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CASS COUNTY BOARD: Shutdown may affect CSAH 1 work

LONGVILLE — Various state departments began sending letters in the last week to Cass County departments, notifying various county departments that the state cannot ensure money suspended during a state shutdown would be paid when state services resume.

Since the Legislature adjourned without producing a budget the governor could agree to sign, the county board had authorized County Engineer David Enblom to continue with work begun to improve another portion of County State Aid Highway 1.

 It is expected to be funded by $300,000 in state aid money and $900,000 in federal funds.

Enblom said he has received the county’s second half 2011 state aid money, which is paid before projects are complete.

 Federal funds, however, are channeled through the state and paid only after projects are complete. The county’s plan was to pay for the CSAH 1 federal portion and expect the federal reimbursement when complete.

However, the state only will release the federal money if MnDOT inspectors have checked the quality of gravel or bituminous used in the project to be sure it meets specification. The county could hire private contractors to do those inspections during a state shutdown, Enblom said, which has been done in the past when state inspectors were too busy to send their inspectors to a county project. Private contractors may be over-booked with the pending shutdown, he warned.

If the county needed a change order on the CSAH 1 project, only a state employee could authorize that, he said, and the project would have to shut down.

Tuesday, the board authorized Enblom to check for availability of private road inspectors and report back to the board at the board’s special planning meeting at Backus land department building Friday morning.

The board expects to decide Friday whether to continue the CSAH 1 project through a shutdown or until a change order is needed or to suspend the project July 1.

Enblom also said suspending the project could mean overlapping that project with the county’s other state aid construction projects later this summer, meaning he would not have enough staff engineers to oversee multiple projects at once.

Reno Wells, health, human and veterans services director, received a similar letter to the one Enblom received.

 The letter to Wells advised him to notify HHVS contractors that state money could cease during a shutdown and may or may not be reimbursed.

 Wells said his staff could continue to take new applications for benefits, but could not process them if the program funding does not continue. Ultimately, it could lead to county staff temporary layoffs if the county cannot continue programs.

The board authorized Wells Tuesday to send notices to service contractors, but to wait to send any employee layoff warnings until it is known which HHVS programs will be suspended in a state shutdown and whether there is a shutdown.

The governor has asked the court to determine which HHVS services might be considered essential for public health and safety and, thus,  allowed to continue through a state shutdown.

Sheriff Tom Burch said he has been advised state funds for sentence to serve programs would be suspended. Since Cass funds most of that program with county money, it will not have much impact, he said, adding the program will continue as usual in Cass.

Emergency Services Director Kerry Swenson said, because MnDOT is doing the work on all towers for the county’s ARMER 800 Mhz radio system, work on those towers would cease during a state shutdown.

Administrator Robert Yochum informed the board that the auditor’s office forwarded liquor license applications for businesses outside cities in the county to the state for approval ahead of the board’s approval given Tuesday, contingent upon the board approval.

Annual renewals usually take three weeks to process through the state, he said, adding that the county auditor’s office has been on the phone with the state regarding this year’s applications in the hope they can be processed prior to the possible July 1 state government shutdown.

Normally, the county must approve liquor licenses prior to July 1, and the state gives its approval and returns the one-year licenses before ones from the prior year run out July 16.