PINE COUNTY TOWNSHIP OFFICERS’ ASSOCIATION MEETING SATURDAY, MARCH 23, 2019
The Spring Meeting of the Pine County Township Officer’s Association was held on Saturday, March 23, 2019, at the Hinckley American Legion Hall. The meeting was called to order by Chair Katy Overtoom at 9:00 a.m. The Pledge of Allegiance was led Chair Katy Overtoom. The Invocation was provided by Katy Overtoom.
Roll call was taken with 26 townships present, establishing a quorum.
Motion made and seconded to approve the minutes from the Spring Meeting, Saturday, October 28, 2018 read by Secretary/Treasurer Glen Williamson.
Jason Rarick, State Senator MN District 11. There were problems and concerns with the extraordinary special primaries and elections for Tony Lourey’s Senate seat and Jason’s house seat when he was elected Senator. Some mail-in ballots didn’t get to the courthouse on time with the short window. He is asking for more money for township broadband internet and cell-phone service beyond the one-time grants to include bonding like with road and bridge and transportation bonding. He’s working with the Rural Transportation Bill to increase the share small cities and townships get; now we get only 5% of the gas tax although we have 40% of the roads in the state. He said there is more talk about the NXL Railroad funding but the legislators can’t control the outcome once money is designated to an agency. He opposes the $.20 gas tax increase since it adversely affects rural drivers with longer distances and older vehicles. It’s supposed to go into the transportation fund but can be diverted to transit. He supports a designated sales tax for transportation. Powerball funds can’t be used for roads or other purposes than what it’s designated for. One idea is tracking drivers with GPS and charging by miles driven.
Steve Hallan, District 1 commissioner. Asked for prayers for those suffering in the Nebraska/Iowa floods. Said the commissioners are also focused on bringing broadband to townships. He supports a gas-tax increase and wants more to go to townships. New county building in Sandstone is coming along and the next County/township commissioners meeting might be there. County is understaffed and have to do more with less. There are six openings for jailers, a good paying job with a retirement program that only requires a high-school diploma. Out-of-home placements are hurting the budget with over 100 kids in placements, and it’s also a social problem. Kids have to have somewhere to go. Road projects include redoing the highway 70 overpass and bridge and also the Walmart exit and road to re-engineer the roads for better visibility of oncoming cars. Want to replace the big box culverts in Willow River but hung up with permits to work in the river bed. Some towns want to give the county some of their roads; they can’t take any more except with a swap.
Josh Mohr, District 2 Commissioner and county chair. The special primaries and elections hit towns and the county pretty hard. It cost the county $18,000; $12,000 for ballots alone plus overtime and it cost many towns $1,000 per election. He wants the state to come up with a better way to handle these special elections, perhaps with mail ballots. Mohr testified at the capitol for Rarick’s bill for a fairer share of the casino taxes. Rarick wants the county’s share doubled.
Jeff Nelson, County Sheriff: Drug use is still a big concern in the county, mostly with meth, but also heroin and opioids. This affects all county agencies; they want to steer people in the right direction. The jail program tries to rehab and redirect offenders.
Kelly Schroeder, New County Auditor/Treasurer. The 2020 elections are only a year away. One big change will be a state-wide March Presidential primary election, as well as the August primary. The legislative language is unclear about primaries; they now require up to four separate ballots, for each party instead of putting all offices on one ballot. There’s a bill to allow one ballot and to make the Presidential Primary a mail ballot election. The 16,000 mail ballots would still be cheaper than polling places. She talked about how tax for land and timber sales trickles down to townships. The County Forester is doing an inventory of county land for a plan for the timber harvest. Property tax assessments are going out this week; township levies are going down but county levies are going up. Big push for recycling programs with 11 sites for recycling sheds run by PHASE, and they found a site for the Willow River transfer station north of Willow River that will take garbage and tires and mattresses and recyclables 3 days a week. They want to make this a pilot project in General Andrews Station for garbage and recyclables, since half of the people in the county do not have any garbage service so they burn it or dump their garbage.
County-wide Zoning: Still only opt-in but they are almost ready to release it and there will be big public meetings when it is released.
Lorri Houtsma, New County Assessor. Boards of Appeal start April 8. She distributed land values schedules for 2020. Most people will have an uptick in values, mostly in high-ground tillable land. There is online assessor training in July for Supervisors. Open-book boards of appeal give people more time to appeal their assessments, up until June.
Jordan Zeller, ECRDC said economic development creates jobs and grows the local tax base. They’ve started an inventors and entrepreneurs club to help inventors get patents and create more businesses to hire more people. Check the ecmnbusiness.com website for updates. They will meet monthly in Braham. ECRDC has a small business revolving loan fund to buy equipment and start businesses. If someone can’t get full funding they will loan $30,000 and take the second position to the bank. Four loans are out now at good interest rates. They support the MN Rural Broadband Coalition for internet and have a day on the Hill on April 3rd.
Katie Draper, Director of Govt. Affairs for Mille Lacs Band Ojibwe: The band has 16,000 acres with 4,700 members, 609 in Pine County. There are six Minnesota Chippewa tribes. They have 750 full time employees in 30 businesses and operate public works, clinics, schools, and entertainment events. District 3 is east of Hinckley in Pine County. They have a new community center by the casino with a gym and track open to the public. The tribe pays $125,000 in property taxes on 50 million in assets.
Miranda Janssen, Rep for 8th District Congressman Pete Stauber: Need to get the federal mileage rate or a fair parity rate for volunteer drivers. Stauber is working on the transportation bill and the Rural Broadband Coalition.
Ben Weiner, Veterans Services: The VA is the second largest bureaucracy in government. They bring millions to veterans services for education and services.
Motion made and seconded to approve the Treasurer’s report by Secretary/Treasurer, Glen Williamson, Sr.
Election of Two Replacement Board Members: Two Executive Board members, Susan Grill (Kettle River Township) and Robert Sunstrom (Ogema Township) were re-elected by unanimous ballot for three-year terms. Next county township officers meeting October 26, 2019, 4th Saturday at the American Legion in Hinckley.
Motion made, seconded, and approved to adjourn at 10:25 am.
Respectively submitted by
Glen Williamson Sr.
Pine County Township Officer’s Association
Photographs by Paul Raymond, Clerk, Wilma Township