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Cass auditor gets high marks from state

WALKER — Minnesota State Auditor’s Office has issued an unqualified opinion after auditing Cass County’s 2001 financial records. This is the highest level of opinion regarding Cass financial procedures that can be given.

“The county was determined to be a low risk auditee,” the audit report states. The full audit report will be available on the county website at

County Administrator Robert Yochum reported to the county board Tuesday that department heads and the county’s citizen budget committee have identified $186,280 savings from the general fund, $105,000 from road and bridge and $200,000 from health, human and veterans services to help offset an expected increased cost of $46,500 for the self-insurance fund to provide an additional net $444,780 to set aside with the previous $244,359 planned for a contingency fund.

This means the board’s goal for at least a $640,000 contingency fund in the 2013 budget has been slightly exceeded and will be $689,139, Yochum reported. The budget committee met Sept. 21 to reach this conclusion after the board set the preliminary levy earlier in September.

The budget committee will meet one more time in November to set its final recommendation to the board in advance of the 6 p.m. Dec. 6 public hearing at the courthouse in Walker on the budget.

Local government units seeking wind damage reimbursements from the state for the July 2 storm need to contact Kerry Swenson, county emergency services director, at 547-7437 in order to determine their eligibility for claims and to submit those claims prior to Oct. 19.

Cass County’s annual auction of surplus equipment Sept. 8 netted $8,730.11. Shingobee Township also netted $13.10 on the sale. Sheriff Tom Burch served as auctioneer.

Dale Yerger, Deep Portage Conservation Reserve director, obtained county board approval to purchase a third solar panel installation for its buildings from low bidder Trosen Electric/Empowered Energy for $36,000.

Deep Portage Foundation has raised $26,000 toward the purchase price and will conduct a fund raising effort to pay the balance. The 40 new solar panels will be mounted on the south side of the great hall at the main learning center and dormitory building.

Yerger said Deep Portage currently generates 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources and expects the new installation to raise that to 15 percent. He said solar installations have generated more return than the wind system currently in use.

John Ringle, environmental services director, obtained board approval for his agency to serve as fiscal agent for a $2,000 to $3,000 grant under which Bemidji State University will analyze data collected this summer in an aquatic invasive species survey conducted at Ten Mile Lake.

Heidi Massie, county personnel committee chair, obtained board approval to make three changes to the county personnel manual. One adjusts guidelines for use of county-owned cell phones to meet Internal Revenue Service rules.

The other two require department heads to write plans for properly entering voicemail and email automatic responses to ensure courteous customer service and for expanding from just prohibiting employees from carrying guns to prohibiting carrying of weapons and explosives.

Under the latter policy, a department head may set a policy for exempting employees from carrying weapons and explosives beyond that of a licensed peace officer being allowed to carry a gun under circumstances the department head sees fit. This might include allowing an employee to carry Mace or similar defensive product.

University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Policy has completed a survey of county websites. The purpose of the survey was to show how well counties provide information on budget and tax, public meetings, permit and inspection, governance contacts and election and elected officials.

Central Services Director Tim Richardson said most Minnesota counties rated under 10 out of a possible 20 points, but Cass was ranked at 15, showing Cass has less need for improvement than many counties in the state. Only two metro area counties rated a 20, and they have access to many software programs Cass does not, he said.