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Cass County Board: Ordinance to set right-of-way guidelines

WALKER—Cass County Board Tuesday removed all dollar amount references from the proposed ordinance for the management of public rights-of-way before approving a first reading.

Those dollar amounts for a bond, fee or penalty will be set separately by county board resolution or state statute.

The board set a second hearing and intent to adopt the ordinance for the 9 a.m. Sept. 5 regular meeting at the courthouse in Walker.

The ordinance sets guidelines for utilities planning to run lines under public rights-of-way, requires that a plan be filed with the county, a permit be obtained and a construction performance bond provided. It also requires pavement and landscaping be replaced when damaged.

Reno Wells, chair of Cass County Association of Townships, asked to have a township representative named to a proposed utility coordinating committee when it is formed under the new ordinance.

Wells also asked that a township representative be included in discussions underway between the city of Walker and the county on the future of property the county owns on the former Ah-Gwah-Ching state hospital site.

Discussions resumed recently because the county plans in the next five years to repave 73rd Street Northwest, the road that runs east-west through the site and connects Highway 371 with Highway 34 south of Walker.

Commissioners Jeff Peterson and Scott Bruns met July 12 with Mayor Jed Shaw and Councilor Gary Wilkening.

The state deeded most of the Ah-Gwah-Ching property to the county about 10 years ago for a long-range future courthouse campus site with a stipulation that it cannot be sold for private development and can only be used for public services.

The state also sold property to a private bidder north of the site the county took.

Since then, the city has annexed the site into the city along with some connecting properties in between. The city also ran its sewer and water services to the site.

The county has contracted with Crow Wing County, so has less need for a new jail. Since the economic recession 10 years ago, population in the county and service needs have not grown significantly, so the county has pushed any plan to replace the courthouse beyond the foreseeable future.

Discussion at the July 12 meeting focused on getting input for the road reconstruction from residents who also use 73rd Street Northwest to access their homes and from any potential developer who might now own the site north of the county's.

City and county representatives also discussed re-exploring people possibly interested in using part of the county property for a public purpose such as a hospital, urgent care facility, center for disabled youths, veterans home or a state agency.

Administrator Joshua Stevenson said in an interview after Tuesday's board meeting that, with improvements the county has made to its current complex in Walker, the fact the county no longer is growing in population like it did in the 1990s and the increased public use of internet rather than coming to the courthouse for services, the county has much less need to expand its buildings now than 10 years ago.

Those attending the July 12 meeting, Peterson and Bruns reported, thought Cass County Economic Development Corporation should be made aware the county would be interested in hearing proposals with a public purpose for a portion of their site.