Cass County Board: Commissioners approve $450,000 to fight AIS in 2015

BACKUS - Environmental Services Director John Ringle obtained county board approval Tuesday for a 2015 aquatic invasive species (AIS) budget using state allocated money for that purpose.

BACKUS - Environmental Services Director John Ringle obtained county board approval Tuesday for a 2015 aquatic invasive species (AIS) budget using state allocated money for that purpose.

The $450,000 budget will use $171,000 left over from Cass's 2014 state and local AIS funds and $279,000 from the 2015 state grant. Cass is scheduled to receive another $221,000 in 2015, which will be applied to a 2016 invasive species budget.

The 2015 budget plan calls for the county to hire a full-time AIS coordinator employee in March, likely assigned to the environmental services department (ESD), who will oversee implementing the county program. Estimated employee cost for 10 months is $50,000.

Funds this year will pay $306,200 for contract employees to spend 62 days inspecting boats coming and going at 24 lake accesses in the county, primarily on weekends. In cooperation with Mississippi Headwaters Board, the county will spend $17,500 for lake country video public service announcements.

The Association of Cass County Lakes will be granted $5,200 to have RBM Laboratories do 35 lake risk assessments, $9,200 for RBM to do zebra mussel veliger sampling on Boy River chain of lakes and $13,900 for a survey and civic engagement program for resorts and lake service providers.


Gull Lake Chain of Lakes Association will receive $15,000 for law enforcement inspections at Gull Lake boat accesses and $5,000 for plant testing for Eurasian water milfoil. The sheriff's boat and water patrol will receive $15,000 to make inspections for AIS.

The 2015 AIS budget also will pay $8,000 for a boat decontamination unit for Roosevelt Lake to be located at Crooked Lake Town Hall and $5,000 for supplies such as tablets, sponges and bait bag labels.

University of Minnesota Extension Service currently is working on AIS research, but does not get involved in inspection programs. Mardi Harder of the extension service has met with Cass Soil and Water Conservation District's board to share information.

Ringle informed the county board the number of new zoning permits ESD issued dropped from 1,167 in 2013 to 1,068 in 2014. Revenue paid to ESD for permits dropped $37,440 from $314,357 in 2013 to $277,097 in 2014.

ESD issued 822 land use zoning permits for new building and sewer system construction in 2014, compared with 913 in 2013. Variances issued dropped from 91 to 71.

There were, however, 21 conditional use permits issued in 2014, up from 19 in 2013 and 151 shoreland alterations approved in 2014, up from 138 in 2013.

The commissioners approved a recommendation from Ringle and the planning commission to require applicants for communications towers to hire an engineer from a list of qualified engineers the county will prepare to have any new tower evaluated for its structural capability to serve multiple users.

The county's current ordinance encourages the use of towers capable to serving multiple users. Ringle told the board he has been informed there will be numerous future requests for new towers as service providers try to improve service to users such as cell phone clients.


The board denied a request for an $18,292 payment to Waster Partners for cardboard collected at Cass County sites, but not listed on the county's previous agreement with that firm.

In a letter to be sent to Waste Partners following the board meeting, Ringle stated, "The agreement language specifically states your compensation was for cardboard collected in Cass County and delivered to the Pine River Transfer Station. As per written agreement at that time, we cannot pay for cardboard not delivered from these sites."

The county recently signed new agreements with several vendors, including Waste Partners. Ringle said he hopes terms of the new agreements will prevent any future problem.

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