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Cass County Board: Ditch cleaning procedure discussed

BACKUS — While farm drainage ditch maintenance regularly consumes a lot of time on some southern Minnesota county board agendas, not much has been done on ditches in Cass County since the ditches were installed just prior to the 1920s.

Now, Ditch 9 in Wilson Township of Cass has a large buildup of beaver dams, which is causing flooding on some farmers’ land.

Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Anderson told Cass County commissioners Tuesday she believes area farmers have cleaned the ditch themselves when needed over the years. Neighbors affected by Ditch 9 are concerned environmental regulations in effect today might make them liable for any work done without some kind of permit.

The formal procedure for the county to clean ditches is to have the county clean ditches, then assess the costs against affected properties, Anderson informed the board.

The process will involve hiring legal counsel specializing in ditches and an engineering firm for inspection work needed, she said. A public hearing eventually will need to be held on the special assessment.

She said she has found the original assessment role showing which properties originally were charged for installing the ditch.

She has obtained an hourly price quote from the Rinke Noonan law firm and hourly engineering/inspection rates from Widseth Smith and Nolting, but will seek an estimated total cost for this project before proceeding further, Anderson told the board.

“I’m trying to go in a staged approach, so there won’t be an excessive cost for landowners,” she said. “Quite a number of landowners will be affected.”

Ditch 9 runs about three miles and serves as a flowage from Jokela Lake, which Anderson described as a small body of water. It is believed to flow along what was originally Hay Creek.

On another issue, the board Tuesday authorized Anderson to contract with American Solutions for Business and its partner, Impact, to have that firm prepare and mail Truth in Taxation notices to property owners to notify them in November of proposed 2013 taxes.

She said 64 of 87 Minnesota counties now hire an outside firm to do this work that county employees did before counties began downsizing. She said the $14,321 cost is in line with what she would have paid a county employee to do this work.

The board authorized cancelling 2011 checks the county wrote that recipients have failed to cash. This includes eight auditor warrants; nine checks written by health, human and veterans services; one $2 over-remittance; and 22 checks written from the sheriff’s account.

Total of the auditor warrants and health, human and veterans services checks is $1,753.67. Total of the sheriff’s checks is $2,204.17. The individual checks ranged from 57 cents written to one individual to $1,119.74 written to a business.

Cass County has received its annual payment from South Country Health Alliance as part of an exit plan from that joint county medical assistance program. The $2,427 paid this year represents the second $214,408 payment of five, plus interest.

Because of growing costs to participate in the South Country, Cass chose to return two years ago to providing medical assistance through a state-operated program.