PEQUOT LAKES - Cass and Crow Wing county administrators and staff members will be busy the next three months preparing information and proposed ordinances for the two counties to consider.
At a joint meeting between the two boards Tuesday, commissioners compiled a list of issues they believe the two counties may benefit from by bidding together for services or having consistent ordinance requirements.
At the next quarterly joint meeting, commissioners want to see a proposed county feedlot ordinance.
"The lake country is not the place for feedlots," said Cass Commissioner John Stranne, who is a cattle farmer. New state regulations do little to separate farming operations from lake watersheds, he said.
There should be requirements for adequate farm land to spread manure for each feedlot operation, he said. Neither county nor state regulations currently prevent someone from putting a feedlot on four acres without adequate surrounding land, he said.
Cass and Crow Wing commissioners want to explore sharing law enforcement records among neighboring counties and with cities inside them.
Crow Wing currently is a pilot county for updating its records system, something Cass could copy and implement, said Crow Wing Commissioner Terry Sluss.
It could be more easily implemented to include cities in Cass, because Cass cities already use the county dispatching system.
However, with larger, independently dispatched city police departments in Crow Wing, Sluss said those cities would face about a $1,000 per month cost for specialized phone lines.
Cass Commissioner Jim Demgen said he would like to see a cooperative contract between Cass and Crow Wing to permit Cass prisoners to be booked nights in the Crow Wing County Jail, then moved to the Cass jail in Walker the next morning.
He said currently deputies must make about an hour drive each way to and from Walker to book prisoners, leaving the southern end of the county without a night deputy on duty whenever a prisoner must be booked.
The commissioners discussed how financial support for the Kitchigami Library system has failed to rise as the cost of living has risen.
Stranne said the library "has a pretty big deficit."
Because of the way the seven county library funding system was designed, Crow Wing pays about 40 percent of Kitchigami support, but has only one library in Brainerd.
Crow Wing has unsuccessfully sought a second Kitchigami library in Crosslake. For this reason, Crow Wing has considered joining a different library system.
Cass has four libraries in the county. Cass and other member counties will contribute an extra 10 percent support this year to help offset some of the deficit.
Cass Administrator Robert Yochum suggested there should be a long-range funding plan for Kitchigami.
The two boards briefly discussed the Highway 371 corridor plan expected to be completed this summer.
Crow Wing Commissioner Ed Larsen said a parallel Minnesota Department of Transportation plan calls for limiting accesses onto the highway to one every mile when double lanes are built from Brainerd to Little Falls and north to Pine River.
He said he believes MnDOT has some funding to help install service roads for intermediate access.
Crow Wing prepared a public transportation plan for reaching outlying areas, Larsen said, but there were no MnDOT funds available to implement it as had been promised.
Crow Wing Administrator Peter Herlofsky Jr. suggested private bus companies might be encouraged to contract with counties to provide these services.
Stranne said "folks (in Cass) seem to be getting to where they need to go" without public transportation at this time. Cass board members indicated they would look at extending the Crow Wing system into Cass when it gets operational.
Currently, Cass relies on volunteer senior and veterans service drivers to transport people in private cars.
There is a Dial-a-Ride bus in Pine River and another for seniors to reach nutrition sites in Cass Lake. Leech Lake Reservation provides the latter service.
The boards also discussed how Cass chose this year to seek bids for mental health services, though remained a member county for Northern Pines Mental Health management board.
Crow Wing Commissioner Gil Dewes said he expects Northern Pines to become less dependent in future years upon member county funding. It was started by the counties when there were fewer private mental health firms providing services in this area.
Garbage and/or recycling services could be bid jointly rather than independently in the future. Higher waste volumes than either county can generate alone could bring better future contracts for each county, commissioners agreed.
The two county administrators will review existing disposal contracts and evaluate where the programs might be combined in the future.
Bob Becker, with the Pine River Watershed Protection Foundation, told the commissioners that organization was formed to "prevent man's ruination of the lakes."
The foundation hopes to hire a full-time staff person when a $100,000 to $120,000 budget can be generated, Becker said. The watershed covers 72 lakes on either side of the Cass-Crow Wing line.
Larsen said he believes the counties need to work with the watershed foundation. A private foundation, however, can monitor the watershed better than a government agency, he said.
The two counties probably will share information and develop similar requirements when each updates its land use management plan in the next year or two.
Cass and Crow Wing commissioners believe their counties are among the few remaining whose employee insurance plans charge the same rates for individuals as families.
They may look at a shared employee insurance benefit program for employees for the two counties in the future.
Larsen suggested the best way to hold down employee medical costs is to encourage wellness programs to prevent people from needing medical care.
On the issue of wastewater treatment, Sluss said both counties should set a priority of seeking to connect residential areas around lakes to municipal systems.
Wastewater treatment is a big issue for both counties, he said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.