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Cass County Board: Gaalswyk named to committee assessing flooding problems

WALKER — Cass County Board Tuesday named Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk to represent the board on a newly forming joint county committee to assess with the U.S. Corps of Engineers flooding problems in lakes along the upper Mississippi watershed.

Pat Medure, representing the Pokegama Lake Association at Grand Rapids, explained that flooding at Aitkin has backed up water in Pokegama this summer and also has had an impact historically on Winnibigoshish in Cass County.

Itasca County has taken the lead to create a joint county committee to study the causes and potential cures for flooding in the future. Medure said Itasca County hopes to have Cass and Aitkin Counties join them.

Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk suggested Crow Wing and Morrison Counties also might be approached, since alleviating flooding at Aitkin could increase flood flows to counties to the south — moving the flooding problem down river.

Medure said the flood control ditch at Aitkin was installed in 1956, but was never fully completed, thus creating a bottleneck and enabling repeated flooding there. As water collects there, it backs up and causes flooding at Itasca County Lakes, he said.

He said the plan is to study the flooding causes, then meet with the Corps to try to reach a solution. After the problem has been address, he said, the committee would disband.

Administrator Robert Yochum said he has contacted Leech Lake Reservation. The tribal council is interested in participating, he said.

Emergency Services Director Kerry Swenson reported to the county board he has yet to receive information from the state about how much disaster relief Cass will received under recently-passed special state legislation.

He said he expects the state to make direct payments to cities, townships, counties and individuals who complete applications for disaster assistance, much like the FEMA process.

Dr. Michael McGee, Ramsey County Medical Examiner and contracting examiner for Cass County. reported the county had 41 deaths the first half of this year.

Physicians signed 20 death certificates, while McGee accepted the other 21 decedents for review. He signed death certificates for five people without examination and completed 16 full autopsies with toxicology reports.

Of the 41 deaths, 32 were ruled natural causes; six accidents; two suicides; and one homicide. He reviewed 52 cases for cremation approval.

Cass County Health, Human and Veterans Services (HHVS) spent 44.41 percent of budget during the first 58.33 percent of the year. This was partially helped by the fact only 33 percent of the budget was spent in the same time period (January through July) for out of home child placements.

Kathleen Ramos, Veterans Services officer, reported the $26,313,000 paid to qualified Cass veterans for pensions, education, medical and other services here in 2011 was up 16 percent over 2010.

The number of veterans in the county has been declining in recent years, she said, with the latest annual drop in number being 1.2 percent to 3,287 in 2011, Ramos reported.

Veterans transportation program drove 114 riders over 33,876 miles the first half of 2012 to medical appointments. She said that program is very popular.

Ramos currently is trying to reach all people returning from a combat zone since 2001, because if they apply, they will receive $500 cash. Those who have received a purple heart receive more, she said. Anyone who served in combat since 2001 can apply, regardless of income level.

Minnesota Military Appreciation Fund sponsors this program with support from individuals, foundations and businesses.

HHVS Director Reno Wells Tuesday informed the county board Cass County Association of Townships has paid the $480 cost for signs the county board approved last month to designate a veterans parking space at each county building.

He said some townships also will designate their own veteran parking spaces at town halls.

Because the sign-maker created them for use in many counties, Wells said they read that a veteran must have a veteran license plate on the vehicle using the designated space. However, it is Cass’s intent that any veteran can use the space on the honor system, whether or not their vehicle has a veteran plate.

Marion Larson, Central Minnesota Emergency Medical Services (CMEMS) director, reported to the county board CMEMS provided training for 25 Cass emergency responders during the 2011-12 fiscal year, reimbursing the agencies $3,254 for the training.

CMEMS also provided a $1,000 match for emergency radio equipment for North Memorial Ambulance’s Walker service, one of 16 grants made. There were 53 applicants for the $16,000 fund, she said.

In addition to training and equipment assistance, CMEMS provides critical incident response stress management assistance to emergency responders throughout the 14 county region.

Cass will receive a $43,000 grant to provide crime victim services from October 2012 to September 2013.

Cass commissioners received notice the Pine River Depot has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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