The Spring Meeting of the Pine County Township Officers’ Association was held on Saturday, March 25, 2023, at the Hinckley Community Center, in Hinckley, MN. The meeting was called to order by Chair Katy Overtoom at 9:00 a.m. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Chair Katie Overtoom. The Invocation was provided by Katy Overtoom.
Roll call was taken with 22 townships present, establishing a quorum.
Motion made, seconded to approve the minutes from the Fall Meeting, Saturday, October 22, 2022.
We had several speakers:
State Senator Jason Rarick District 11 said this has been a different legislative session. They just came out with a budget target; the largest area is the K-12 education, and how they spend the money in the school district. He believes that we didn’t need free meals for all kids, at best 50%. Now we are spending $450 to do so. He’s not for NLX (trains) and would rather the money go into bussing. He doesn’t believe the current gun bill will pass because of so many concerns about it.
Nathan Nelson, State Senate Representative, District 11B – thanked the township officers for being involved on the local government level. Roads are really bad this year, especially the one he lives on. The legislative target spending is $72 billion dollars that’s an increase of $17.9 billion over the last bi-annual. For rural MN, he serves agricultural, work force and children and family committees. He’s working hard on daycare early education, especially for the rural area. It’s been harder and harder for home based daycare to stay in business. He’s trying to make sure a portion of the funds goes to outer Minnesota. ECE is trying to get broadband out to the areas they serve. ECE had to apply for smaller projects to fit within the grant limit. He is hoping for them to increase the cap, so they can work on bigger projects, and still be under the cap. He’s got a concern about a bill trying to limit school classes to 17 students. This could affect everything including how many rooms to have students in that could lead to a bond issue. Please contact him if you have any concerns about anything coming up.
Steve Hallan, District 1 Commissioner said Pine County is only one of five counties in Minnesota that owns their own land fill in Arthur Township, west of Mora. The landfill after struggling is doing really good now. They have good equipment and staff. It has to follow a million rules to make sure it’s not violating any laws, i.e., polluting ground. Every county had to pitch in originally to get the landfill going. Last year the landfill gave back to those counties almost $1 million, and Pine County got about $200,000.00. Some day this landfill will not have any room for expansion. It’s getting filled up really fast because we throw away so much garbage.
The county board has gotten really serious about Broadband. You will not get it overnight, but Broadband will be coming to your area in the next three years or so. ECE has 94 miles of fiber sitting on reels ready to go. Also, SCI and Minco are working on Broadband around Pine City and the Rock Creek area.
The county now has a full-time Economic Director, Lezlie Sauter.
Pine County took some of its ARPA money to give scholarships to students graduating from a local school to attend Pine County Technical and Community College, at no cost. They have 49 students who are taking part in the program this year. Many of those students are first generation, post-secondary students. Many of the students when they graduate are getting high wages; we need electricians, plumbers, mechanics, etc. They are trying to figure out how to sustain this scholarship in perpetuity.
He went on to state that they are branding the county from Pine County “We are in the middle of nowhere” to “We are in the middle of everywhere.” We can be in the middle of the wilderness in an hour, or we can be at the Twin’s games; in an hour we can be testifying in the capital.
We also have an opioid crisis. They have had six overdoses in the county since January 1. That’s two a month. These are not terrible people, but rather people who have made one big mistake.
Terry Lovgren, District 3 Commissioner said we won’t be getting the
Stauber grant. It’s been put off for another year. The CBDG Grant won by SCI Cable for those with low income in the townships of Dell Grove, Sandstone, Barry, Arlone, and Glover.
If you’re a township with over $3,800 is damages, call Denise at 320-438-0309 to find out about a 75% reimbursement due to the December snow storms. You must apply by March 30, 2023.
Lovgren said that she’s on the National Association of Counties Technology & Telecommunication Committee. This year, they are presenting a resolution concerning the lack of cell service to many areas in our nation. Pine County has many dead spots, making this a great opportunity to help our residents.
Another resolution they are working on is making sure providers are honest in their pricing. If you believe you been scammed report it to ReportFraud.FTC.gov.
Jeff Nelson, Sheriff- Pine County – said to get a hold of him, if there are issues. Call in if you see anything suspicious. There are issues with hiring law enforcement officers and a couple different levels. Candidate pool is getting shallower, and they are competing with the metro for pay issues. They get a lot of support from the Pine County community. They have had three overdoses over the last week or so, but all have recovered. It’s been 16 or 17 so far this year, with six deaths this year. All except one was from the Pine County area. They have put a lot of money into trying to find the sources for those overdoses and chase down the dealers. That takes resources. He said we cannot arrest our way out of it. It will take education. This drug issue is from all economic and social backgrounds. There is an opioid conference coming up Wednesday, April 26, 2023, at the Grand Casino Hinckley. Details are on his website. He talked about the potential for flooding, especially if you have it previously. Veterans get a substantial discount with their Conceal and Carry permit. Honorable discharged veterans only pay $10 instead of $100.
Jordan Zeller, ECRDC Economic Developer – they are working with Pine Tech to get a grant for them. They do bank visits to promote economic development. They are also collecting data on where to build new houses in the area. They have a bunch of financing programs that can make things happen. If you’re interested in childcare, talk with him. They also have their revolving loan funds. They have funds to lend out. They are a government entity, so they are not competing with banks from $10K to $60K. They have 27 loans outstanding, nine of which are in Pine County; three are in Pine City, one in Sandstone, one in Askov, one in Banning, one in Denham, one in Hinckley and one in Henriette. He said if you forget who he is, talk with Glen Williamson because he’s the Vice Chair of the loan committee.
Barb Fischer, Pine Area Hospital District Vice President – said she’s the newly elected Chair of the hospital board . Bill passed about seven weeks ago. There are three questions. 1. What is the Hospital District? 2. Now that the hospital is built, why are you still active? 3. What are you doing with the money?
- The organization was created by statute… it was originally created in 1959. When MN realized that hospitals in the rural areas were going away. They had a county hospital, county nursing home and a county clinic. As hospital and medical issues became more complex, it took a lot to maintain it. So they decided to take advantage of the statute. So, the decision was made to build a new hospital. It opened in 2017, right after she moved to the area. They build the hospital, they own the hospital, but they don’t run it. They don’t have the expertise. The hospital is leased to Essentia; Essentia sub leases Gateway Clinic and Thrifty Pharmacy. The bond they took out in 2017 is paid by Essentia. So that leads to the next question.
- Why are you still active? The hospital district holds the loan for the mortgage on the hospital. Not Essentia. Essentia has the right to leave if they want. The district would still have the mortgage. Sandstone hospital is grandfathered in. It’s the law in the state. It’s required by this area for the citizens to have access to a hospital. It is a triage hospital. They hold over people in the hospital, until they can find a bed to send them to. The clinic feeds the hospital. But the clinic is independent of the hospital and ask the patients where they want to go… i.e., to Duluth. The clinic lets you go wherever the patients want to go.
- What do you do with the money you get from the levy? They offer forgivable loans to those who train in Pine County and if they work a couple of years for the hospital, then their loan can be forgiven. They offer EMT training; they pay for new medical technology. The district receives about $250,000 from the levy.
Mindy Sandell, Veterans Services – The stats are from 2021 because 2022 has not come out yet. We have 2,165 veterans in Pine County. That’s a decrease of 50/55 veterans from the year before because a lot of Vietnam veterans are dying. The veterans’ compensation coming into the county are $14, 468,000; medical care is $15,927,000; education money $4486,000; insurance and indemnities $130,000. They also have a van program that goes to Minneapolis on even number days, Twin Ports on Mondays, and St. Cloud on Tuesdays. Any veteran can use the van. They are down on drivers, but they still run the van program. They just purchased a new high-capacity passenger van. They are about 20 veterans’ appointments a week and about 10 walk-ins a week. They average about 60 phone calls a week. They have coffee talk in Sandstone the first Monday of the month in her office (in Sandstone); the first Thursday of the month in the evening in Pine City. She’s also in Pine City every Thursday in the evening to serve the southern part of the county. They have income-based grants available. Sandell said, she’s also the chair of the Pickem Up Suicide Coalition which includes Pine, Kanabec, Isanti, and Mille Lacs County to help prevent veterans from committing suicides. For more details visit https://www.co.pine.mn.us/departments/veterans/index.php
Jeff Krueger, MN Association of Township Director – speaking on behalf of Tammy Carlson who is the new District 7 Director as of January 31, 2023. The next annual MAT Township Conference is December 7 – 9, 2023 at River’s Edge Convention Center. He’s urging all township officers to attend because they will be cleaning up their bylaws and it’s important for you to be there. They have over 9,000 members, but only 200 attended last year for various reasons, including having it in October. October was too early because many of the officers are farmers and were still in the field. November is not a good month because of the hunting season. By moving it to December they are hoping to have a lot better turnout. They have a staff of 15 and he’s been there for two years, but he’s third longest employee there. They have a lot of turn over because of wages; they will also be voting on dues increases. The short courses for those in Pine County will be April 7 at the DECC in Duluth.
Some other info: The association was originally formed in 1933 as MATO. It was originally formed after Iowa lost its townships. It was formed to make sure that townships continue to exist in Minnesota. We have 55,000 miles of roads. MAT’s goal is $100 Million for townships. Wisconsin has 60,000 miles of roads and are getting $168 Million for their roads. We got less than a 1/3rd last year than what Wisconsin received. In 2023 the townships are expecting a 28% decline in state aid. There will be a 7% decrease in gas tax because of higher efficient cars and EVs. In the 70’s and 80’s the association use to have 800 to 1,000 officers at Lobby Days For details visit https://www.mntownships.org/
Mike Couri, Couri and Ruppe Law Office – spoke about his upcoming Township Legal Seminars which will include
- TOWN LINE ROAD AGREEMENTS
- FIRE CONTRACTS
- TOWNSHIP JEOPARDY
- CLERK & TREASURER DUTIES; REORGANIZATIONAL MEETINGS
- OPEN MEETING LAW
- STUMP THE CHUMPS
For details visit https://www.couriruppe.com/township-legal-seminar
Motion made, seconded to nominate Dan O’Flanagan, Dell Grove Township and Glen Williamson, Wilma Township to the Executive Board for another three years. Both officers were re-elected by the attendees to three years until March 2026.
Motion made, seconded, and passed to adjourn at 10:45 am.
Respectively submitted by
Glen Williamson Sr.
Pine County Township Officers’ Association
Date Approved: ______________________