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Settlement reached with third of six Cass bargaining units

BACKUS — Cass County commissioners voted Tuesday to accept the third of six bargaining unit agreements with county employees.

This agreement is with Teamsters Local 346, representing sheriff’s dispatchers and records personnel. It calls for the same terms as two agreements the board signed two weeks ago with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

There will be zero increase to the overall pay scale in 2011 and 2012 over 2010 pay rates. Employees not already at the top of the 10-step pay scale will be eligible in July to move one step higher on the scale, effectively giving about a 3 percent raise mid-year.

The county personnel committee is still negotiating with unions representing highway department employee and assistant county attorney bargaining units. Without voting on the county offer AFSCME and dispatcher-records personnel approved, the deputy-jailer bargaining unit has called for mediation. That is scheduled for Feb. 25.

Sheriff Tom Burch reported to the board he has been able to obtain the use of two new snowmobiles without charge from Artic Cat through a Bemidji dealer for the balance of this winter season to use for rescue services. The snowmobiles must be returned in the same condition as when they were loaned to the county. They must be returned by May 1.

Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust will provide insurance coverage for the county and Artic Cat, Burch said. This will save the county up to $9,500 the board authorized earlier this year to buy a snowmobile large enough to haul people needing emergency care from trails to an ambulance on a towed sled, Burch noted.

He said he will try to negotiate a similar arrangement with Artic Cat for future winter seasons.

The board approved a Minnesota DNR plan to purchase three lots on Lantern Bay of Woman Lake. Woodrow Township, where the bay is located, endorsed the DNR purchase Feb. 3. Much of that shallow bay is now in state and county ownership, to be preserved for public wildlife and habitat preservation and to be made available for public enjoyment. Prior to the DNR purchases in recent years, the property had been proposed for subdivision and development.

The board voted to recommend the University of Minnesota and Joint Higher Education Committee of the Minnesota Legislature appoint Robert Ostlund of Walker to the Eighth District seat on the Minnesota Board of Regents. He is one of four candidates being considered.

Ostlund is a retired educator and school superintendent at metropolitan area schools. He lives just south of Walker.

He is the son of the late Erv Ostlund, who served many years as Walker-Hackensack-Akeley school superintendent and as a Cass County commissioner from 1985 to 1996.

Chief Financial Officer Larry Wolfe, in response to a board inquiry, said when the new tax computer system the county is implementing is fully operational, the county will have the option to offer emailed tax statements to property tax owners who prefer to receive mailings that way rather than by U.S. Postal Service mail.