BACKUS-Brigadier General Lowell Kruse presented to Cass County commissioners Tuesday, June 2, the 2020 Camp Ripley annual update on the Army National Guard facility's activities.

The 2019 Ripley payroll ran $48,000,000, plus another $50,000,000 paid to disabled and retired military personnel. Its total 2020 expenditures ran $120,583,236, including $2.7 million to purchase buffer easements from property owners surrounding the training camp.

Camp Ripley brings a total $260,351,265 financial impact to the surrounding community, Kruse said.

Camp Riply has completed construction on the replacement of it's tin hut buildings, the super t-building, the maid service suites, the battalion headquarters and the vehicle maintenance shop, Kruse stated.

With Camp Ripley having a full-time fire department, they purchased three new fire trucks, which allowed them to respond to over 225 off-post calls, Kruse said. He also mentioned that the annual spring prescribed burns were almost complete, but conditions have been very favorable this year.

Kruse also addressed the efforts and actions that are being conducted in response to Covid-19. Some of these actions include installing protective equipment at customer facing facilities, hosted training of medical staff to conduct Covid-19 tests, hosting monthly blood drives and sorting and distributing personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to support the response. With training to begin shortly to prepare troops for deployment to Kuwait in early January, Camp Ripley is practicing social distancing as best as it can by only allowing the barracks to run at half-capacity. Other precautions that will be taken is all service personnel to be deployed will be tested for covid-19 four days prior to deployment.

Kruse also noted that Camp Ripley hosts numerous training events for the state. However, this years MN DOT drivers training for snowplow operators has been cancelled due to the current circumstances. Camp Ripley also conducts various outreach programs such as, environmental field tours, festivals and presentations; Memorial and Veterans Day speeches; Christmas gift tags and food drive; job shadow program; biathlon; disabled American veterans & soldier hunts and Trolling for the Troops fishing event.

Camp Ripley again received the 2019 Department of Defense (DoD) Army, ARNG Natural Resource Conservation Award. This is the second year out of the last three years they have received this award with them receiving the DOD, Army, ARNG Cultural Resources Protection Award in 2018.

Kruse did give an update on the status of the purchase of conservation easements from landowners in a 3 mile buffer zone around the camp. It was noted that to date over 30,000 acres have been enrolled into the program with the help of $42,480,400 in federal funding and $14,962,000 from the state. Kruse stated that 289 land deals have been currently made with another 200 plus interested landowners.