April 21, 2024

County to contract for coroner services

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The Grant County Board of Commissioners agreed to contract with Midwest Medical Examiners, Anoka, for coroner services in Grant County. Chief Deputy Jon Combs said he reached out to Midwest following the announcement that Grant County’s coroner, Dr. Greg Smith, was retiring as of December 31, 2021. 

“Midwest gave us a couple of options,” said Combs. “We could either pay on a case by case basis or pay based on an average of seven autopsies per year.”

Combs said, last year, Grant County paid Dr. Smith for seven autopsies

“I like the case by case contract,” said Combs. “Midwest charges $1,500 per year and $2,000 per autopsy, which is $100 less than what we have been paying.”

Combs said Midwest Medical will come to Grant County to train deputies on what they need to do for death investigations.   County Attorney Justin Anderson has looked at the contract and approved it.

Highway Department

The commissioners approved a bid of $90,401 from the Wagner Company to raise the height of ring dikes on a FEMA bridge project north of Norcross, to protect private property.

The board also agreed to a detour agreement for next summer when State Highway #55 is being rebuilt. The detour will be west on Highway #8 to Highway #54, then Highway #25 to Highway #1 into Elbow Lake via Division Street.

Grant County Sheriff Mark Haberer asked Grant County Highway Engineer Tracy Von Bargen to talk to the contractor who removed trees in the Highway #55 ditch just north of Barrett. Haberer said the tree stumps are a hazard to snowmobilers who often ride the ditches.

Von Bargen said he would find out what could be done.

      Other business

Amy Deacon, of Good Neighbor Properties concerning barriers the company has run into getting the new Maplewood Manor Senior Living facility up and running in Elbow Lake. Deacon said the COVID-19 pandemic first delayed their opening and ability to apply for an assisted living license. For this reason, they were unable to qualify for much of the COVID-19 relief programs that were offered to businesses. She wondered if there would be any local funding available through the $1.2 million  in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money allocated to Grant County. 

“We need help with backward payables,” Deacon said. “If you are able to help, we would appreciate it so we can continue to build in the community.”

Deacon said the facility is on track with their business model for the first year, but admitted to having a staffing shortage, like most such facilities in Minnesota.

“We are operating in a new world,” she said. “There are currently 22,000 health care job openings in Minnesota.”

The county has until 2024 to decide how to use the ARPA funds and until 2026 to use them. At a board meeting in November, the commissioners agreed to three priorities: expanding broadband to underserved areas; improve access to day care for working families; and helping fund the air handling system in the proposed Law Enforcement Center. 

Board Chair Dwight Walvatne told Deacon the board will not be making any decisions on ARPA funds yet, and will be working on a plan on how to receive and prioritize requests from local businesses in the future.

The board agreed to grant a property tax abatement for Lyndon and Kay Kratochwill, whose Pomme de Terre cabin burned down this past September. Grant County Assessor Karl Lindquist told the board the cabin, valued at $97,600, was a complete loss and the abatement would be for the value of the cabin this year only. It will lower the Kratochewill’s property taxes payable in 2022. They are building a new home on the site, which will be assessed and taxed in 2023.

The Board of Commissioners certified the 2022 levy of $7,643,925, which is an increase of 4.1 percent, or $301,207 over last year. Auditor Chad Van Santen explained inflation and wages made for the increase,

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