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The Regional Report: Wadena County auditor-treasurer speaks out; cities finalize levies

CASS LAKE

• The ground was broken for a new casino planned in Cass Lake by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, the Cass Lake Times reported. The casino and hotel is expected to be open for business by the summer of 2019.

CROSSLAKE

• The question of whether city staff should be permitted to have additional part-time jobs was discussed at a recent Crosslake City Council meeting, the Echo Journal reported. The matter came before the council at the recommendation of City Administrator/Treasurer Mike Lyonais, who asked Parks and Recreation Director Jon Henke to detail his own part-time work in a letter.

Henke assists with the Lutheran Social Service Senior Nutrition program for about 45 minutes on four mornings each week. He receives a stipend for his work, and stays at least 45 minutes later on those days. As a salaried employee, Henke noted he often works more than 40 hours in a week.

Discussion ranged from whether Henke's situation was ethical and proper, to other city employees offering examples of part-time work they've completed, both past and present. The council chose to take no action, sending the matter to the personnel committee for further investigation.

• Crosslake taxpayers will cover a 5 percent increase to the city's property tax levy, the Echo Journal reported. This is lower than the preliminary levy, which was set at 7 percent. The city will collect $3,692,137 from its property owners.

ISLE

• Thanks to the efforts of an area Boy Scout, the Isle City Cemetery has a new flag display honoring veterans, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported. Isle High School senior Colby Hubbell developed the display as part of his Eagle Scout service project.

LITTLE FALLS

• Little Falls taxpayers will see a 1.73 percent increase in its property tax levy over 2017, the Morrison County Record reported, although increased tax capacity in the city could mean lower taxes anyway. The council originally approved a 7.3 percent increase in its preliminary levy, so the final levy was much lower.

MORRISON COUNTY

• Although an elective position currently, the Morrison County Board indicated it would consider proceeding with converting the county recorder post to appointive, the Morrison County Record reported. Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, sponsored legislation last session naming Morrison County, which authorized the county board to appoint the recorder in the future.

Crow Wing County took steps to convert its recorder and auditor-treasurer posts to appointive posts in 2015.

MOTLEY

• Taxpayers in Motley will see a 2.89 percent increase to the city's property tax levy, the Staples World reported. The city will collect $368,567 from its property owners in 2018.

PEQUOT LAKES

• The final property tax levy received council approval in Pequot Lakes, the Echo Journal reported. The levy will rise by 2.54 percent compared to taxes collected in 2017. The city will collect $1,637,785 in property taxes in 2018.

ROYALTON

• A significant hike to the city of Royalton's property tax levy was approved by the city council, the Morrison County Record reported. A 14.25 percent increase over 2017 means the city with a relatively small budget will collect an additional $40,000.

TROMMALD

• A new city council member was appointed in Trommald following a resignation, the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported. Council member Gary LeBlanc submitted his resignation as both a council member and as the road maintenance contractor. The council then appointed Kim Oreskovich to fill the vacancy, pending a background check.

WADENA COUNTY

• The auditor-treasurer facing scrutiny for creating a hostile work environment in Wadena County sought to defend herself in the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Judy Taves told the newspaper she is concerned with the vitriol directed toward her, and stated her intention to return to the courthouse to work. Taves is restricted from interacting with her office's employees without another specified employee present following a grievance filing.

A report on the matter indicated Taves did not permit employees to speak to one another beyond morning greetings, including about work-related matters.

"I think we can go to other courthouses, to other auditor's offices, and I think you'll find a quiet, professional, orderly demeanor rather than a party atmosphere," Taves told the Pioneer Journal.

-- Compiled by Chelsey Perkins, community editor. Perkins may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter @DispatchChelsey or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dispatchchelsey.

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