Skip days just became a little more serious in Crow Wing County.
On Tuesday, the county board backed an effort to stress the importance of keeping children in school. Commissioners agreed with recommendations from school districts in Brainerd, Crosby and Pequot Lakes and set the maximum number of absent days, both excused and unexcused, at seven.
Representatives of each of the school districts attended the meeting for a truancy presentation.
George Tetreault, director of the Minnesota Learning Center, said the schools have been meeting nearly monthly for a year regarding the truancy policy. Each school district adopted it. Part of the idea behind the policy was to make school attendance important and create consequences for those who have more than seven absences in one school year. Those students will be referred to the county attorney's office for processing as truants.
"It's a policy to encourage school attendance," Tetreault said. "That's the message we need to get out to the community -- kids need to be in school."
Commissioner Ed Larsen said he understood the frustration schools had when they lacked enforcement tools to deal with truancy. Larsen commended the school representatives for their efforts.
In other business, the county board:
Voted to establish a methamphetamine prevention task force as proposed earlier.
Rejected bids for phase one of the Cuyuna Lakes Trail because they were over estimates. Bids will be taken again later this year. Construction on the trail is expected in 2005.
Heard an update on a conservation easement for Church Island on Bay Lake to preserve the island while allowing the First Lutheran Church Bay Lake Camp to rebuild. Camp operators have been talking to the DNR and the Minnesota Land Trust and are having the property appraised. They are working with the county to solve questions of land used for parking. About 250 people seasonally attend church services on the island. About half of them arrive by their own boats.
Authorized $4,585 for an equipment trailer for the parks department.
Agreed to set a public hearing date this fall to look at amending the planned unit development ordinance. Larsen said the county's planning commission is struggling with converting resorts to housing. Commissioner Gary Walters asked whether a meeting with resort owners may happen first.
Bonnie Finnerty, county planner, said a public meeting would allow both sides of the issue to hear all arguments and compromises. Commissioner Terry Sluss said the meetings should be open because people tend to wonder about meetings with select groups. Commissioner Dewey Tautges said they were not advertising those meetings enough.
Jim Gammello, the attorney representing the resorts, said a public hearing was not a problem as long as the agenda was not limited to changes proposed by the planning commission. However, Gammello suggested a meeting with a committee including resort owners and developers could discuss the issues before the public hearing.
Sluss said all sides will be heard at the public hearing, creating an advantage for everyone to hear the others' arguments.
Approved a survey for a tentative gas route, which is part of a Recirculation-to-Energy program to use methane from the landfill and sell it.
The county is discussing that proposal with Trus Joist. The county approved transferring $31,000 to the survey department to upgrade their equipment, which was in the county's 2004 budget funding for the gas project.
Learned the county's Solid Waste Department won its second national award.
The county received the North America Hazardous Material Management Association's Program Excellence Award, which recognizes an outstanding program that addresses household and hazardous waste management.
The county's application for the award focused on its household hazardous waste facility, used oil/filters, antifreeze, electronics and lead-acid batteries.
Heard an update on methamphetamine costs to the county first announced in a meth prevention report in August by adding information from the county attorney's office and the Central Minnesota Department of Corrections.
The total cost related to meth use was increased to $1,736,794. The costs come from staff salaries and benefits and general expenses.
Accepted Todd Holman's resignation from the Parks Advisory Committee.
Heard county transit ridership is up. Since the county joined the city of Brainerd with the transit program in 2002, county ridership has climbed from 1,395 riders for six months of 2002 to 5,862 riders through July of this year.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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