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Cass foreclosures continue downward trend

WALKER — Cass County Assessor’s Office reported Tuesday second quarter foreclosures continued a downward this year trend to only 20, compared with 26 in 2012 and down from 51 in 2010.

The majority or 15 were seasonal residential properties, compared with only three homesteads and two commercial. All but three were valued at under $200,000.

The numbers for arm’s length sales transactions this year were down some in January and February this year due to colder weather this winter compared with last year, but have risen noticeably from 68 in 2012 to 76 in 2013 in May and from 62 to 81 in June, the assessor’s office reported.

The number of land use zoning permits for new construction issued this year by environmental services department (ESD) through June is still running behind 2012, but about comparable to 2011. In 2012, the construction season began early due to warm weather.

ESD Director John Ringle reported he believes new construction has stabilized over the last three years.

Quotes the county received to prepare a plan (not including any costs for engineering work or wetland mitigation to be done) for a complete cleaning of Ditch 9 southwest of Pine River and northwest of Jenkins would cost $24,000 to $31,000 just for the plan.

The plan would establish the original ditch location and grade and estimate costs to engineer restoring it.

Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Anderson told the board she would meet with those along the ditch who first sought help with flooding from the backed up ditch to see whether they would be interested in first paying to remove beavers and beaver dams to see how much that would help before proceeding with a more costly plan. If the board decided a full ditch cleaning would be done later, it would be assessed against all the properties originally assessed.

The farmland drainage ditch is four miles long and was built in 1918. It is in Wilson Township. It is believed it has not been cleaned since it was installed.

With support from Thunder Lake Township, the county board Aug. 6 approved removing an area from the county’s sustainable forest audit program to enable the site to be used to expand a neighboring gravel pit. It involves 25 acres.

Land Commissioner Joshua Stevenson also obtained board approval to engage Smartwood to conduct the county’s annual sustainable forest audit to continue Forest Stewardship Council certification for county forests.

Cass will receive $500,000 from the 3/8 cent sales tax state Legacy Fund to purchase land in 2013 and will apply for additional future grants.

The county will receive $1,047,186.77 state payment in lieu of tax (PILT) and $146,611.50 state wildlife management lands (formerly public hunting grounds) payments this year. The PILT payment is shared with townships where the state land lies. The wildlife fund is shared with townships and school districts where the state land lies.

Cass sold $110,571 from eight of nine parcels offered at a July auction. Aspen sold for $24.80 per cord. The 76,400 board feet of pine saw logs offered for sale sold for $102.30 per board foot.

Ryan Mills Landscaping offered the lowest of four bids and received a contract at $1,545 to landscape around the expanded parking lot at the land department building in Backus. The Woodshed of Hackensack will provide two custom cabinet units for the land department building after offering the lower of two bids at $3,900.

Administrator Robert Yochum reported the county will receive $114,175 dividend for workers’ compensation and $190,855 dividend from property/casualty policies the county holds in Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust.

Veterans Services Officer (VSO) Jeff Woodford introduced the new assistant VSO, Stephen Sether, to the board.

Woodford reported the VSO officers saw 45 veterans at the Backus office, two at Pillager, three at Cass Lake and eight in Walker in July. The officers also made seven home visits. They received 26 calls at Walker and 165 at Backus.

In addition to receiving federal veteran benefits, the Cass officers attempt to make veterans aware of state benefits for dental, optical and other services. In July, Cass has the highest payments to veterans from the state program after Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, Woodford said.

Health, Human and Veterans Services (HHVS) Director Reno Wells obtained board approval to spend $9,350 to train departmental supervisors on how to identify their skills and build on their leadership strengths to improve service to the public.

Wells said the program his staff learns could be used to further train employees in other county departments once his staff receives the training.

Renee Lukkason, children, youth and families team leader, described for the board the public health programs to encourage breast feeding infants. She noted this is breast feeding awareness month.

HHVS spent 40.4 percent of this year’s budget after 50 percent of the year. Only 33 percent of the out-of-home child placement budget had been spent in the same time period.

Central Services Director Tim Richardson obtained board approval to purchase a single 100-gallon propane water heater for the courthouse to replace two older 50-gallon water heaters. He said he expects the county to recover the cost for the new heater in about three to four years by savings in lower fuel usage charges.

Sylvan Township donated $850 to the Lakes Area Dive Team. The family of the late Ronald Conner donated $340 for the sheriff’s K-9 unit.