WALKER — After much discussion, the Cass County Commissioners approved a preliminary tax levy increase of 3.5% above the 2021 levy at the Tuesday, Sept. 7 County Board meeting. This increase was higher than the recommended increase from the Citizens Budget Committee, but the increase came with a stipulation that the county department heads and budget committee try to reduce it as much as possible.

   County Administrator Josh Stevenson mentioned going forward, the county is not going to be able to continue having low levy increases if they wish to continue to have a reserve balance. The recommended amount of levy increase from the Citizen Budget Committee was a 2.5% increase, which was considerably lower than the 5.73% increase it would have been with all of the departmental head requests. 

   The Budget Committees next meeting is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 8, to meet with department heads to continue lowering their 2022 budget requests.

   Stevenson shared with the board, that the City of Pillager recently reached out and stated their location recently became unavailable for the final “road show” meeting of the season. Therefore, Stevenson contacted Fairview Township to ask if the meeting could be conducted there. A motion was made to move the Sept. 21 meeting to Fairview Township in Nisswa and was unanimously approved.

   Election Administrator Pamela Smith shared the 2020 Cass County census results stating that the population has increased by 1,499 citizens from the 2010 census. Smith also mentioned District 5 would need to be redistricted due to the shift in population being greater than 10%. However, there will be no need to hold any special elections for commissioners as the districts affected  were not greater than 5% and are slated for normal re-election during the 2022 election.

   After extensive work with local groups and private parties to secure a new location for a recycling drop-off site near the City of Walker, a location has been found, stated Environmental Service Director John Ringle. Woods-N-Water Trading Post Company, also known as Reed’s Family Outdoor Outfitters, has offered a location nearby the previous location on Ottertail Road N.W. , which is the former Stewart’s Automotive. The businesses have requested that the county supply gravel and have the county highway department grade and level the site in preparation.

   Ringle also stated there are other possible additional sites in discussion for the City of Walker, which would help prevent one site being over used. Some questions asked for the proposed site was if a fence was going to need to be constructed, which was stated not at this time; who was going to conduct the snow removal, which was stated it would be conducted by the property owners and if there would be security cameras placed, which was stated as soon as a wireless internet connection was established it was a possibility.

   In other business, the county board:

   • Approved a request to fill the vacant forest resource manager position after hearing the work plan and staffing options from the land department.

   • Approved a Memorandum of Agreement with Birch Lake Township for Cass County to maintain the portion of 44th St NW that provides access to the Cass County Walker/Hackensack Transfer Station.

   • Heard the Longville ambulance 2021 second quarter report from Kevin Lee, Ambulance Service Manager for North Memorial Health, stating numbers continue to be lower that budgeted with the net margin being a negative 9.1%.

   • Approved the Minnesota Department of Transportation grant agreement to replace the bridge on Country Road 103 through the Local Bridge Replacement Program in the amount of $124,721.

   • Authorized the Highway Department to send offer letters to property owners affected by the County State Aid Highway 70 re-alignment projected due to needing additional right-of-way for an estimated value of $132,000.

   • Approved a road project agreement with the USDA, Chippewa National Forest for Cass County to place and level gravel on East Pike Bay Loop purchased by Chippewa National Forest.

   • Awarded contracts to Leech Lake Lumber in the amount of $22,378 for materials and to Hytec Construction in the amount of $52,547 for equipment and labor to erect a new salt shed in Cass Lake.

   • Approve McLaughlin Auctioneers as the online bidding service for the annual County Highway Department auction of surplus equipment to begin Sept. 28 and end Oct. 12.

   The next meetings are as follows: 911 Observance, 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 11 at the Veterans Podium, Courthouse Lawn, Walker;  commissioner’s board meeting, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21 at Fairview Township, 10219 County 77 SW, Nisswa and commissioner’s board meeting, 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 5 at the boardroom in the courthouse annex in Walker.