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More consistent maintenance expected on Cass ski trails

WALKER — Cass County’s cross-country ski trails have a new, brighter future now after being a sometimes-supported, sometimes-not part of the county’s recreational trail system.

The Washburn by Outing, Cut Lake west of Backus, Hiram west of Hackensack and Goose Lake east of Hackensack trails have been designated county ski trails since the 1970s, according to county land department records.

Lake Country Nordic Ski Club organized within the last year to become the first formally designated 501 (3)C nonprofit formal organization to take over maintaining the county’s ski trails like snowmobile clubs have done on their trails for many years.

Until now, land department employees cleared fallen trees and groomed snow years when they had time. Other years, private skiers did it on their own time. Some years, no one had the time, and the trails did not get groomed.

Lake Country Nordic Ski Club will track the hours of work they put toward clearing the trails of debris in the summer and toward snow grooming in the winter. Now that they are organized as an insured, responsible party, the trails have been designated by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as eligible to receive state grant-in-aid reimbursement money to cover their expenses.

The county land department accepts and distributes grant-in-aid money to clubs.

This change will mean all four trails will be consistently maintained to a higher standard than they have been since they were created over 30 years ago.

Thursday, the county board authorized the land department to spend timber access road money to hire Northfork Boulders and Excavating for $1,250 to repair a washed out area the club found on the Cut Lake Trail.

The board also approved extending a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources permit to continue to allow the Goose Lake Trail to cross state School Trust Lands in Pine Lake Township.

In other business Thursday, Health Services Director Jamie Richter and Team Leader Jeri Seegmiller informed the board Cass’s home health care services to homebound people has been recognized by Deyta, a client survey service, that Cass is in the top 20 percent of 1,800 home care providers surveyed for quality of services.

Cass has provided home care under Medicare to residents in their own homes for 45 years. During the April 2011 to March 2012 survey period, the county provided 6,000 hours of service to 160 clients. Some clients received only one home care visit, while another received 269 visits.

Of those surveyed, 51 clients responded to rate the county’s service. Over 70 percent of respondents rated their service as a 9 or 10 out of 10 possible points.

The county spent 64.92 percent of the Health, Human and Veterans Services budget after 83.33 percent of the year through October. Out of home child placements ran 48 percent of budget expectations.

Land Commissioner Joshua Stevenson reported to the board the county sold six of eight tracts offers in a Nov. 21 timber auction. The tracts sold included 2,843 cords of wood and 36,900 board feet of pine saw logs. Aspen sold for $17.68 per cord.

Paula West, Leech Lake Watershed executive director, reported to the board on pending Minnesota DNR land purchases that include eight acres in Crooked Lake Township on Washburn Lake near Outing and 105 acres on the Cass and Crow Wing border on Roosevelt Lake.

The Washburn purchase will protect 2,500 feet of critical habitat shoreline, while the Roosevelt purchase will protect 5,810 feet of shoreline. The Washburn site is a point in a narrows area of the lake. The Roosevelt site involves two points in a small bay on the west side of the lake.

West said preservation of these areas in combination with conservation easements is protecting wildlife and fisheries on lakes in areas not suitable for development and makes more wild areas available to the public.

Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust has announced Cass will receive a $201,662 dividend on its workers compensation policy and $245,843 on its property and casualty policy under the multi-county joint pooled insurance program this year.

Cass commissioners extended their contract with Dr. Michael McGee, Ramsey County Medical Examiner, for medical examiner services for 2013. He and his staff will be paid a $250 monthly salary, plus $2,000 per full autopsy with basic toxicology report and $1,000 per external examination.

The board approved accepting a $26,000 federal Homeland Security grant to enable the county to update its All-Hazard Mitigation Plan that covers weather events and events involving hazardous materials.