LAKE SHORE -- Cass and Crow Wing county commissioners met Tuesday at the Quarterdeck restaurantnear Lake Shore to review joint projects and talk about future areas of collaboration.
Future joint efforts could include battling methamphetamine and the operation of the Crow Wing County transit system.
"We ought to be talking back and forth across borders on these issues so they are not falling through the cracks," said Terry Sluss, Crow Wing County commissioner, about the mutual concern about meth. Sluss said he believes meth labs in Crow Wing County have moved into Cass County. Crow Wing County's full-time meth prevention coordinator is expected to be named next week. Peter Herlofsky Jr., Crow Wing County administrator, said one of the new coordinator's first tasks could be to look at future joint operations.
As for the growing transit service, if Cass County wanted to participate in a formal way, Herlofsky said commissioners may find it cost effective to be part of the system. Crow Wing County collaborates with Brainerd on a transit system. Herlofsky said the transit buses are serving Cass County residents now and a service district could be explored. Virgil Foster, Cass County commissioner, said the county has other neighbors with transit systems serving border areas that commissioners would have to consider.
In existing areas where the counties already work together, commissioners suggested reviewing the Region Five Development Commission, based in Staples. Areas of concern included duplication of efforts. Region Five's senior outreach program, septic system loan program and work in transportation funding were praised.
Ed Larsen, Crow Wing commissioner, questioned if the counties are getting the most they can from Region Five or just maintaining another layer of government. Counties need to have a regional structure such as Region Five or some other acceptable joint powers agreement in order to receive the state and federal funding for various projects Region Five provides.
Larsen suggested a joint powers board may be a suitable replacement.
Dave Enblom, Cass County highway engineer, advised caution. He said communities that no longer have their regions can be like orphans when it comes to getting federal dollars. Commissioners were in favor of looking into Region Five and gathering facts on benefits and costs.
Commissioners heard updates on current partner projects such as the new jail in Brainerd, South Country Health Alliance, Mississippi Headwaters Board, road projects, the Initiative Foundation's Healthy Lakes Program and the Kitchigami Regional Library system.
In regard to Crow Wing County's ongoing attempts to get Cass County taxpayer participation in funding the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, Jim Demgen, Cass commissioner, said the name is still an issue. Demgen, who said he loves the airport, said he'd probably find greater support if it were named Jim Oberstar Regional Airport.
Cass County commissioners were set to meet in a county board session Tuesday night at Lake Shore City Hall. Commissioners were expected to discuss Region Five, a steering committee on meth and the feasibility of a transit program.
Bob Kangas, Cass County Board chairman, said the joint meeting of commissioners was a great opportunity to discuss important issues to both counties and see where joint efforts may be expanded to benefit both.
Commissioners suggested another joint session in three to six months.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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