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Douglas County Board Meeting March 1 2022

Posted: 03/02/2022

Author: Julie Anderson

Category: County Board, Departments

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The March 1 Douglas County Board meeting featured a number of guests and presenters from the community. Tara Bitzan, executive director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce,  introduced several people taking part in an annual program called Leadership Alexandria. This program familiarizes members of the community with a variety of governmental processes.

The first official item of business was for commissioners to hear from Chuck Wencl with the Red Willow Arts Coalition. He asked for, and was given, permission to host the extremely popular concerts on the courthouse lawn. He promises a fabulous line-up of performers this year so stay tuned for that list.

Steve Vrchota, executive director of Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management, asked commissioners to support fully funding what’s called the SCORE grants to counties. He explained that former Governor Tim Pawlenty diverted these funds years ago and the money never got diverted back. This year there is a request by counties to return the money for its intended purpose which is for solid waste at the county level. Commissioners approved that resolution.

They also approved a resolution supporting the Waste Designation Plan. This plan was started two years ago to ensure that waste generated in a county goes to its facility. The resolution states that between 3,000 and 6,000 tons of municipal solid waste that is generated in Douglas and Pope counties is not currently going to our Materials Recovery Facility. Commissioner Charlie Meyer pointed out that we create energy with the burning of our waste and we have to make sure we have enough fuel. By passing the resolution commissioners will work toward requiring all waste generated in the county will stay in the county.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was up next. Two representatives asked commissioners to approve wildlife habitat protection easements on several properties in Douglas County. These easements are in place forever and commissioners are very careful to ensure they are in the county’s best interest. The requirements for this type of easement are that the property owner continue to pay property taxes and they don’t drain, burn, fill, or level the land.

Missy Becker-Cook and Heather Molesworth with West Central Minnesota Communities Action gave their annual update to the board. WCMCA provides a wide variety of services to residents of Douglas County including assistance to residents for rent and utility payments and Head Start, which is a comprehensive child development program for young children and their families. The two also explained how they and United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties launched a 12-week pilot program to help homeless individuals in our county. They told commissioners they started to see an uptick in homelessness in November and didn’t want to see anyone without shelter during our brutally cold winter. Beginning January 10, six churches committed to house overnight guests who go through an intake process and are teamed up with WCMCA staff for services including job placement. The program is successfully assisting Douglas County residents and the presenters say there have been no problems to date. The program will end April 3. They also thanked Commissioner Keith Englund who serves on their board. They told him they appreciate his continued support. He replied, “I am very much impressed with how much help you give to the community.”

Public Works

County Engineer and Public Works Director Tim Erickson appeared alongside Parks Superintendent Brad Bonk to request two change orders to the Brophy Park Visitor Center. Commissioners approved installing ADA compliant room signage but rejected a request to change from standard face block to burnished face finish. Commissioner Jerry Rapp suggested getting pricing for rock finish instead.

Auditor Treasurer

Auditor/Treasurer Vicki Doehling asked commissioners to approve a gambling permit so the Leaf Valley Game & Fish Conservation Club can hold a raffle and sell pull-tabs at an event on May 6.

They approved renewal of a seasonal on-sale liquor license for Chet’s Lakeside Inn.

Commissioners also approved a set-up license for the Cottage Grove Resort Association with the understanding it will not be sent in if the Lake Mary Township board should decide not to also approve it.

Sisters Beer, Wine & Spirits in Carlos Township is being purchased by Northdale Oil which requested an off-sale liquor license be issued in their name. The board of commissioners approved the change.

Finance

Finance Director Jill Frisell asked the board for permission to have her, or Social Services Director Laurie Bonds, sign the new childcare provider grant agreements. These agreements provide an average of $2,500 for a new childcare provider to get up and running or an existing provider to expand services. The grant money is part of the American Rescue Plan Act. 

Land & Resource Management

Director Dave Rush presented the board with a list of license holders who do business in the county. Specifically, excavator/landscaper, disposal hauler and demolition landfill licenses. The board approved all of the requests.

Rush presented for approval

  • A final plat for the Walvatne Addition on the west side of Lake Mary with the condition both lots be connected to central sewer.
  • A final plat for Blue Moon on Smith Lake. This lot includes the home and detached garage of the previous resort owner. The conditions of the approval include reducing the beach to 200 square feet or less and restoring parts of the beach to native condition.
  • A final plat for Turtle Crossing which is the planned unit development from the rest of the former Smith Lake resort property. The plat will include six cabin lots and 23 RV lots.
  • Preliminary plat for Union Overlook, a lot with frontage on North Union Lake.

Rush also presented a conditional use permit for Stennes Excavating which would allow an excavation contractor shop, office, and outdoor storage yard on a 41-acre site Highway 29 just north of Pike Road.

The Land & Resource Management Office oversees the county’s Aquatic Invasive Species Implementation Plan and Budget. Each year Rush shares with commissioners the goals and expectations of his staff to reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species in our county lakes. The county receives approximately $258,000 annually to raise public awareness and hire AIS inspectors to help users rid their watercraft of harmful weeds and dangerous species. One goal this year will be to incentivize people to do self-inspections. The county hires 14 to 18 inspectors but that’s not nearly enough to cover all of the access points. AIS staff also plans to prioritize matching grants to lake associations that are working to rid their water of Eurasian Milfoil and Curly-leaf Pondweed.  

The last guest to present was Scott Gilbertson from Alexandria Lakes Area Sanitary District (ALASD).  He was invited to give an information presentation because chloride entering into Douglas County Lakes is a huge concern.

Gilbertson explained the many steps ALASD is taking to reduce the chloride overload. He said 3,000 tons of salt is discharged annually into the ALASD sewer system and that ends up in area lakes. Three options for property owners to reduce salt discharge are:

  • Installing a high efficiency water softener and ensure the settings are correct for your water source.
  • Removing your softener and installing a salt-less water conditioner/treatment system.
  • Installing a subsurface soil disposal system for your softener backwash/brine discharge.

Rebates are available for the 2022 chloride reduction program. People interested should email scott@alasdistrict.org or call ALASD at 320-762-1135.

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