December 7, 2023

Grant County Herald

Community news from the prairie to the lakes

Continuing forward on Law Enforcement Center

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The Grant County Board of Commissioners agreed to continue forward with the next step in building a new Law Enforcement Center in Elbow Lake. That next step is contacting architect firm Klein McCarthy, and possibly signing  an agreement, to show our commitment. Klein McCarthy is the firm the county was working with three years ago when they were last looking at building a Law Enforcement Center. Chief Deputy Jon Combs is to ask them what the next step would be, with an eye towards producing drawings, and a rough cost estimate.

Board Chair Dwight Walvatne reported that he had been working on finding funding, first to hire Klein McCarthy. He said Grant County may be receiving  $1,100,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, that may be able to be used. He said there is also money in county reserves and possibly some grant money will become available.

Commissioner Troy Johnson said Minnesota is supposed to be receiving $100,000,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds also, for critical infrastructure needs.

“We need to reach out to State Senator Torrey Westrom and Representative Jeff Backer and see what the deal is,” Johnson said.

Commissioner Bill LaValley added that when, and if, money becomes available for building, the project needs to be shovel ready.

This led to a discussion on what type of building was needed, and where it would be located. The board recalled that, last time, they decided on a two story building in back of the courthouse. The building, which would be at least 10,000 square feet, would be in back of the courthouse for easy accessibility and security of the courthouse, and it would have to be two stories high, instead of having a larger footprint, so it would not be noticeable from main street. 

A study by Two Pines, a company hired to give advice on how to keep the Grant County Courthouse grounds historically accurate, pointed out a new, modern building in back of the courthouse would take away from its historical integrity But, if it was two stories high, it would not be seen.

This led to a discussion about putting the building in another location, or refurbishing an existing building. Grant County Sheriff Mark Haberer said he would only support a building on the courthouse grounds, and  nothing else would make any sense.

Walvatne also said the department needs a new, modern law enforcement building that will meet the needs of Grant County for now and into the future.

Commissioner Ken Johnson wondered how fast the county should go on this project.

“Is there money, can we afford it? The public wants to know.”

Walvatne once again pointed out that he thought there were funds to, at least, get the project started.

“And remember, once the courthouse remodeling bond comes off in 2025, that will free up over $400,000  a year.”

It was the consensus of the commissioners that there should be no new taxes levied for this project, but that the county should go forward so they are ready once money becomes available.

Dollar General

Office of Land Management Director Greg Lillemon reported that the planning commission had met the night before, and based on the testimony they heard at a recent public meeting, recommended that the county board deny a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to Dollar General to build a store on the north end of Ashby off Highway #82. Lillemon said the Planning Commission has seven standards that must be met to recommend a CUP. Dollar General met four of the standards, but did not meet three of them. 

The first standard they did not meet was following the County Land Use Plan, which seeks to preserve prime agricultural land. This means commercial development should occur within city limits whenever possible.

Lillemon said this development is just outside the Ashby city limits.

The second standard that was not met, was that the development was not compatible with the existing neighborhood. Lillemon said that testimony showed neighbors worried about hours of operation and the bright lights that would light the parking lot. Also, they worried about high volume of traffic, and fast traffic, as the highway has a 55 mph speed limit.

The main standard that was not met, however, was that the development should not affect public health and safety. Lillemon said there were a number of reasons this standard was not met: there is a well-used bike path along Highway #82 and the first thing bikers will see, coming into Ashby, is the Dollar General. They will want to stop, and to get to the store will have to cross the heavily used highway: The store will be in close proximity to Ashby’s Wellhead Protection Area. Since the store will be using a septic sewer system, there is a possibility it will contaminate city water. The speed of vehicles on the highway was cited as a major safety concern.

For these reasons, the Grant County Planning Commission recommended that the board deny Dollar General’s application for a conditional use permit.

The permit was necessary because the planned development is within the county’s Shoreline Ordinance zone.

Lillemon said this was only the recommendation of the Planning Commission, the board could grant the CUP anyway. 

The county board passed a motion to deny the CUP. Dollar General has 30 days to appeal the decision.

Other business

Highway Engineer Tracey Von Bargen asked the board for permission to use the Grant County Highway garage for a public meeting on the environmental impact of the planned Highway #10 project. An environmental assessment is needed to continue the project, and the assessment must come back with a “finding of no significant impact.” This public meeting will consist of exhibits of the project, and a presentation. They will also take comments from the public. This meeting is planned for April 13 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.

Commissioner Dwight Walvante, who was also Grant County Sheriff for many terms, recognized former Sheriff Troy Langlie, who is resigning at the end of the month. Langlie worked for the Sheriff’s office starting as a deputy in 1989. He became Chief Deputy and served for 22 years in that position. He was appointed Sheriff by Walvante, and served two years, until failing in his effort to get elected to the position. Langlie has been serving as a deputy recently.

“He advanced the Sheriff’s Office with his knowledge and use of technology,” said Walvante, who cited the 800 megahertz radio system promoted by Langlie and now used by nearly every department in the state. 

“His experience has been invaluable to the younger deputies and he gives a lot of good advice. I wish him well.”

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