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County contemplates shutdown

With a state government shutdown still possible, Crow Wing County commissioners have considered consequences at the county level. 

Three departments are expected to be affected the most — the highway department, sheriff’s department and community services. 

A shutdown, if it comes, could last for one week or 11 weeks. Tuesday, County Administrator Tim Houle said staff is preparing contingencies for both scenarios. 

“Of course, it’s crystal ball stuff,” said Houle. “We don’t know.”

Beth Wilms, community services director, told commissioners vendors are wondering about payments since they send invoices to the state for contracts. The county is telling the providers there is no guarantee there will be a reimbursement. 

Houle said while the county can draw from the majority of financing for projects that have been awarded by bid, the problem will be a lack of inspectors needed to allow the project to move forward. Without that step the county could be on the hook for the cost. 

“I do see some road projects getting shut down,” Houle said. 

Even with a shutdown, Houle said there are duties that will fall to the county. Houle used the scenario of a tree falling across Highway 371 with the Minnesota Department of Transportation shut down. The county would have to remove it, Houle said.

Houle said the county is in an awkward position and will have to be cautious because a reimbursement may or may not be coming. Details are sketchy, Houle said. 

Board Chairman Paul Thiede said he hopes people see this situation is not the county’s creation but is a stalemate between the Legislature and the governor.Wilms said child care providers are already calling wondering about being paid during a government shutdown and they are being advised to contact their legislators to let them know the impact. 

Food support, Medical Assistance and Minnesota Family Investment Program are all the “poorest of the poor and receiving benefits because they are in that category,” Wilms said. “We are taking it very seriously. We are forging ahead as if there will be a shutdown.”

Thiede said it is absolutely a political game but the more the county can stay out of it the better. 

Later this month, Houle said more information is expected on what the state considers paying as core functions of the executive branch — such as taking care of the mentally ill, veterans in nursing homes and supervised release of sex offenders.  

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.