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Cornerstone's fate reversed

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Park Rapids, 56470
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Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Hubbard County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) director Michele Mahowald informed commissioners Wednesday that enough grants may be available to keep Park Rapids' Cornerstone apartments in operation.

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The county had given HRA $20,000 to keep Cornerstone, an eight-unit transitional housing complex (including one unit dedicated to emergency housing), open until July 1, 2006.

Mahowald said looking into obtaining a nonprofit status would "open us up to a lot of different grants," adding that changing Cornerstone's status from transitional to permanent supportive would also "significantly impact us."

HRA board member Ray Melander updated the commissioners on the program's progress with a list of projects completed in the past 10 years.

"We are changing people's lives and that's what makes it so gratifying," he said, pointing out HRA also provides life skills and support. "We're providing more service than sometimes meets the eye."

In 10 years, HRA has: constructed eight three-bedroom homes and another is in process through the Community Revitalization Program with coordination from the Nevis School; built one three-bedroom home for people with disabilities; provided $53,000 in deferred loans to help low-income homeowners fix existing homes; built three three-bedroom homes through the Housing Trust Fund; built 15 three-bedroom homes through homeownership contract for deed and much more.

"By increasing the tax base by over $1 million, we are certainly helping with that," said Melander.

"We are making every effort to seek and help and find grants," Mahowald said.

The average stay for a family at Cornerstone is six months, they said. There are currently seven units full and 24 families are on the waiting list.

Since December, Cornerstone has received 33 applicants; 36 were adults, 34 were children. Twenty-three of the 33 applicants were single parents.

In other business Wednesday, the commissioners:

• Heard from solid waste administrator Vern Massie, who was looking for direction from the board about 2007 solid waste assessments.

"The bottom line is, are we ahead?" asked chairman Floyd Frank.

"We're about even," reported Massie, who said last year, the budget was about $800,000 in the red; this year, it is about half that.

Commissioner Cal Johannsen said the county should "keep up" so there won't be major property tax increases in the future.

"We're looking at least a 3 percent (increase)," said Massie. "We have some large volumes coming in, with Wal-Mart and all. Our volume has gone up quite a bit this year."

Massie will bring the issue to the solid waste committee for discussion, then to the next county board meeting, Aug. 2.

Also in public works business, the county approved a Joint Cooperative Fuel Facility User Agreement with the Nevis School District.

The county will pay one-third (about $14,000) of the cost of a 6,000-gallon underground tank on the school campus. Nevis will pay the remaining two-thirds.

"We're basically going to be a user of the facility," said county engineer David Olsonawski.

• Discussed mental health costs for the county with Social Services director Daryl Bessler.

Bessler gave the financial status of the Social Services Department for the first half of the year, explaining the county has used a substantial amount of its budgeted revenues so far.

The commissioners questioned how mental health patients are charged $915 per day, which is not set by the county, for services.

"That's a bunch of crap," said commissioner Dick Devine. "How in God's name can they get away with $900 per day? There's a bunch of psychologists and psychiatrists getting rich off this."

"I share the same frustration, because that's a tremendous amount of money," agreed Bessler.

Bessler explained that Wadena and Bemidji are in the process of opening 16-bed mental health facilities, which would ease the burden of having to travel to Brainerd or Fergus Falls for services.

"We are going to have to compete for these services," said Bessler.

• Approved two preliminary plats.

Developer Ed Kusi is requesting to plat 2.35 acres into a family cemetery, Kusi Family Cemetery, in Straight River Township.

Developer Odyssey Investments is requesting to plat 18.69 acres into seven residential lots on Duck Lake in Crow Wing Township.

A conditional use application from David Jorgensen and Walter Cook was tabled.

The applicants are requesting to create a 4.05-acre commercial planned unit development (resort) with nine rental units on Lake George. It would be operated as a resort; it could not be time-shared or co-oped.

Frank said he would like to see an operational plan.

"I think we really need to put some safeguards on this thing," said Frank, who also expressed concerns about the township road.

The applicants must supply information on a business plan and the county must receive an answer from Lake George Township regarding the road before the request can be brought back to the board.

Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf also informed the board technician Darrin Moe has resigned and the vacancy would need to be filled, which the board approved. The office may also ask the county Soil and Water Conservation District for temporary assistance until someone is hired.

• Scheduled a public hearing to discuss E911 ordinance changes for 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16 at the courthouse and a work session to discuss the budget for 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 14. County coordinator Jack Paul also mentioned a Department of Natural Resources open house regarding non-motorized trails to be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17 at the high school.

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