Cass County Board: Trail connecting East Gull Lake to Lake Shore closer to a reality

FAIRVIEW TOWNSHIP--Fairview Township moved one step closer Tuesday night toward building a recreational trail to connect one in East Gull Lake with one under construction this year in Lake Shore.

FAIRVIEW TOWNSHIP-Fairview Township moved one step closer Tuesday night toward building a recreational trail to connect one in East Gull Lake with one under construction this year in Lake Shore.

Cass County Board approved contributing $180,000 toward design and engineering.

Marla Yoho, Fairview clerk/treasurer, told the county board area residents hope eventually to see the East Gull trail connect to the Paul Bunyan via a proposed Pillager area trail on the south end and to connect on the north with the Paul Bunyan via a future Nisswa trail that would connect with Lake Shore's trail.

Fairview's 7.8-mile-long trail would be the center segment of the entire system, she explained. Fairview has set aside $37,000 toward it.

The commissioners approved spending $60,000 per year for three years from the county's Fund 73 for the Fairview trail and to act as fiscal agent for that trail project. Cass's Fund 73 is interest earned on the proceeds from the sale of former state-leased lakeshore lots.


Design, engineering and construction for the Fairview project are expected to cost $1,717,900.

Fairview Township now will seek a state grant from the 3/8 cent sales tax environmental fund to construct the first one-third of their trail. If successful, they will seek additional state grant funding on two succeeding years to complete construction.

Yoho said Fairview hopes to stay within the County Highway 77 road right-of-way to avoid the cost of purchasing additional right-of-way for the trail.

This will mean some of the trail through Fairview where there are marshes will run along the edge of the road, Yoho said. Where the ground is more solid, the trail will move farther to the outside of the right-of-way, she said.

County Engineer Darrick Anderson obtained board approval to award a contract to low bidder Reierson Construction for $231,575.64 to make improvements near Cass Lake-Bena School using Safe Routes to Schools federal money, contingent upon Minnesota Department of Transportation approval.

All three bids ran above the engineering estimate of $225,926.94 for the project. Cass Lake-Bena School will provide the local match. Cass County is acting as fiscal agent for the project.

The commissioners received no comments from those attending Tuesday night's meeting on the highway department proposal to place "No Parking" signs on all four quadrants for the 100 feet either side of Fisherman's Bridge on County Highway 36 by the Crow Wing River east of Pillager.

Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk, who represents that area, said he talked to a few people and found none opposed to the measure, which is designed to improve traffic safety around the bridge.


The board instructed Anderson to proceed with installing the signs.

Matt Varilek, Initiative Foundation executive director, gave his first annual report Tuesday to the county board after taking over in January from long-time director Kathy Gaalswyk.

The South Dakota native and Carleton College in Minnesota graduate said he brings back to his home region a special interest in small business initiatives after working for the U.S. Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C.

He reported Cass County residents and business owners have received $4.4 million back from the Initiative Foundation from a $1,056,377 investment in the foundation since it began in 1986.

There have been 395 grants issued, 57 scholarships and 50 loans made, he said. These produced 377 quality jobs and leveraged $13.5 million in private business financing, he added.

Going forward, the Initiative Foundation has set five priorities, Varilek said. These are to:

• Support and grow existing businesses and nonprofits.

• Support new business start-ups and social enterprise ventures.


• Improve the economic status of financially disadvantaged people.

• Enhance kindergarten readiness of children in poverty.

• Cultivate next-generation leaders ages 40 and under in our region.

The county board referred to the citizen budget committee the Initiative Foundation's request for continued financial support in 2018.

Chief Financial Officer Sandra Norikane reported the county has drafted in-house its annual audit information for 2016 in an effort to save money on a state auditor's office on-site review of the county's books.

She said that information has been forwarded to the Office of the State Auditor for a final review and findings.

The 2017 budget will be amended to incorporate the Shingobee Island taxing district sewer system fund as a separate county fund, since the county oversees that fund, she said.

If, in the future, tax levy dollars go into the capital projects fund that, too, would then be reflected in the county's annual budget, she said.


While the 2016 final budget report shows the general fund spent $41,892 more than it took in, Norikane said growth of the county's unassigned fund balance at year end grew by $860,988 to $13,387,825, so was using some of the fund balance to cover the general fund deficit was not a major factor.

All other county funds took in more than was spent in 2016, Norikane said.

Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Anderson reported interest income on the county's investments in 2017 is running behind that of 2016 and behind budget expectations for 2017.

This is because some of the county's longer-term investments that were paying higher interest rates had expired and now need to be reinvested at the lower interest rate that has prevailed since the recession.

She said her staff checks daily to seek the highest rates available for these reinvestments.

After the first six months of the year, the county has taken in $439,861.02 interest on investments or 47 percent of what the budget had projected for 50 percent of the year.

This compares with $576,165.87 the county earned on its investments through June of 2016.

Cass County spent $98,650.50 to pay for June efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Of that, $93,058.37 went to pay for trained inspectors to check boats entering and leaving public landings on lakes in the county.


State funding pays for these inspections and supplies for inspectors.

The commissioners authorized probation officer Brad Mesenbrink to attend the 2017 National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies annual conference and training in September in Pittsburgh. A community crime prevention grant will cover all travel and conference expenses.

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