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Expected county costs for proposed Crosslake roundabout increase

The potential roundabout would be built in 2024 at the intersection of county highways 3 and 66, which includes the entrance to the Cross Lake Recreation Area and campgrounds operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at its western arm.

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A conceptual layout shows how a roundabout might look at the intersection of county highways 66 and 3 in Crosslake. Contributed

Crow Wing County’s expected share in the cost of a potential roundabout project in Crosslake increased by two-thirds upon new information learned about a federal grant program.

County Engineer Tim Bray told the county board Nov. 23 a discussion with the Minnesota Department of Transportation revealed money from the Federal Land Access Program — which issues dollars for projects improving access to federal property — was not eligible to be used for engineering or right of way acquisitions. Instead, the funds can only be used for construction costs in the state of Minnesota.

In response, Bray adjusted the grant application to ask for $800,000 instead of $960,000, while increasing the county’s expected contribution from $240,000 to $400,000. The terms of the grant state applicants must provide a 20% match of funds to the project if selected.

The potential roundabout would be built in 2024 at the intersection of county highways 3 and 66, which includes the entrance to the Cross Lake Recreation Area and campgrounds operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at its western arm. It’s some of the only federal property in the county, Bray noted.

Bray explained during a previous meeting the reasons for pursuing an improvement to the intersection are twofold: to address existing congestion at the intersection, particularly in the summer months when tourism activity is at its peak, and to prepare for the expected influx of visitors once the planned National Loon Center is built within the Corps of Engineers property. The loon center, the main building of which is planned for construction in 2024, is expected to draw tens of thousands of additional tourists to the Crosslake area with limited parking available on site.

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Although the county’s potential expenditures increased, Bray noted the project location on two county state aid highways means it would be eligible for state aid funds, and the county may also tap funds for road and bridge improvements collected through the countywide local option sales tax. The change in estimated cost does not affect any current highway department budgets and would be accounted for in the 2024 improvement program, should the project be selected for funding.

Bray emphasized the county is applying for the grant based on a concept and all cost estimates, as well as specifics of the engineering and layout, are subject to change based on public input and other factors.

In other business, the county board:

Heard from a number of people during open forum, who reiterated a request for a forensic audit to be completed of the 2020 election in Crow Wing County. During the Nov. 9 meeting, commissioners agreed to seek a legal opinion on what action, if any, could be taken by the county board on the request.

Scheduled a public hearing to allow comment before the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office purchases body cameras for 5:05 p.m. Dec. 14. State law requires agencies to provide an opportunity for public comment before they purchase or implement a portable recording system.

Scheduled a public hearing to consider adopting the 2022 Crow Wing County fee schedules for 9:05 a.m. Dec. 28.

Approved a memorandum of agreement with the counties of Todd, Morrison and Aitkin as well as their respective soil and water conservation districts to begin One Watershed One Plan organizing efforts for the Mississippi River-Brainerd watershed.

Crow Wing County will take the lead in public notice requirements in support of developing the plan, which seeks to “conserve soil and water resources through the implementation of practices, programs, and regulatory controls that effectively control or prevent erosion, sedimentation, siltation and related pollution in order to protect natural resources, ensure continued soil productivity, protect water quality, reduce damages caused by floods, preserve wildlife, protect the tax base, and protect public lands and waters.”

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Crow Wing County contains 34% of the watershed and the watershed covers more than half of the county.

Agreed to a labor contract with Law Enforcement Labor Services Local No. 16, which represents correctional officers in the sheriff’s office, following a closed session. The contract extends from 2022 through 2024 and covers 51 employees as part of an essential unit. Changes to the contract include a three-tier benefit structure for health insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield with no increase to costs with renewal in 2022; a 2.5% increase to the salary structure each of the next three years; the availability of a payout for compensatory time earned; and a uniform allowance pro-rated to hire date.

The county also agreed to update the contract to match how Christmas Eve is handled with other local Law Enforcement Labor Services units. In January, the county board agreed to settle with two bargaining units representing deputies and 911 dispatchers to boost Christmas Eve pay from a half-day to a full day.

Approved an agreement with the state to exchange federal dollars awarded to the county for work on County Highway 45 for the same amount in state aid dollars. The move allows the Minnesota Department of Transportation to consolidate federal money on one project in Stearns County, while also offering Crow Wing County the chance to receive the money upfront, rather than being paid back after the fact.

Approved an amendment to the food service partnership agreement between Crow Wing County and Summit Food Service for meals in the jail. The amendment extends the agreement by a year and increases the cost of inmate meals by 5.3% effective Feb. 1, 2022, through Jan. 31, 2023.

Authorized contract renewals with Heartland Animal Rescue Team as a holding facility for impounded dogs and dangerous dogs through Dec. 31, 2022. The fees remain the same: $50 per day for dangerous dogs for a maximum of 10 days, payable to the county by the owner if the dog is claimed; $16 per day for other impounded dogs; and $683.88 per month for administrative fees.

Set the county board calendar for 2022. Regular meeting dates include: Jan. 4, Jan 25, Feb. 8, Feb. 22, March 8, March 22, April 12, April 26, May 10, May 24, June 14, June 28, July 12, July 26, Aug. 9, Aug. 23, Sept. 13, Sept. 27, Oct. 11, Oct. 25, Nov. 8, Nov. 22, Dec. 13 and Dec. 27. All meetings begin at 9 a.m., with the exception of Dec. 13, which will take place at 5 p.m.

Authorized Deborah Erickson, administrative services director, to attend the Election Center Joint Election Official Liaison Conference set for Jan. 12-14, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia.

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Approved a new assistant county attorney position in the county attorney’s office, justified by the increased caseload.

Approved the promotion of Nichole Stotz to property assessor in training. The board also approved replacement staffing for a customer service specialist, the previous position of Stotz.

Accepted the departures of the following employees: Jeff March, property assessor in training, land services; Kellee Rossina, social worker, community services; and Patty Nieters, case aide, community services. The board also approved replacement staffing for these positions.

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

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