It was a brief meeting of the Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Oct. 23, but one that changed how easements are handled in the future.
An easement is the right to cross someone else's land for a specified purpose, for example, a property with no other means of access that is surrounded by land owned by others.
"We discussed the Tumble Down easement at the (committee of the whole) meeting, and we did state at that meeting the easement would go with the people, not the land ... so I want to make sure it gets into the resolution," Commissioner Rosemary Franzen said at the meeting's start.
The easement was discussed at the Oct. 16 committee of the whole. A representative from the Tumble Down Environmental Conservation Foundation requested the 33-foot private easement across county tax-forfeited lands to access the nonprofit's property in Timothy Township.
"The agreement was finalized at committee of the whole, but it hasn't been signed by both parties," county Environmental Services Supervisor Ryan Simonson said of the proposed Forest Trail easement.
The county has historically allowed Tumble Down access via an informal, verbal agreement. A portion of the access route is located on Blueberry Bog Trail, a county-designated non-motorized trail. Tumble Down is north of County Highway 1 and west of Ramsey Road.
The easement is perpendicular to Ramsey Road and would connect it to the nonprofit's property, which is landlocked from public roads. The easement would not cause "significant adverse environmental or natural resource management impacts," according to county land services.
The Blueberry Bog Trail encompasses the nonprofit's property. The 5.2-mile county trail is open all year for non-motorized activities, but those affiliated with Tumble Down would be allowed to use vehicles on the section of the hunter-hiking trail connected to the private easement.
The easement agreement clarifies the maintenance responsibilities and allowed uses by Tumble Down, which has "no reasonable alternative for access to the property," according to land services, which supported granting the easement.
"Since we don't take action at committee of the whole, that's not a formal agreement ... so that would say to me that here is a potential for a changing before it actually comes here. Is that not a proper interpretation?" Commissioner Paul Thiede asked Simonson at the board meeting.
Simonson replied, "I think that's correct, and maybe our future practice should be to include these easement agreements in the board packets, and I'm frankly surprised that we haven't done that in the past."
The county would retain the right to use the easement for its forest management activities, and repairing any damage done to the easement resulting from those activities would be the county's responsibility, according to the agreement.
Damage done to the easement by Tumble Down or its members will be the sole financial responsibility of the nonprofit or its members. Otherwise, the county would be responsible for the maintenance, rehabilitation and repair of the portion of the easement along Forest Trail.
The county will also be responsible for the maintenance, rehabilitation and repair of the portion of the easement from the entry gate at Ramsey Road to the start of Forest Trail. The Ramsey Road gate will be restricted by a chain and lock with the nonprofit's members having a key.
"It's been past practice to not include easement agreements in the board packet (but) simply to approve the request of the easement by the county board early in the process and sign the agreement later on," Simonson told Thiede.
Houle told Thiede, "If there was a change in an (easement) agreement that you saw at committee of the whole, by the time it came to county board, then the staff should bring that to your attention ... if it's material. If it's a typo or something insignificant, that's no big deal."
According to the approved agreement, the county and Tumble Down will share repair costs for damages done to the easement by vandalism or trespass. Tumble Down will also pay the county $1,680 per acre for the easement, which consists of about 3.2 acres.
The county may improve a portion of the easement known as Blueberry Bog Trail, according to Simonson. The estimated cost to accommodate motorized traffic is $21,350. Both county and Tumble Down will each pay half of the actual cost.
Thiede and Houle instructed Simonson to now include any easement agreements in the material prepared by staff for the board to review at board meetings. Franzen made the motion to approve the consent agenda, of which the easement was a part, Commissioner Doug Houge seconded it, and the motion passed.
In other business, the county board:
Approved the hiring of Jaici Schlosser, sheriff's office correctional officer; John Dalos, sheriff's office part-time deputy; and Leslie Rolland, sheriff's office 911 communications officer.
Approved the promotion of Patrice Foster, sheriff's office jail sergeant, and Andrea Gunter, community services financial assistant specialist.
Approved the departure of Rori Tulenchik, sheriff's office jail sergeant, and Katrina Wood, land services property assessor.
Supported the gambling applications by the Brainerd FFA for an exempt permit on June 1 at the Nokay Lake Town Hall and by Garrison Fire Relief Association for a premises permit at the Green Lantern in Nokay Lake.
Authorized withdrawing from the county's over-the-counter list a tax-forfeited parcel in Breezy Point along Breezy Point Drive and selling it to an adjacent landowner for $6,400.
Authorized entering into a yearlong grant agreement between the county and Minnesota Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security for $40,999 for the salary, wages and benefits for the emergency management director.
Authorized entering into a yearlong grant agreement between the county and Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division for the sheriff's office bomb squad equipment, storage facility and training in the amount of $194,994.