

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