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Crow Wing County Board: Board tables county fair lease agreement

A 10-year lease agreement renewal with the Crow Wing County Fair Association set for approval at Tuesday's county board meeting was tabled at the request of the board chairman.

A 10-year lease agreement renewal with the Crow Wing County Fair Association set for approval at Tuesday's county board meeting was tabled at the request of the board chairman.

In an interview following the meeting, Chairman Paul Koering, who also serves as an ex-officio member of the Crow Wing County Fair Board, said there are still "a few things that need to get ironed out."

"I continue to hear from people who are just not happy with the way things are going at the fairgrounds," Koering said. "Specifically, one is the snowmobile club (Brainerd Snodeos)."

Richard "George" Burton, president of the Brainerd Snodeos, addressed the board about his concerns. He claimed members of the fair board have publicly threatened one another and have had "screaming matches in the parking lot." He also voiced concerns about contractors at the fairgrounds, claiming family members of those serving on the fair board get preferential treatment.

"There are still some interesting activities taking place with the fair board that don't look good for the county or the fair board," Burton said. "Maybe it's an organization that doesn't require an influx of money from this board or the people of the county."

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This is not the first time Burton has addressed the board about concerns related to fair board activities. He and the fair board have a history of conflict mostly related to land used by the snowmobile club for its annual grass drag races. Burton has said parking allowed in the area caused ruts they were forced to fix and a removable fence installed during the fair required club member labor to take it down before their event.

Last October, at a heated fair board meeting where the club's contract was up for renewal, Fair Manager J.D. Grimsley was adamant he would not support renewing the contract and pointed to Burton's involvement as his reason. Grimsley said he'd received caustic anonymous emails he suspected were from Burton or people associated with him and felt harassed.

"There's one thorn, and if you guys don't take care of that thorn, that's it, I've had enough of him (Burton)," Grimsley said.

The contract was ultimately renewed last year at the recommendation of the executive board.

Koering said he expects the fair association's lease to be renewed once more discussion has taken place.

"It's the county fairgrounds, it isn't somebody's little pet project," Koering said. "The snowmobile club has just as much right to be there as anybody else. ... I've got to hear both sides, so I just didn't want to move forward with that lease agreement until I talk to a couple people, and then we'll get it straightened out."

Chairman addresses open forum issue

Before moving to the open forum portion of the meeting, when members of the public have the opportunity to address the board about anything not on the meeting agenda, Koering stated his intentions to keep comments at three to four minutes in length.

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The statement came after Koering allowed a lengthy presentation during open forum at the Aug. 11 meeting. Commissioner Paul Thiede expressed concern at the meeting, saying the presentation from county resident and former county commissioner candidate Kurt Martin about Ojibwa Park Road was well past the five minutes typically allowed for comments.

"I was a little lenient with that last time," Koering said Tuesday. "I'm going to try to hold people to three to four minutes."

In an interview after the meeting, Koering said he is still reserving the authority as the chairman to allow comments exceeding that length should it be necessary.

"I'm going to run the meeting as I see fit," Koering said. "Some people have the ability to get things said in two or three minutes. Some people, it might take longer. ... If I'm not running the meeting the way the board sees fit, I'd be more than happy to let somebody else do it."

Traditionally, county commissioners serve as chair on an annual rotational basis.

Adjustments made to recorder's unallocated fund

A fund considered unsustainable within the county recorder's office was adjusted to improve its longevity.

The county board first learned of the issue at a July committee of the whole meeting, where a request to fund aerial photography for county land services revealed the concern.

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Six years ago as part of a push to reduce the county's property tax levy, the county began drawing half the cost of the county survey coordinator's salary from the fund. This ongoing expense coupled with a land services section corner project originally expected to last another seven to eight years meant the fund would have a negative balance by 2018.

The non-allocated fund, County Administrator Tim Houle explained, is a statutorily regulated fund made up from fees recovered from recording property documents. The fund is governed by a broad requirement for use toward "land-related services," Houle said, and is generally applied toward one-time expenses.

The county board Tuesday approved an adjustment to the fund to show a positive and growing balance by 2018. The budget for the section corner project was slashed in half to $45,000 after it was learned the project was ahead of schedule. Several other minor ongoing expenses from the highway department were also removed from the fund's budgeted expenditures.

In other business, the county board:

Heard a report from Bob Nelson, county veterans service officer. Nelson reported his office completed 36 applications for service connection, assisted four veterans with prevention of utility shut-off notices and unpaid rent, assisted five veterans with getting state optical and dental insurance and participated in the recognition of Gold Star families at Kiwanis Park.

Approved a resolution establishing a school speed zone on County Highway 11 by Eagle View Elementary School in Breezy Point. The new zone set the speed limit at 40 mph during peak traffic times. According to the resolution, "during the ongoing study process, it was discovered the existing signage ... was contributing to driver confusion."

Approved the revocation of two county roads back to township control. County Road 135 will become jurisdiction of Deerwood Township and County Road 114 will become jurisdiction of Fairfield Township. Both townships requested resurfacing of the roads in lieu of direct payment for maintenance.

Authorized support for a grant application by the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District. The grant would support a capital improvement project to install a water quality improvement system along Big Trout Lake, part of the Whitefish Chain. The system would treat stormwater runoff from about 121 acres of property adjacent to County Highway 66.

Approved a resolution authorizing the county engineer to extend offers and negotiate with landowners to acquire right-of-way along Dellwood Drive.

Authorized an agreement, acting as the First Assessment District township board, with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to accept the terms of a local road improvement program grant for the reconstruction of Inglewood Drive and Dellwood Drive. The resolution states the county will fund any excess costs beyond the grant.

Authorized an out-of-state travel request for a sergeant in the sheriff's office to attend hazardous device training Oct. 3 through Nov. 15 in Huntsville, Ala. The expenses will be paid from a grant and wages will be paid from the sheriff's budget.

Supported a gambling application for Holy Family Church in Roosevelt Township for an Oct. 11 event.

Approved the sales of a nonconforming tracts of land to adjoining landowners in Bay Lake Township and Oak Lawn Township.

Approved the hirings of Rachel Hobson, case aide in community services, and Matt Wentzel, financial worker in community services.

Accepted the departures of Bren Smith, part-time deputy in the sheriff's office; Dan Listug, program and policy analyst in land services; and Bryan Pederson, human resources generalist.

A pproved the reclassification of a position in the auditor-treasurer's office from associate accountant grade 16 to operational support supervisor grade 18 as part of a reorganization.

Approved replacement staffing for the following positions: a program and policy analyst in land services; a human resources generalist; and a part-time deputy in the sheriff's office.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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