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Crow Wing County Board: Lake improvement districts give 5-year updates

Ducks swim in Rice Lake near Lum Park in Brainerd this past summer. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch1 / 3
Crow Wing Lake2 / 3
Lake Ossawinnamakee3 / 3

Representatives from two of the oldest lake improvement districts in Crow Wing County offered five-year reports to the county board Tuesday.

Attorney Mark Severson and Ron Duy Jr. of Central Minnesota Aquatics appeared on behalf of Lake Ossawinnamakee, and Mike Valentine discussed the report for Crow Wing Lake.

"Lake Ossawinnamakee ... is an example of how you can successfully not only save a lake, but create a healthy environment for a lake," Severson said.

Lake improvement districts, or LIDs, are local units of government established to allow for greater local involvement in lake management activities. Property owners within the districts pay an additional tax assessment, beyond their typical property taxes. Funds collected from those assessments are used for improvement and conservation projects.

The Ossawinnamakee LID was approved in 2005, about three years after Eurasian milfoil was discovered in the lake. In 2016, 365 properties were assessed $200.65 per property, which was used to monitor and treat the milfoil, as well as curly-leaf pondweed that was discovered later. Milfoil can never be completely eradicated from a lake, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources states, although it can be contained.

"Now that the lake weed treatment professionals have the funds necessary to implement the complete program, the results of those treatments has demonstrated their effectiveness," Severson wrote in the report. "The lake weed treatment professionals have advised that each succeeding year, fewer milfoil plants have been identified than were identified in the preceding year."

Duy Jr., who completes the treatment procedures on both Ossawinnamakee and Crow Wing Lake, said he found just one or two milfoil plants in the entire lake.

The Crow Wing LID was established in 2006 with the intention of controlling lake vegetation. A total of 145 properties were assessed $210 per property in 2016.

The vegetation includes both invasive and native species of pondweed, Valentine said, which proliferate due to high nutrient content of the lake water. With the lake's configuration as small and shallow, the thick weeds can have a serious effect on enjoyment of the water, he added.

Valentine said the group of property owners along Crow Wing Lake are active and interested in the lake's future.

"For the last couple years, several of the members have been asking to raise the fees, which I thought was a little out of the ordinary," Valentine said. "We wanted to make sure we had specific programs in mind before we started to raise the fee."

In the LID report, increases to the fees are expected sometime in the next five years, to keep up with rising costs of treatments.

"This program nearly completely consumes the annual LID fees and, therefore, the budget," the report stated. "Since the LID expects to manage and fund this activity going forward, it will be necessary, sometime within the next five-year cycle, to address this emerging funding problem with a new source of funding, an increase in the annual fees or a plan to manage the aquatic weed growth in a significantly more economical way."

As the legal counsel for the Ossawinnamakee LID, Severson addressed his desire for clarity on the relationship between the county board and the LID. Both the Ossawinnamakee and Crow Wing LIDs were established before the county drafted its own policies on the districts, and Severson said his interpretation was they were grandfathered in, and not subject to some of the restrictions other LIDs face.

"The county board carries a lot of governance over the existing LIDs," Severson said. "You can question a number of things, all to the point of deactivating the LID. ... The county board is more of an advisory board, in our opinion."

Commissioner Paul Thiede asked whether Severson's legal interpretation was the county board did not have the proper authority to govern LIDs. Severson said he was sharing his view more to invite the board to recognize the lack of clarity.

"That's really the purpose of bringing this to light," Severson said. "I don't like open questions. I just think we should hopefully collaborate and reach answers to those questions."

Land Services Director Mark Liedl said his department should do more research, to determine how grandfathering might apply in the case of the LID policies.

In other business, the county board:

Approved an agreement with Fieldware LLC for an automated supervision management service, to supervise low-risk offenders on probation.

Approved a list of bridges in the county considered high priority for replacement, rehabilitation or removal in the next five years, should federal, state or township funding be available. Bridges in the following locations were included on the list, in no particular order: Dream Island Road, Little Pine Lake; Hazelwood Drive, Clark Lake outlet; County Highway 23, Nokasippi River; County Highway 31, Rabbit Lake narrows; County Highway 36, Mud Brook; County Highway 45, Nokasippi River; Koering Road, Nokasippi River; County Highway 66, Daggett Brook; County Highway 3, Mississippi River.

Approved the aquatic invasive species plan for 2017. The plan outlines how the county will spend money allocated by the state to stop the spread of AIS. Based on public comments, administrative personnel costs were reduced from 15 percent of local AIS aid to 9.9 percent. That money was reallocated to the watercraft inspection program. The plan also offers the ability for lake associations to partner with a local government unit to receive AIS aid directly from the county for watercraft inspection and decontaminations, which would be administered by the local government.

Approved a resolution allowing land services to apply for the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board residential redevelopment grant program, to cover costs of demolishing two dilapidated homes within the IRRRB service area.

Approved the 2017 stand exam plan, which outlines the species and acreage of trees that will be examined for timber sale.

Approved the final plats for garage condominiums at Brainerd International Raceway.

Entered an agreement with Hennepin County for implementation and support of the county's EZ-Info call system.

Approved a final payment to Tri-City Paving for resurfacing County Highway 45, the costs of which were split with the city of Brainerd. The final amount was $1,323,046.73, which was $25,619.11 over the original contract amount.

Approved a final payment to Anderson Brothers Construction for work on county roads 101 and 110. The final amount was $153,108.75, which was $8,349.50 below the original contract amount. Revocation of those roads to Deerwood Township was approved last year.

Awarded a bid for surfacing on County Highway 23 to Anderson Brothers Construction.

Approved a new off-sale liquor license application and a new tobacco license for Mission Liquors in Mission Township.

Supported a grant application with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the federal recreational trail grant program, on behalf of the Sno-Serpents. The application is to purchase snow trail grooming equipment and requires a 50 percent match, which has been secured by the Sno-Serpents.

Accepted the following donations: $2,000 from Edward Fox to the sheriff's office, $5,000 from the Adam R. Sellheim Memorial to the dive team; and $100 from Granite Electronics to TRIAD.

Accepted the promotions of Scott Goddard to captain and Tyler Burke to sergeant in the sheriff's office.

Approved the hiring of Jonathan Stainbrook as a technical/administrative specialist in the sheriff's office; Craig Katzenberger as an investigator in the sheriff's office; Jordan Larson as a staff engineer in the highway department; and Lori Cronquist as a program specialist in community services.

Accepted the departures of Chris Roe, senior engineering technician in the highway department; David Hermerding, chief deputy county attorney; and Lynda Erickson, program supervisor in community services. The board approved replacement staffing for an assistant county attorney.

Chelsey Perkins

Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her Bachelor's degree in professional journalism from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Perkins has interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before joining the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.

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