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Cass feels the effect of low interest rates

BACKUS — With interest rates at an all-time low for a prolonged period, Cass County is feeling the effect on its investments.

The county usually budgets lower than it really anticipates, so year-end figures usually show the county earned more on investments than anticipated each year. This did not work in 2012.

Not only did the county not earn as much interest on investments as 2011, but only reached 95 percent of its budgeted goal.

The county earned $879,160.29 in 2012, compared with $1,150,137.46 in 2011 and compared with the budgeted $925,000.

Tuesday, Cass County Board voted to match Leech Lake Reservation funding for three joint road projects. The tribal council was expected to vote to approve the reservation share either at a meeting also held Tuesday or in February.

The county and tribe would split the $600,000 cost to pave two miles on County Road 143 in a residential area near Cass Lake.

Federal funds will pay $770,000 and the reservation will pay an estimated $130,000 to add width to a County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 8 bridge over the Shingobee River near where it exits Leech Lake on the east side of the lake. The county will pay for the highway portion of the bridge as a part of the state aid road improvement.

The additions the reservation will pay for include a 10-foot wide snowmobile trail on the west side of the bridge and a six-foot wide pedestrian path on the east side. Area residents also use that bridge for fishing, so the trail and path additions will also make fishing from the bridge safer.

The third joint project calls for splitting the estimated $250,000 cost for a multi-use trail along CSAH 75 and 60 near Cass Lake.

In 2012, 124 men completed work in the inmate sentence to serve program, while seven exited the program. They completed 8,528 hours of work for the county, cities, townships, DNR and other state agencies. At $8 per hour, their work is valued at $68,224.

Crews averaged 4.7 men who worked 229 days during the year. They worked off $18,047.97 in fines through the program and completed an estimated $76,474 worth of projects through their work.

Administrator Robert Yochum reported the assistant county attorneys have elected to withdraw from Teamsters Local 320 and disband their union bargaining unit. They will join a non-union group of appointed county officials in negotiating future salaries with the county.

The board Tuesday approved an agreement with the courthouse unit of employees that American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union represents.

Employees who have worked for the county at least 10 years will have their accumulated vacation and sick leave, which otherwise would be paid as severance pay, placed into the Minnesota state Retirement System Health Care Savings Plan, effective Dec. 1, 2012.

This allows the employees to set aside their severance pay when they retire tax free and, if it is spent for health related expenses, to also spend it tax free after they retire.

The Eddy Family Foundation donated $1,000 to the sheriff’s recreation fund. An anonymous donor gave Health, Human and Veterans Services $125 worth of gift cards to Walker businesses to be given to benefit recipients case managers select.