Herman area farmer Dana Blume asked the Grant County Board of Commissioners for a little help in getting Five Mile Creek draining water again. The 16.5 mile creek is not draining properly and backing up on land farmed by Blume and his father. Blume said, for the past three years, they have not been able to farm at least 50 acres along the creek. They would like the creek cleaned out of silt and old vegetation, but the Department of Natural Resources will not allow a clean out without a permit.
And obtaining a permit takes three to five years and requires an expensive engineering survey.
Blume told the commissioners he was getting frustrated and said Ducks Unlimited has offered to buy the affected land. They will then turn it over to the DNR for a wildlife area and it will be lost as a tax generating piece of property.
Gene Mensen, a ditch contractor from Sauk Centre, told the commissioners that farmers in Grant County face another hurdle in that Grant County’s buffer strip ordinance, of 60 feet setbacks, is more strict than the state ordinance of 50 feet setbacks.
“We need to speed things up,” said Blume. “I would like to see you (the commissioners) have a meeting with our state legislators, and other affected parties, to see what can be done.”
Although the commissioners expressed concern, they said this is a constant complaint they hear from farmers and there is little they can do at this time.
Deputy Kenny Froemming asked for permission to purchase a new M210 drone for Sheriff Department use. The $28,000 drone would replace an older one and have two cameras, including a thermal camera and payload capacity. The thermal camera would be used for missing person’s searches,and the drone could lift up to eight pounds and be useful in bringing life jackets to stranded boaters, or medicine to flood-stranded homeowners. Froemming said he is setting up meetings with local Lions clubs, Canadian Pacific Railroad, the Health Care Auxiliary and other organizations for donations.
“If I can’t reach my goal of $28,000, I will come back,”Froemming said. “I hope to get the drone by May.”
Based on a request by County Assessor Karl Lindquist last month, the commissioners voted to convert Grant County to True County assessment county. A True County means all county property assessments are done by the county instead of private assessors. Currently, the Grant County Assessors Office assesses 12 jurisdictions in Grant County, with private assessors assessing 13 jurisdictions.
“There would be no need to contract for assessments, since a resolution, passed by the county, would serve as a contract.”
Lindquist said many rural counties are becoming True Counties now because of the lack of assessors and the fact it costs around $10,000 and four years to train a new one.
Lindquist added that with the True County designation, the county office will be responsible for assessing around 7,500 parcels. He said his office’s 2020 budget has funds to hire an additional staff assessor, and he sought permission, and was granted permission, to advertise for one, starting in April.
County Recorder Diann Giese asked for permission to order three stand-up desks in her office.
“We have it in the budget and they really help with bad backs, etc.”
The commissioners passed a motion to allow Giese to spend up to $5,000 for the desks.
Grant County Treasurer told the commissioners that Grant County Soil and Water Conservation District has asked permission to insert flyers on rain barrels for sale, in tax statements. The rain barrels would be sold, by the SWCD for $55 each, and in Elbow Lake, Ashby and Hoffman, the city will give the buyer a discount. To order a rain barrel, call 218-685-5395.
Grant County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Jon Combs asked for county credit cards for new deputy Carl Aschnewitz and new part-time deputy Matt Zimmel. Aschnewitz, who is still in training, was hired to replace Zimmel who left the department to become a State Trooper. Recently, however, he decided being a State Trooper was not for him and asked to be rehired by the Grant County Sheriffs Department. The department had only a part time position open, so Zimmel took it.
Human Resources Director Ashley Hokanson updated the commissioners on the status of union employee negotiations. She said the Sheriff’s Department, Courthouse employees, and Highway Department had settled on a new three-year contract and were only waiting for approval by the commissioners. The new contract calls for a 2.2 percent salary increase in 2020, 2.5 percent increase for 2021, and a 2.5 percent increase for 2022.
Other highlights include a 25 cent shift differential and uniform allowance for the Sheriff’s Department employees, work schedule change for the Highway Department, and a full Christmas Eve off for the Courthouse employees.
The commissioners approved the three-year contracts. The Social Services employees are the only bargaining unit yet to settle.
The commissioners approved the 2020 Solid Waste budget of $697, 976, which is a $10,542, or 1.53 percent increase over last year.