WALKER — Additional grants through the American Rescue Plan Act are now available for local businesses and nonprofits in Cass County.

County Administrator Josh Stevenson presented the proposed funding categories and applications for approval at the Tuesday, July 6, Cass County Board meeting.

Stevenson said Cass County will be receiving approximately $5.75 million, which will be split into five categories as described during the annual planning meeting. Some area businesses asked when applications for this grant will be available and Stevenson requested the board approve the categories of expenditures and the application so it can be made available on the county website, with the acceptance period to run from Wednesday, July 7, through Dec. 10, 2021.

Board Chair Jeff Peterson asked how the applications were going to be made available to the public beyond the website and how the public was going to be informed the money was available. Stevenson said the county planned on releasing the information following the model from previous programs by placing applications at area city halls and chambers of commerce and having local news media share the information.

Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk mentioned the local Kitchigami Regional Library System would also be an excellent location to place applications. The request was unanimously approved with local businesses and nonprofit organizations being able to access the application on the county website (www.co.cass.mn.us).

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Cass County Health and Nutrition Statewide Health Improvement Partnership educator Simon Whitehead provided an update on the various programs offered through the SHIP program. Some of the highlights are the following:

  • Served 37,000 chef-prepared meals plus distributed 4,624 Operation Outreach meals in the Pine River and Backus areas through the free community meal program.

  • Supported and helped expand seven area community gardens in Remer, Walker, Longville, Backus, Hackensack, Pine River and Pillager. Also helped in the assistance of preparing the community garden in Onigum.

  • Working with area schools on a mental health strategy, plus the food service managers to provide healthy signage, salad bars, carts and flavor stations.

  • Resumed and expanded the in-person Memory Cafés for dementia affected families with a Zoom option.

  • Began various outdoor programs, such as a walking club, the cycling without age program in Walker and helping area towns become more bike friendly.

One major accomplishment Whitehead mentioned is the $51,000 UCare grant, which allowed the purchase of the Cass Lake Area Food Shelf delivery van. This van allows the delivery of food to over 400 families in the Cass Lake area.

Renee Lukkason and Gina Zubke, both with Health, Human and Veteran Services, presented a COVID-19 vaccination update and the 2021 county health rankings report to the commissioners. Zubke said currently 42.5% of Cass County residents 12 years old and older have been vaccinated, with the state having a total of 54.8% of the population 12 years and older vaccinated.

Cass County Public Health has administered 4,304 vaccinations to the public through various clinics. Most recently there was a clinic at the Cass County Fair, where public health officials administered 23 vaccines — most of them going to the carnival workers, who said they were grateful as they did not know how to receive these vaccinations. Currently, Cass County Public Health has all three vaccines available to administer. Zubke said they are also planning on hosting a clinic at the Pillager Fair coming up.

Lukkason said the 2021 county health rankings report, which showed Cass County ranked 86 out of 87 counties for health outcomes and 84th for health factors. These rankings, Lukkason said, have been very consistent over the past several years.

Lukkason explained the factors that determine the health rankings are not under the direct control of public health departments and one of the main reasons Cass County ranks so low is because the county is a large county with no hospital located within it. Therefore, there is no equal access to health care.

In other business, the county board:

Established a public hearing Tuesday, July 20, during the county board meeting at Smoky Hollow Township to consider updates to the Cass County fee schedule.

Established a public hearing Aug. 17 during the county board at Cass Lake City Hall to adopt the 2021 Cass County Comprehensive Plan. A public comment period is open currently with a survey available on the county’s website.

Heard a report from the solid waste committee and approved amending the transfer station contract with a 3.39% monthly increase effective July 1, 2021; continue paper collection and add an additional dumpster in Leader with both dumpsters being removed Sept. 30, 2021.

Awarded a contract to replace the salt shed roofs at the Hackensack and Pillager shops to Srock Construction Inc. in the amount of $35,500.

Awarded a contract for various road projects to Anderson Brothers Construction of Brainerd LLC in the amount of $3,582,939.66.

The next meetings are: commissioner’s board meeting, 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 20, at Smoky Hollow Township, 8969 42nd St. NE, Swatara; and commissioner’s board meeting, 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3, at the boardroom in the courthouse annex in Walker.