PEQUOT LAKES -- Animal control regulations likely will be one example of county laws where Cass and Crow Wing counties will try to adopt uniform codes.
Commissioners from both counties met Wednesday to look at additional ways they can work together.
Crow Wing Commissioner Ed Larsen reported local governments surveyed in the county favor having the county adopt an animal control law.
Cass commissioners reported a retired teacher was severely bitten by dogs while running on a recreational trail near Cass Lake.
"People say they shouldn't have to have other people's animals on their property or bother them on trails," Larsen said.
There was disagreement over whether licensing animals would be effective, especially with many seasonal residents having their primary home outside the area.
The plan would be to engage an animal control officer to collect animals running at large. Services might be billed to cities and townships and/or the owner of the animal, based on discussion Wednesday.
Cass Commissioner Jim Demgen said exotic animals such as tigers especially should not be allowed to run loose. Some people keep such animals in southern Cass, he said.
Cass and Crow Wing county attorneys will be charged with preparing a sample ordinance for animal control.
Uniformity in zoning ordinances and land use plans also would be a benefit, the commissioners said.
They reported contractors and property owners frequently maintain neighboring counties are not as strict as the county where they own property or are doing work.
If there is uniformity, this claim would be eliminated, the commissioners said. They also concurred that it is unfair to have differing regulations where two counties overlap the same lake or chain of lakes.
Environmental services staff will be invited to a joint county board meeting in the future to see what changes might be incorporated into revised zoning ordinances.
Cass has passed a feedlot ordinance. Crow Wing has not. Crow Wing will consider Cass' ordinance as a model.
The two counties have taken different approaches to garbage disposal charges.
Crow Wing charges $52 per ton to dump garbage loads at its landfill, but only a $15 solid waste fee on property tax bills.
Cass' dumping fee is only $45 per ton, but the property tax fee is $66.
Cass commissioners reported they expect to begin a trial later this year when the transfer station expansion is completed to accept out-of-county garbage.
The lower fee will make dumping loads in Cass more appealing to some Crow Wing garbage haulers working in the northern part of the county.
Crow Wing County has a public transportation plan ready to implement, but has not been able to obtain Minnesota Department of Transportation funds to start it.
Once that is running, Crow Wing commissioners agreed to look at expanding into southern Cass, especially in the Pillager area.
Larsen said he sees the Interfaith Volunteers program starting in both counties as a possible resource for driving senior citizens in rural areas from their homes to central bus route pickup sites.
A transit plan Cass prepared in 1997 proposed six bus routes running between 65 and 95 miles per trip, with each route run four times a day.
It would have cost an estimated $439,400 to start operating, according to a report Cass Administrator Robert Yochum presented. About $96,000 of that would have been a county cost.
Operating costs were estimated in 1997 to be $981,760 annually, with $343,616 of that the local share, Yochum reported.
Based on ZIP codes of registered customers, Demgen reported 70 percent of the people flying from Brainerd/Crow Wing County Regional Airport live in Cass County.
There should be a regional airport somewhere north of Minneapolis and St. Paul, he said, suggesting Brainerd would be a likely location.
If the airport were re-named something like "Lakes Area Airport at Brainerd," it would have a more regional identity, he said. It then might draw the outside and area-wide funding and additional planes needed to make it a regional center, Demgen said.
The boards discussed employee health plans and possible changes being considered. Cass and Crow Wing currently are among the few counties to offer uniform plan health insurance at the same rate to single employees and those with families.
Cass may offer its employees a cafeteria plan next year, which would vary rates and services, giving employees more choices, according to Yochum.
Crow Wing Administrator Peter Herlofsky Jr. said Crow Wing County needs to work on stabilizing its rates before considering a cafeteria plan.
Cass has about 250 employees, while Crow Wing employs about 450 people.
Larsen reported Crow Wing residents were displeased with Kitchigami Library Board's decision to cut Brainerd Library hours and bookmobile routes after the county board declined to pay a 10 percent surcharge last year.
Crow Wing board members believed the 40 percent share of that library system's funding the county already paid should be enough, Larsen said.
The Kitchigami Board has agreed to add a new library at Crosslake to its system if most of the cost is covered by local funding, he said.
Having more than one library facility for the 40 percent share Crow Wing pays also has been an issue, he said.
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