Weather Forecast


Crow Wing County Board splits on meal reimbursement vote

Chairman Doug Houge provided the deciding vote in favor of a meal reimbursement that split the board in half.

The Crow Wing County Board split evenly after hearing a proposal Tuesday to revise the county’s travel and expenses policy.

The issue related to allowing a meal reimbursement for lunch for single-day conferences where the meeting started before and went past the noon meal time.

Breakfast and night meals were excluded. Tami Laska, human resources director, said employees are expected to be cost conscious in submitting receipts for reimbursement.

Meals are generally not allowed for travel for a single day where an overnight stay is not required or department meetings or workshops, among other exceptions.

Laska said the travel and attendance at the seminar must be approved by the department head and several sets of eyes review the reimbursement requests. Meals allowed for reimbursement serve a public purpose and must come with itemized receipts, including the business purpose of the meeting, date and location.

Daily reimbursement rates were increased from $9 to $12 for breakfast, $13 to $18 for lunch and $24 to $36 for dinner.

Laska said she realized the increase appeared to be substantial but noted there hasn’t been an update since 2006.

Thiede said a 33 percent increase is an increase any way its sliced and he noted the recent backlash on the federal level following General Services Administration’s Las Vegas conference. The conference has been described as being extravagant and embarrassing.

“I think our timing is a little poor,” Thiede said.

Administrator Tim Houle said they’re not trying to be extravagant but are addressing conferences that occur in the Twin Cities.

Commissioners Paul Thiede and Rosemary Franzen voted against. Commissioners Phil Trusty and Rachel Reabe Nystrom were in favor of the revisions. The motion passed with Houge’s approval.

In other business, the board:

Appointed Orville Duncan Jr. to the Extension Committee after being in the unusual position of having three candidates interested in a single at-large post. Duncan’s varied background, which did not repeat the experience of others already on the committee, was considered a plus. Duncan, a Center Township resident who comes from the medical field, also has experience raising ducks and geese. Board members noted they actually need someone with a farming background. Other candidates were JoAnn Weaver and Douglas Johanson.

“Everyone was so qualified and that made it hard to choose,” Franzen said.

Learned the county recently received a $7,750 grant from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to provide two seasonal boat inspectors on Whitefish and Pelican lakes from May through August. Thiede said the funding is part of the Legislature’s effort this year to triple what it is spending on invasive aquatic species. If this effort proves effective, Thiede said perhaps the county could go after a grant for a traveling inspector.

The county hires the inspectors and the lake associations schedule their time at boat landings. The grant pays for the inspectors’ salaries. Land Supervisor Chirs Pence said about $75,000 in grants were issued statewide. Trusty expressed concern that the program sounds warm and fuzzy but three of nine lake accesses are being covered.

Inspectors will focus on the busiest landings, Pence said, adding the program is at no cost to the county. Pence noted previously a boat with milfoil on it was stopped from going into Hay Lake.

Heard updates on the melding of the auditor-treasurer’s office from Auditor-Treasurer Laureen Borden and staff responsibilities from deputy auditors Mike Carlson, Kathi Sharp and Deborah Erickson. This week, two employees in the former treasurer’s office on the west wing of the second floor, where items such as birth and marriage records were maintained, moved into the auditor’s offices on the east side.

Those freshly vacated offices will be used for absentee voting, which is expected to relieve any congestion in the rotunda.

Met in a closed session for labor negotiations and pending litigation.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
(218) 855-5852