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CASS COUNTY BOARD: New ski club will maintain four trails

WALKER – The Cass County Board endorsed proposals Tuesday from a new ski club to maintain the county’s four ski trail systems and to seek state DNR grant-in-aid trails funding.

Land Commissioner Joshua Stevenson will submit the grant application to the state. He said he believes funding is available, but does not know how much.

The board also approved Stevenson’s suggestion that the county lease grooming equipment at little or no cost to the club to begin grooming this winter.

While the ski trails have been in place for many years here, grooming has been variable. Sometimes individuals have volunteered to do grooming. In recent years, the work has fallen mainly to land department personnel.

Now that county budget cuts have lowered land department staff levels, there were not enough people left to continue maintenance work, Stevenson said, so he recommended this spring to the board that the county cease grooming the ski trails this year unless a ski club came forward to do the grooming like snowmobile clubs do.

Don Hoppe, Hackensack, and Linda McNamara, Backus, two of the Lake Country Nordic Ski Club’s organizers, were at Tuesday’s board meeting. Hoppe reported more than two-dozen ski enthusiasts have shown interest in the club, which may be reached at

The board has expressed interest in seeing the county’s trails have multiple uses. For that reason, Stevenson has looked at areas where four-wheeler clubs might maintain and use snowmobile trails in the summer while snowmobilers continue to maintain and use them in the winter.

Ski trails have been primarily hunter-walking trails in the non-snowy months. The board suggested, if a non-motorized mountain bike club showed interest in the future, that club might be paired similarly with the cross-country ski club on the current ski trails.

Cass’ ski trails are located west of Pine River, southeast of Washburn Lake by Outing, southwest of Ten Mile Lake north of Hackensack and halfway between Hackensack and Longville near the Woodtick Trail.

In other land department business Tuesday, Stevenson reported a significant drop in prices loggers paid for aspen stumpage at the October timber auction -- $18.95 per cord. Prices have averaged this year about $27.50 per cord, he said.

He attributed the lower prices to the fact that one of the main paper companies that loggers here market their logs to has dropped prices it pays and to the fact loggers have a backlog of timber sales they already purchased because they were unable to log some sales last winter due to deep snow and little frost in the ground.

The board approved an easement on county land to TDS Telecom for expanding a telecommunications pedestal in Moose Lake Township and revised terms of an easement in Crooked Lake Township that will require property owners to move a gate onto their property.

The board declined an offer to purchase two land parcels Minnesota DNR wants to sell. Though the values have been revised downward significantly since the DNR first offered the parcels in 2009, Stevenson said they do not fit with the current county land holdings. These parcels now will be offered for sale to the public.

One 1.22-acre parcel is located on Longwood Point on the northwest side of Washburn Lake in Crooked Lake Township. Value has been dropped from $110,000 to $55,700. It includes 100 feet of shoreline.

he other, a 40-acre parcel, lies six miles south of Cass Lake in Wilkinson Township. It is heavily wooded, lies within the Welsh Lake State Forest and is on County State Aid Highway 144.

Despite the fact Cass County’s out of home child placement costs were running about 12 percent less than budgeted through September this year, the costs were 22 percent more than the same time period in 2010.

Health, Human and Veterans Services Fiscal Agent Melanie Wolfe reported this information to the county board Tuesday, noting these costs seem to fluctuate from year to year.

The screening team saw 49 children between September 2010 and September 2011. Of those, two were referred by probation department, 37 by HHVS, nine by Leech Lake and one was a joint referral.

Three fourths of the children were age 15 or younger. About half each were white or Indian and male or female.

There was a significant incidence of increased chemical use. In 2009-10, five cases involved marijuana use and four, alcohol. In 2010-11, two cases involved cocaine use; six, methamphetamine; 10, marijuana; and eight, alcohol.

Through September this year, it has cost $1,574,788 to place children outside their own homes, with $1,309,810 of that being paid by Cass County. Some of the difference was recovered from children’s parents, with federal programs paying the balance.

The county has paid so far this year, $520,401 to correctional facilities, $570,082 to group homes, $337,716 to foster homes, $82,181 to emergency shelters and $64,408 for miscellaneous services for children placed outside their own homes.

Cass County third-quarter foreclosures hit a peak in 2010 and declined about 25 percent the third quarter this year, according to a report Assessor Mark Peterson presented to the county board Tuesday.

During the third quarter of the year in 2008 and in 2009, Cass recorded 33 foreclosures, with the number rising to 35 in 2010. This year, the number was 26. All foreclosed properties except one were valued at under $400,000.

The number for homestead residential dropped from 19 in 2010 to 12 in 2011, but the number of foreclosed seasonal properties remained steady at 13 to 14. There has been only one foreclosure on a commercial property or resort each of the last three years.

Peterson reported arms length property sales so far this year have run behind 2010, even though sales in May and September hit the highest for those months since 2007 and 2008. Summer sales were down this year, compared with 2010.