Cass County Board: Latest round of ARPA grants allow for organizations to expand

Three American Rescue Plan Act grant applications were approved for Pine River-Backus Schools, Immanuel Lutheran Church and School and the Federal Dam Volunteer Fire Department.

Cass County Courthouse in Walker.
Cass County Courthouse in Walker.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

WALKER — The most recent American Rescue Plan Act grants in Cass County will benefit schools and a fire department.

Three American Rescue Plan Act grant applications were discussed and approved Tuesday, Feb. 7, at the regular Cass County board meeting.

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Pine River-Backus Schools Business Manager Jolene Bengtson presented the school’s request for $265,016 to assist in building a health services addition to the school. Bengtson said the school nurse's office is currently the size of a closet and during the pandemic there was no place to adequately quarantine sick students or a safe place for parents to pick them up.

Another need the school has, Bengston said, is for a private space for students to visit with a mental health provider. Building the health services addition would allow for this opportunity, Bengston said.

The total project is expected to cost approximately $1,325,080 with the majority of the funding coming from various other sources, Bengtson said, and the district plans to break ground on the project as soon as students are out of school for the summer.


The second grant request was from Immanuel Lutheran Church and School. Todd Frybarger, Board of Education president, presented the church’s and school’s request for $250,000 to assist in building an addition to expand child care capacity and early learning opportunities.

Frybarger said during the pandemic they had numerous people reach out to them to enroll their children into the parochial school because of an opposition to e-learning utilized by public schools. Unfortunately, Frybarger said, the current building restricts the school from accepting more students.

Frybarger said Immanuel Lutheran Church and School is planning on building an addition to house two more classrooms along with an additional bathroom, which also would allow for the hiring of additional staff to assist in teaching students. The estimated project cost is $500,000, with half of the cost being committed from other sources.

The final grant request was from the Federal Dam Volunteer Fire Department in the amount of $20,000 to assist in purchasing a new fire truck. Fire Chief Kenny Raines said with the department being solely made of volunteers it does not have adequate funds to purchase a new vehicle. Recently the department, with funds received from Enbridge and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, was able to purchase a tanker truck from the state, which required painting and lights in order to be put into service.

When responding to a fire recently it was realized more repairs were needed to this vehicle, Raines said, plus they had another truck break down at a previous fire.

Raines said at the moment more funding from Enbridge and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe is not obtainable and with the department covering about a 100-mile area they would like to purchase another vehicle. Raines also told the board he located a truck for purchase for $25,000.

County Engineer Darrick Anderson brought a request to the board to designate 5 feet of shoulder along County State Aid Highway 37 as a bike lane and to establish reduced speed limits along the highway. Anderson explained the implications of designating a bike lane on a highway along with the ways the county can reduce speed limits.

If the county designates a portion of the shoulder as a bike lane that would only be allowed to be used as a bike lane, Anderson said, and if a car were to pull over and park in that area a ticket could be issued. This area also would not be allowed to be used as a walking path for pedestrians. However, if a bike lane was designated a reduced speed limit could be issued, Anderson said.


Another way the county could issue a reduced speed limit on an area county highway is by conducting a speed study to determine if there is justification to lowering the speed limit for reasonable and safe travel, Anderson said, and he suggested the board approve a speed study. Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk motioned to table adopting the resolution until a speed study was conducted. The motion to table the resolution was approved unanimously.

In other business, the county board:

Discussed 2023 legislative initiatives with Cass County delegates and offered assistance during legislation to help progress these initiatives.

Appointed commissioners Bob Kangas and Jeff Peterson to the Cass County Historical Society Board.

Approved conducting the tax-forfeit land sale at 9 a.m. June 10 at the Cass County Courthouse.

Approved the Cass County network upgrade in the amount of $68,000.

Adopted a resolution authorizing Cass County Highway Department to enter a Local Road Improvement Program grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation in order to facilitate funding obtained for the County State Aid Highway 37 project.

Awarded a contract for the construction of County State Aid Highway 37 from Highway 34 to Highway 371/200 south of Walker, along with the reconstruction of a leg of County State Aid Highway 50 off Highway 34 to Casper Construction in the amount of $3,488,000.


Awarded a contract for the removal of existing buildings on the former Terry Fischer property to prepare for the County State Aid Highway realignment project in East Gull Lake to TNT Construction Group LLC in the amount of $35,250.

Appointed Commissioner Rick Haaland to the Mississippi River-Grand Rapids One Watershed One Plan Policy Committee.

The next meetings are as follows: Commissioner’s board meeting, 9 a.m. Feb. 21 at the Land Department meeting room in Backus; AMC Legislative Conference Feb. 22-23 at the Intercontinental Hotel, St. Paul; and commissioner’s board meeting, 9 a.m. March 7 at the boardroom in the courthouse annex in Walker.

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