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Newsletter will go out with Cass tax statements

WALKER — Cass County commissioners Tuesday approved a newsletter to property owners, which will be sent with tax statements this spring.

The newsletter will include information about recreational trails, funding for highways, a shorter timeline for property tax delinquencies, what is on the county website, the county’s aquatic invasive species plan, the sheriff’s annual report, volunteering to be a driver, who owes property taxes under contract for deed and 2014 midterm elections.

Dates are listed for Leech Lake Band elections as well as when to file for county, city, township and school district elections.

Cass has 17,607 registered voters in 73 precincts, 35 precincts of which vote by mail ballot.

The commissioners authorized Central Services Director Tim Richardson and Sheriff Tom Burch to purchase a new sheriff’s records and dispatch hardware and software package from Zuercher Technologies for $294,125. Maintenance will be free the first year and begin at $38,835 the second year, with 5 percent annual increases through five years, Richardson said.

This contract also provides that whenever Zuercher develops new capabilities for one of its clients during the five years, all its contract users also will get the upgrade free of charge, he said.

The county’s contract with a prior vendor runs out in September/October this year. Richardson said the current vendor’s business has been sold several times over the last five years Cass has used that service, with services degrading during that time.

He recommended the change to Zuercher to improve services at about the same annual maintenance cost as the county has been paying. Zuercher’s package also includes features the county currently does not have, Richardson added.

Also approved for the sheriff’s office was conversion to the county’s electronic payroll system, completing the shift of all county departments to that system. Cost to add 57 employees will be $4,380.

The county board recognized Ken Nordin, human services benefit fraud prevention specialist, upon his retirement after 23 years of service with the county. The board presented him with a certificate of appreciation and a Cass County logo desk clock.

Michael B. McGee, contract Cass County medical examiner, reported there were 78 deaths in the county in 2013. Of those, his office accepted 39 cases to review, with private physicians signing death certificates for the rest.

McGee’s office did 32 complete autopsies with toxicology reports and signed death certificates without examining seven decedents.

Of the total deaths, 60 resulted from natural causes, 11 were from accidents and seven resulted from suicide.

Cass Health, Human and Veterans Services (HHVS) spent $1,141,042 in January 2014 or 8.65 percent for the budget after 8.33 percent of the year. Out of home child placement costs ran $106,337 or 6 percent of that 2014 budget after 8.33 percent of the year. There were 56 children in placement in January.

Cass land department sold six of seven tracts of timber offered at the January 2014 auction. Loggers paid $26.42 per cord for aspen. Loggers paid the least for a small tract of ash, $8.07 per cord, and the most for a small tract of red pine bolts and pulp wood, $25.17 per cord.

The county board voted to allow crossing a portion of county land adjacent to Moondance Jam privately owned property as a part of a trail system planned to be used by Moondance March 8 for a snowmobile race event.

This is contingent upon promoters obtaining all necessary permits and signing an agreement to hold the county harmless from any liability. No dirt may be removed or trees cut for the trail.

Previously, Minnesota DNR approved a permit allowing snowmobiles participating in the race to exceed the state’s 50 mile per hour snowmobile trails speed limit. Participants will not be required to use mufflers on their machines during the race.

Jeff Poenix, KOOTASCA Community Action at Grand Rapids, appeared before the board to discuss outreach to Indians to help them sign up for MNsure health insurance. His agency serves Koochiching and Itasca Counties.

He said Indian people often don’t have access to Internet and also have limited transportation to services.

Priscilla Fairbanks, MNsure outreach specialist, also appeared. She said she has been helping not only Leech Lake Band members, but also enrolled Chippewa tribe members on other reservations to sign up for health insurance.

While tribe members do qualify for free basic health care at Indian Health Services facilities such as the clinic and hospital at Cass Lake, they do not have coverage for services from other area hospitals or more extensive care not available at the smaller facilities.

She said word of mouth has helped her reach many tribal members who would not otherwise be aware of additional coverage available to them through MNsure. She also noted that Indian Health Services facilities can get reimbursement from Medicaid or private insurance when tribal members are signed up for MNsure. This enables Indian Health Services to increase their income, so they can provide more services, she said.

Reno Wells, Cass HHVS director, said his staff also has helped indian clients to sign up for MNsure.

Cass commissioners plan to attend a Mississippi Headwaters Board 8:30 a.m. meeting April 2 at Chase on the Lake Hotel at Walker where priorities will be discussed for the Upper Mississippi’s first 400 miles.