PINE COUNTY TOWNSHIP OFFICERS’ ASSOCIATION FALL MEETING, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2012
Chairman Frank Grundmeier called the meeting to order at 9 a.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed with prayer. Roll call: 26 Townships represented.
SPEAKERS: Tony Lourey: Tony said he spent several years as Kerrick Township Supervisor, which helped in his approach to his Senate duties. He echoed Frank’s prayer for cooperation and dialogue and finding common ground. Tony said there are several serious state issues. They were unable to agree on budget issues, and the state borrowed $2.7 billion from the tobacco settlement which was for schools. The state has a $4.5 billion deficit. Tony said his goal is to raise revenue fairly. The state neglected road issues and pushed more of the burden down to counties and townships. To avoid a tax increase, the state increased property taxes and removed the Homestead Tax Credit, which doubled property taxes over the past years. Rural property owners were hit 3 times as hard as city dwellers. Tony said we have to cut services and expenditures plus raise taxes to combat the deficit; it is not moral to keep pushing the problem to the next biennial.
County Commissioners: Steve Hallan, District 1: He said he agrees with Frank and Tony on the need for civil discourse and discussion.
Steve Chaffee, District 2: He said the Commissioners agree on the need for action, but not always on the means. He said even with the loss of the Homestead Tax Credit, they were able to keep the levy at minus 1. They have tried to hold down spending without cutting services. They’ve learned to do more with less.
Curt Rossow, District 4: He represents the townships and communities affected by the flooding this year. The county has acted to help people fill out FEMA forms and get grant money to help people with forms. It can take up to 40 hours to fill out the forms. They were able to keep the levy at zero increase.
Doug Carlson, District 5: PineCounty is part of the Arrowhead County Association and the Minnesota Association of Counties. They’ve worked on the problems of floods and blowdowns and tackled the issues of bureaucracy and regulations and streamlining agencies. Their biggest issue is wetlands regulations, which have hurt our area a lot, affecting road projects and businesses. They were able to refinance the jail with bonds and lowered interest rates from 6% to 2.7%, which will save the county $1 million.
Terry Croup, candidate for District 3 Commissioner: He said his priority is public safety and roads. He is concerned with the county losing population and said we need jobs to keep people here. He said there are 900 businesses inPineCounty, including farms. More businesses mean more employment.
Sheriff Robin Cole: He’s been busy working on property crimes and arresting burglars. This was a bad summer for car and ATV accidents, with 12 deaths. Most accidents were caused by speed, not alcohol. Kerrick and Ogema had a new problem, giant outdoor concerts with multiple bands over several days. They choose Pine County because of little zoning. The Ogema rave brought 1,500 people and cost the county $5,000 to police, and requested an ambulance and fire truck, and only had 6 security working. There were drug arrests and fights and deputies arrested the promoter. Ogema is now working on an ordinance to control raves. Radios: The new 800 MHz system is already working at the county level. All 11 fire departments will get up to 75% of the needed radios. The state is buying another 200 radios and Pine County may get 30. He encouraged the township officers to put pressure on the county commissioners to provide more radios. The new system will cost $1.6 million. They will need 5 towers, but the one in Duxbury and Cloverdale haven’t started construction, and the state isn’t responding. He said they have other options to cover dead spots. County Watch Program: Thefts fueled by drug use are an issue. This is hard to combat, so he stressed the importance of neighborhood watch groups at the local area, and of reporting any suspicious activities.
Tim Faust, Candidate for District 11B Representative: The district lines were changed and Bill Hilty is not running. Tim wants to restore the Homestead Tax Credit to townships because farm taxes have increased up to 250% or more, and rural taxes are greater than in the metro area. He said if voter ID is passed, it will cost townships more to implement it.
Cathy Clemmer, County Auditor: The levy proposal notices are ready. Some township’s levies are going down. School levies are still high. 60% of taxpayers will be paying less. One third of our townships are mail-ballot precincts, and it is not clear how voter ID will work with absentee and mail-ballots and military ballots. We don’t know yet how much it will cost.
Lenny Bonander, Pine Hospital Board: Lenny gave the history of Essentia’s attempted takeover of the Pine Medical Center, and the grass-roots campaign opposing this, with townships and county and state and federal elected officials all getting involved with petitions and resolutions and letters. This led to Essentia agreeing to a new lease and new agreement, and will be building a new hospital behind Gateway Health Clinic on a 55 acre site. They hope to start construction by March, 2014. Roads and sewer and water are going in already.
Ben Weiner, Candidate for District 11B Representative: His focus is on the lack of jobs in our area, leading to foreclosed homes and our population decreasing. He will fight unfunded mandates and excess regulations. He said there is a big difference between the cities and rural communities in taxing and mandates.
Kelly Schroeder, County Assessor: Many property values have gone down, and some people’s taxes have gone down. Values are now holding. The last 300 sales in the county were reasonably stable. The flooding in northPineCounty affected 130 homes. All non-productive land has been removed from the Green Acres program, and people must appeal by May 1, or they can lose their green acre status. She distributed a list of 263 people at risk of losing Green Acre status, which could increase their taxes.
Mark LeBrun, County Engineer: A 5-year road program has just been approved, with 100 miles of resurfacing paved roads and some newly paved roads. He explained the specs for breakaway posts and said the county is now starting applying chloride on high-volume dirt roads, at a cost of $2,500/mile. This reduces the frequency of blading and extends the regraveling interval from 5-7 to 10 years.
Brett Grundmeier, DNR: Still concerned with fewer younger hunters and anglers, and they’re working to encourage more, with special hunts, etc. Still fighting invasive species and cracking down on removing weeds and pulling plugs on boats. Zebra mussels can wreck a lake. Don’t know how the new wolf season will work; he suspects a lot of large coyotes will be brought in. Some hybrid wolf-coyotes can’t be distinguished from wolves. Farmers are allowed to kill wolves that are stalking their cattle. His most frustrating problem is trespassing, and the law will not protect property owners if they don’t post their land every 500 feet, or at all entrances and corner borders, with a name and phone number or a signature. Brett encouraged the township officers to call on the legislators to remove the posting law.
Don Sherper, MAT District Manager: He said federal funds are disappearing due to the national debt. He encouraged attendance at the state MAT convention inSt. Cloud.
Frank Grundmeier said the townships must work together to solve problems. We can’t always get our way, and if we don’t work together, nothing will work. We need to speak up at the grass-roots level, or things will not change.
BUSINESS MEETING: Minutes of Spring Meeting: Paul Raymond read Glen Williamson’s record of the March Township Officers Meeting. Motion made and seconded to approve, with two changes: Doug Carlson said it was 14 times running for all offices, not just commissioner, and Sue Koecher is fromNickersonTownship, not Wilma. Passed.
Treasurer’s Report: Paul gave Glen’s treasurer’s report. Motion and second to approve. Passed.
State MAT Educational and Annual Meeting: Paul explained howWilmaTownship has sent a representative several years, but felt that it would be better if the whole county township officers were represented at theSt. Cloud conference November 15-17. The theme is Townships Serving Their Citizens—Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Paul suggested they send our Secretary-Treasurer Glen Williamson, since he is knowledgeable about our county township issues. Frank said the total cost would be around $500. He asked if there were any interest in sending a representative. There was no motion or discussion, and the matter died.
Frank Grundmeier, East Central Regional Development Committee: This year the Minnesota Department of Transportation is making a survey of all roads and will have a representative from ECRDC speak at the next township officers’ meeting. PineCounty has more roads than many counties.
Assessor Training: Frank said we still have a program of financial assistance for anyone interested in becoming an assessor.
Pine County Hospital: David Cullen fromSandstoneTownship said the new hospital is on a fast track for construction. This is very important for our county and area. He encouraged townships who are in the hospital district to get involved. The hospital is owned by the district and the participating townships.
Motion and second and vote to adjourn meeting at 11:20 a.m.
BUSINESS MEETING: Dave Kapoff, Dave Baker, Frank Grundmeier, and Paul Raymond present. Sue Koecher’s mother died and she is absent, as is Glen Williamson. Motion made, seconded and passed to approve minutes of the September 20 business meeting. Checks were signed, bills were paid. $66.50 was donated for the lunch. Motion made, seconded and approved to adjourn at 12:20 p.m.
Paul Raymond, acting Secretary Treasurer, Pine Co. Twp. Officers’ Assn.
Date Approved: ___________Chairman:___________________________