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Cass board approves five-year capital plan

WALKER — Cass County Board approved the updated county five-year capital improvement plan Tuesday. It calls for using solid waste fee revenue to replace the transfer station baler in 2014 for an estimated $225,000. It recommends implementing a new scale usage fee for trucks at the transfer station. Receipts from that would pay the estimated $75,000 cost to replace the scale in 2015.

Cass is exploring with Crow Wing, Beltrami, Itasca, Morrison and Todd Counties the possibility of purchasing in 2013 a regional software program for income maintenance division of human services. Shared estimate cost would be about $150,000.

Now that Cass has converted old records for most county departments to digital format, entering new records in electronic format will be paid from annual operating funds rather than the capital improvement budget.

The board referred to the budget committee the central services recommendation to budget $100,000 annually to maintain the existing county government buildings in Walker for the foreseeable future rather than to begin any new building construction at the former Ah-Gwah-Ching property.

Also referred to the budget committee is central service’s proposal to purchase larger back-up generator service for courthouse complex buildings and land department building and an upgraded fire alarm system.

Health, Human and Veterans Services year-end fund balances would be used to pay for proposed perimeter supplemental heating for that building at an estimated cost of $60,000 There has been a chronic heating problem on the north and west walls since that building was built.

The board discussed extensively options for moving three large propane tanks from Ah-Gwah-Ching to Walker, so the county could convert existing buildings from oil to propane heating.

Not only the county, but also Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Schools and Leech Lake Reservation (for Northern Lights Casino) are interested in using the three large tanks. The state will require the school district and reservation to pay the county market price if they want to use one of the three tanks.

Moving the tanks will be contingent on getting approval from the city of Walker to place the tanks inside the city.

Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Anderson said the payback on estimated $130,000 moving costs would be three years with the savings on fuel.

Central Services Director Tim Richardson said converting to propane would provide long-term savings even if natural gas lines run to Walker, because a high user like the county could be asked to use alternate heat fuel at peak times when the natural gas line would not be adequate to serve all users in Walker.

The board named Commissioners Dick Downham and Jim Dowson to meet with school and tribal and city officials before moving forward on this. They and Administrator Robert Yochum will investigate the potential for firms owning natural gas lines at Cass Lake and Park Rapids to run lines to Walker area.

A gas line that runs up as far as Pine River is believed already to be at capacity and unable to service points farther north.

The county will look at building a room in the walkway connection between the old courthouse and jail buildings to house court records. Those records currently take up a third of the space in a probation office. Cost for the new room is estimated at $60,000.

The plan postpones to 2013 the proposal to build a new county garage at Remer adjacent to the Minnesota Department of Transportation building in that city for $450,000. It would replace an undersized 34-year-old poorly insulated garage the county currently has at Remer.

The county would replace the 50-year-old equipment maintenance highway garage building at Walker in 2014 for an estimated $700,000 if the highway department has enough fund balance to cover the cost in 2014. County Engineer David Enblom said it will improve operating costs and improve service capabilities.

The land department proposes to spend $250,000 per year each of the next five years to expand the county recreational trail system to create destination trails between communities in the county.

The land department will prepare a schedule of future trails projects before proceeding.

The board will begin looking at options at the regular April 17 board meeting in Backus for improving the county building security system.