4/23/2020 8:19:00 AM Cass County Board: Coronavirus impacts delivery of county services
By Kyndra Johnson, Cass Corespondent
BACKUS- The Tuesday, April 21 Cass County Board Meeting had board members Dick Downham and Scott Bruns joining via phone conference along with numerous presenters due to COVID-19 regulations and social distancing.
Cass County Administrator Joshua Stevenson began the meeting presenting the impact COVID-19 has had on Cass County Health, Human and Veterans Services. Although they remain open to serve the public, it is now conducted through telephone, fax, email, U.S. mail, and online services available through their website.
Stevenson stated that they are still issuing EBT cards for emergency food/cash and have issued three since implementing limited access to buildings. It was also noted that veterans' needs are still being met just in a different means.
There was discussion on the summer board meeting schedule locations and with the current situation if they were still going to be able to hold them at the various township sites. The first off-site meeting was to be held at Poplar Township in Motley on May 19. It was decided to table the decision until the May 5 meeting in order to access the situation at that time as things change on a daily basis.
Stevenson made a motion to continue to limit access to county buildings through May 5, 2020 with courtrooms and court proceeding remaining open, to align with the Gov. Tim Walz's stay-at-home order. All board members voted to approve this motion.
Environmental Servies Department Director John Ringle shared the status of the 2020 Cass County AIS inspection program. Ringle stated that there was going to be some difficulty rolling the program out this summer due to the current restrictions in place from the governor. There is a small group of people that have been previously trained through Penmac, the employment agency used to select AIS Inspectors. It was stated the plan is to engage and equip as many of those trained inspectors to have them ready to start the day before fishing opener May 8. The number of public accesses will be limited, but there are hopes that they will soon be at full capacity once Minnesota Department of Natural Resources resumes training. It was indicated that there is a possibility that training may be moved online, and inspectors will be given personal protective equipment and instructed on social distancing.
Ringle also shared that Cass County will offer six half-day household hazardous waste collection sites throughout the county this summer.
The county also accepts household hazardous waste at the main transfer station north of Pine River on Highway 371 and at the Walker-Hackensack transfer site during normal business hours throughout the year.
The special collection days include:
June 9-1-4 p.m. at the County Highway Garage on County Highway 12, south of Jimmy's Restaurant in Walker.
June 25-1-4 p.m. at Lakeshore City Hall.
July 15-12-3 p.m. at Longville City Hall.
Aug. 7-10 a.m. to noon at Remer Do It Best Hardware.
Aug. 7-1-3 p.m. at Crooked Lake Town Hall.
Aug. 12-2-4 p.m. at May Township Transfer Station site.
Cass County is conducting this as part of their Joint Powers Agreement arrangement with Northwest Minnesota Household Hazardous Waste Management in Bagley. Its contract transfer station management, Waste Partners, is assisting with conducting these collections as part of its station management contract. Waste Partners will publicize the dates, times and locations in local newspapers before each event and work with the community to promote.
It was noted that in 2019 Cass County had 309 participants at these local collections, which was more participants than any other County in the management program.
Hazardous waste includes unused paints, stains, varnishes, herbicides, pesticides, some types of cleaners and other materials.
Dale Yerger, Director at Deep Portage Learning Center, came before the board to request $22,000 for repairs and maintenance. Yerger stated that with the current situation, Deep Portage Learning Center currently has had no income in the past three weeks, but they are currently fundraising and asking partners for help. With the governor currently encouraging people to get outside and enjoy nature, Deep Portage will have limited staff employed to keep things running at the main lodge and the grounds groomed. It was also, brought up that there were some possible repairs that may need to be addressed before next winter and with the uncertainty of what the summer will bring the county's assistance would be appreciated. Their hope is to be able to resume to normal operations this summer or fall and be able to generate some income. Chief Financial Officer Sandra Norikane reminded the board that in 2018 they approved a capital improvement fund in the budget. Currently there is only $10,000 in that fund but by the end of 2020 there would be $20,000 in it. It was also brought up that if Deep Portage invoiced the County on a monthly basis, the county would be able to keep track of these expenses and may be able to get reimbrusment from FEMA at a later date for disaster relief. The motion was changed to be approved to give Deep Portage a maximum of $22,000 through September 1 as needed by monthly invoice.
In other business, the county board:
Awarded a contract to AAA Striping Services with a bid of $143,427.30.
Heard the 2019 Cass County Highway Department Annual Report from Darrick Anderson, Cass County Highway Engineer, where he shared an extensive look at the projects that were finished during 2019 and the new construction/maintenance projects that were going to be started during 2020. One project that was completed during 2019 that began in 2018 was the construction of the new maintenance shop in Longville. Last year it was estimated the expected cost would be $730,000. The final cost was reported to be $957,847.