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Cass County Board: Alternative gravel road treatments still too pricey

Photo illustration, Metro Creative Graphics, Inc.

BACKUS—Environmentally friendly alternatives to calcium chloride gravel road treatment might be an option to try, but the price has to come down first, Cass County Engineer Darrick Anderson told the county board Tuesday, March 19.

He said he looked into a southern Minnesota company's soybean-based product, but found it would cost five times as much as calcium chloride.

Chloride treatment pricing includes the product, transportation to get it here and the cost for a person and equipment to apply it, he said.

The soybean product alone runs double the total chloride cost. When Anderson added the transportation cost and application costs, the soybean product total was five times as much, he said.

The county board voted to approve an extended contract from 2018 to run through 2020, with the chloride application to cost $745,500 for 750,000 gallons in 2019 and $772,500 for the same amount in 2020.

The county uses about 500,000 gallons on county roads and makes available to townships at their cost the remaining 250,000 gallons, Anderson said.

This board action was necessary this year even though bids had been accepted and awarded to low bidder Tri-City Paving, because Tri-City was bought out last summer by Knife River Materials. The contract extension is now with Knife River.

The board also approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to accept a $443,076 state grant to help cover the $549,079 cost to replace a bridge on County Road 129. The local match will be $106,004.

Bids for this project will be opened April 23, with a contact to be awarded May 1. Construction completion is expected by June 30, with final payment to be made July 31.

Cass County will seal coat portions of County State Aid Highway 1 for $26,346 under the last year of a five-year cooperative contract with Crow Wing County, which plans to seal coat several of its roads this year.

A state aid administrative account will pay $10,000 of Cass' cost.

Ambulance service update

Kevin Lee, North Memorial Ambulance, reported the Longville Ambulance Service had a 25 percent increase in patients in 2018, compared with 2017. North Memorial operates the Longville service under a contract.

The service billed 253 patients in 2017 and 315 patients in 2018.

Charges for services, after reductions for insurance deducts and allowance for bad debt, generated $596,948 revenue in 2018. That is up from $411,459 in 2017. Longville Ambulance also receives $491,000 from a special ambulance service property tax levied in that service district for 2018 total income of $845,533.

Longville Ambulance District's 2018 expenses ran $677,096 for a net margin of $168,437 or 19.9 percent.

Lee said the service had advanced life support employees on every shift even though its license only requires part-time advanced life support. The highest number of Longville area patients continued to choose Brainerd for their hospital destination, followed by Crosby, Bemidji, Deer River, Cass Lake, Grand Rapids and Park Rapids.

Seventeen people were transported by AirCare.

State seeks return of funds

Chief Financial Officer Sandra Norikane informed the county board Tuesday the county had to return $100,000 of the money received in 2018 for 2017 receipts from federal forest payments. Chippewa National Forest overlaps northern Cass County.

The federal government pays—to states under a 1908 federal act—a portion of money it generates from federal lands such as timber sales. Minnesota then sends a share of that payment to each county having federal land in it, with half designated for county highway and half split among school districts containing federal land.

The state sent Cass a check March 29, 2018, for $367,061 for its expected 2017 share from this fund. March 5, 2019, Cass received an email from the state, revising Cass' 2017 share down to $266,738 and requesting the return of $100,322.

The county will send a check to the state for the requested amount, but will not require the schools to return their share. Rather, Norikane said she will deduct the amount from the sums due to be distributed this year for 2018 federal payments to the schools.

Norikane reported the final 2018 tally of accounts shows the county spent down $31,500 of its general fund unassigned balance during the year. Unexpected expenses within each department mostly were covered by savings elsewhere in that department during the year, she said.

Board approves trail support

Lake Shore City Administrator Teri Hastings obtained county board approval for the county to pledge $55,000 to help the city complete the remaining 1.3 miles of multi-use paved recreational trail through that city.

The county uses interest earned on investing money received from the sale of former state leased lots to assist cities and townships with trail projects such as this. Norikane said $33,236 will remain available in that account after other prior commitments and anticipated projects are paid.

Interest earned

Chief Deputy Treasurer Karen Flier the county earned $231,010 interest on county general fund money through February this year or 24 percent of budget projections after 17 percent of the year.

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