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Mild winter saved money, stimulated construction

WALKER — Mild temperatures and little snow have saved Cass County quite a bit of money and stimulated new building construction, according to two reports the county board heard Tuesday.

“We think we’re out of winter now,” County Engineer David Enblom said, reporting his department saved $158,689.71 from what he expected to spend this winter.

That included $37,479.42 less for heating oil, $3,382.27 less for natural gas; $26,579.07 less for overtime pay, $71,248.95 less for salt/sand and $20,000 less for snowplow blade cutting edges.

Additionally, the salt/sand stockpile will be available to use this coming winter, saving on new purchases this fall.

In contrast, the highway department spent $140,000 more than expected in the 2010-2011 winter when it was colder and snowier.

John Ringle, environmental services director, reported first quarter zoning permits were up 49 percent over 2011.

There were 210 zoning actions the first quarter this year, compared with 137 in 2011 and 151 in 2010. Environmental services collected the highest first quarter permit revenue since 2009, he said.

“Things are looking more active,” Ringle said, reporting that builders and contractors are telling him they have more work this spring than in recent years.

The department issued 159 land use permits through March, compared with 111 in 2011 and 113 in 2010. Variances doubled over 2011. There were eight conditional use permits issued this spring compared with one a year ago. Shoreland alterations rose from 14 to 21.

There were, however, no new land subdivisions or plats.

Ringle provided an update on Cass and Crow Wing Counties’ cooperative micropolitan effort with the cities of East Gull Lake, Lake Shore and Nisswa and Fairview Township to make zoning standards more uniform and recreational offerings more coordinated.

He said employees in both counties are working toward presenting updated wastewater and storm water standards to their county boards, so those regulations will be more uniform for people living on the same lake, but in different counties.

They also have worked on making definitions and zoning ordinance terms more uniform between the two counties.

The Gull Lake recreational trail system has been completed, with work toward extensions in Fairview Township and through Lake Shore and Nisswa in process.

Enblom obtained board approval Tuesday to designate four additional sections of county and state aid roads as 35-mile-per-hour rural residential speed zones. All are areas where there is heavy pedestrian traffic.

One section is on County State Aid Highway 75 (Bingo Palace Road) north of Cass Lake. Others are on County Roads 168 in southern Loon Lake Township, 124 in Turtle Lake Township eight miles east of Walker and 150, 146 and 147 in Pike Bay Township near Cass Lake.