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Cass County gets $604,000 state grant

LAKE SHORE — Cass County will receive a $604,000 state grant from funds the three-eighths percent special sales tax for environment and arts generates.

Tuesday, the county board designated Land Commissioner Joshua Stevenson to administer the grant and authorized him to use the money to buy land in the county to improve access to existing county land and to consolidate ownership within existing county land acreages.

In response to Commissioner Jeff Peterson’s question, Stevenson said other parcels the county currently owns, which may not be contiguous to larger tracts of county land, will be offered for sale to the public in the future.

Stevenson called this an ideal time for the county to be making purchases, but said the county, like private landowners, has been having a harder time selling land in recent years. The county has even done re-appraisals and lowered prices, but still found it harder to sell.

Stevenson said he hopes to secure another $400,000 from the sales tax fund to make additional land purchases.

The board voted to decline a Minnesota Department of Transportation offer to participate in an aerial photo data collection program. Participation would have cost the county $18,585.

Stevenson told the board existing aerial contour maps the county has are not quite as detailed as those MnDOT proposes, but are accurate and sufficient to meet the county’s needs at this time.

He reported the county sold 3,604 cords of wood at an Aug. 25 timber auction. Aspen sold for an average of $34.87 per cords, surpassing the prices paid for all other tree species offered in that sale.

Environmental Services Director John Ringle reported to the board the county collected 44,268 pounds of electronic waste at seven half-day collection sites this summer from 472 people. This well exceeded the 15,000 pounds collected in 2010.

Disposing of the electronic waste costs the county $6,000 this year. The county has paid another $3,000 to dispose of household hazardous waste for residents.

Ringle said he expects the planning commission to set the next public hearing for proposed land use ordinance amendments for sometime in October.

 Voluntary inspections for private sewer systems on Lake Margaret are about 25 percent complete. The balance of the system checks will be completed this fall and next summer, Ringle said.

He is seeking another $83,893 from the three-eights percent state sales tax to offer sewer inspections to residents on Boy and Swift Lakes next year, to provide financial help to people whose systems have an immanent health threat and to provide matching grants to lake and homeowner associations to reduce surface runoff into lakes and streams.

Emergency Services Director Kerry Swenson obtained board approval to sign a contract with the state to participate in the northeastern region public safety 800 Mhz radio system. Swenson said the new system has been implemented far enough that he is ready to start programming local responders’ radios for connection to it.

St. Louis County will serve as fiscal agent for a 50-percent match grant to help counties in the northeast region implement the new radio system, Swenson said.