The Fall Meeting of the Pine County Township Officer’s Association was held on Saturday, October 24, 2020, 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 Chair Katy Overtoom. The Invocation was provided by Katy Overtoom.
Because of Covid-19, this meeting was moved from the Hinckley VFW because the Community Center was more spacious and allowed for six foot spacing.
Roll call was taken with 18 townships present, establishing a quorum.
Motion made and seconded to approve the minutes from the Fall Spring Meeting, Saturday, October 27, 2020.
We had several speakers:
State Rep. Nathan, 11B spoke of the value of township government. Twenty-one precincts have mail-only balloting now. five new towns signed up. In some cases, the voters are not notified. Even though families being forced to stay home has brought families together, some without internet cannot do virtual learning. He said broadband availability is a priority, as important as roads. If Pine County had good broadband more people could work remotely from home and would bring more taxes to the county.
Jack Frechette, running for State House 11B, said he’s from Mission Creek township. Said Nathan is doing a good job but has a problem with his party. The bonding bill was delayed due to politics, he said, and COVID is being politicized. He said, “Follow the science.”
Steve Hallan, District 1 Commissioner, said 6,500 people have voted already out of 16,000 registered voters. The county got waivers from HHS to streamline the county COVID response. Thirty job positions will never return to the county offices; some can work from home just as well. Supervisors can supervise remotely. He says this is a win for taxpayers. He expressed gratitude to Nathan Nelson for helping to pass the bonding bill after 5 sessions of debate. Bridge bonding cannot wait for the legislative session. Pine Technical College has grown for three years and needs more space.
The funding will allow Willow River to continue for now. Trail money to extend the trails in southern Pine County was allocated. There is a 1/2 cent sales tax in the county that goes to the county (including from Amazon and eBay) and revenues have increased during the pandemic. Gas tax money is way down. He worries about the state legislature and the future for counties and townships may not be so rosy. Jail population is down but staffing must stay the same by law.
Michelle Lee, Senate District 11 Candidate said some farmers have to pay $4000 for health insurance. Some people cannot go to the doctor. Her son’s whole paycheck goes to health insurance. The state is $7 billion in debt. Environmental needs must be prioritized. She said she supports the state police and sheriff’s officers. She said COVID is increasing in our county but still no deaths.
Terry Lovgren, District 3 Candidate for Commissioner, spoke and said she loves working with people and has served on many committees for the county as well as serving on her town board. She promised to keep close contact with township needs and officials.
Terry spoke for the county Auditor’s office, saying the county assessing program is going well and more towns are turning their assessing over to the county. There are still some bad assessors out there and they cost their citizens tax money by faulty assessments. The costs to towns have been reduced. On elections, she said 4,000 absentee and 2,000 mail-ballots have been returned already. Five towns switched to all mail balloting. They must accept ballots for 10 days if postmarked by November, so we won’t see final county results until then.
Jason Waldhalm candidate for Commissioner District 4 is running because he wants to be more involved. As a liquor store owner, he meets a lot of people. He strongly supports law enforcement, and says the county needs to watch overhead and spending.
County Attorney Reese Frederickson said other counties have released prisoners and stopped prosecuting due to COVID but not his office. They had a plan from the beginning to keep the staff and inmates safe. He is charging the same number of offenders this year as last. He commended Sheriff Jeff Nelson for a great job.
Sheriff Jeff Nelson said COVID has given them challenges. They had the death of a canine officer and got another one. They got body cams and patrol squad cameras and all deputies have them and use them. ATV traffic has increased and water and land use are up greatly during COVID. They have a new officer for waters and trail use, working with the DNR to keep trails safe. They are getting new encrypted radios with CARES Act funding; some channels will be private to protect personal information, but fire departments and ambulances will still be able to communicate. He said they may be able to donate their old radios to fire departments.
Bob Voss. ECRDC.Director. They got federal money for the Highway 23 scenic highway program. They are working on safe route to school program for Finlayson. They are helping with buses and transportation with volunteer drivers, for medical appointments. They still support local broadband with so many needing it for school and work. He said ECRDC has a Facebook page and a webpage. They sponsor an Entrepreneur’s Club to help small businesses and startups get good financing at low rates. They have monthly meetings for technical resources. They got two CARES grants for a resiliency coordinator and $500,000 in loans in the five-county area for new businesses at o% interest.
Brett Grundmeier from the DNR said they have150officers in the DNR. Some had to go to the cities during the riots to help local law enforcement. He said Iraq veterans said Minneapolis was like a war zone. Wolf depredation is steady and there is still state money to reimburse for losses, but it takes a long time to get paid. He said wolves may be delisted to allow hunting them. Deer numbers are up and wolves are also up. CWD may affect hunting. So far not one case in the wild deer population in Pine county. If it were not for COVID there would be mandatory testing, but they are providing barrels all over the county to deposit deer heads for testing. The testing requires part of the spinal cord. The heads can be returned for mounting. Their goal is 1,000 tests and results take one week. Deer with CWD are confused, skinny and unafraid of people. The meat may still be safe. All deer feeding is prohibited. Ever bird feeders less than 6’ feet should be used. Salt and attractants are still legal.
Mindy Sandell, Veterans Services said they served 2,300 veterans. They got a Covid grand of $1,000 per vet, plus Covid disaster relief to get computers for their children for distance learning. They got gift cards to Daggett’s and Chris’ for them to buy food for their families. They have a van program to transport vets to the VA and are opening up to do blood draws. They do many visits every week. Pine County Veterans also has a Facebook page and website.
Dan O’Flanagan and Glen Williamson were re-elected to the PCTOA Executive Board to serve until March 2023.
Motion made and seconded to adjourn at 10:30 am.
Respectively submitted by
Glen Williamson Sr.
Pine County Township Officers Association