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District 4 candidates square off in Hubbard County forum

Hubbard County Commissioner Dan Stacey and Mark Peterson answer questions at League of Women Voters Forum Monday evening at the Akeley Regional Community Center. (Nicole Vik/Enterprise)

On Monday night, the League of Women Voters Park Rapids Area hosted a candidate forum for the Hubbard County Commissioners in District 4 at the Akeley Community Center.

Candidates in the evening's forum were Challenger Mark Peterson and Incumbent Dan Stacey and LWVPRA member, Florence Hedeen served as moderator.

Precincts in District 4 are the cities of Akeley and Laporte and the Townships of Akeley,

Guthrie, Hart Lake, Hendrickson, Lakeport, Mantrap, Steamboat River and Thorpe.

Candidates responded to questions submitted prior to and at the event:

Q: What do you see as the major threats to the aquifers in Hubbard County?

Peterson: I know agriculture is at the very heart of our community. In our area it helps the tax base, it helps with employment. It's not an area that I would want to say is good or bad but I do think we need more studies on it to make sure the aquifer isn't being taken away from us which would destroy the rest of our environment and our forest. As far as pesticides or herbicides I'm hoping that we have more studies and groups that are looking at what is happening and how much of it is getting into the aquifer.

Stacey: We have a few threats in the area, of course, and we have manufacturing, but in the same token with that that particular company has many checks and balances to be good stewards of the land. We have well monitoring in the different areas throughout the county. We also have cities that have worked with the DNR or are currently working with the DNR such as Laporte with the Wellhead Protection Plan that rely on any information from the Soil and Water Division in Hubbard County. We have 266,000 plus acres of land and that's public land and by having that can minimize the pollution that's within our waterways.

Q: More frequently owners of private cabins are using websites such as VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) to rent their cabins. What is your position on any rules or regulations that are needed at the county level for this developing part of our economy?

Stacey: We have addressed that about a month and a half ago at one of our board meetings. It's a concern, it actually takes away from the other vendors that have resorts in our area, it takes their proceeds and funding away. What we have mentioned and kicked around a little bit is increasing that tax for that property knowing that it is a business and it should be treated like a business.

Peterson: I respect private property rights. So it would be something to do a study on and see how much this is going on. How many weeks are being sold or rented out? And look at that and decide if there needs to be more regulation and hopefully not more taxes, but perhaps more limitation on how often they can rent out the property without certain licensure. We do have wells and septic systems we have to worry about and the more use they get without any care the more problems we have for our environment. But I do respect people and their property and one person's idea of too much is another person's idea of not enough as far as using their property the way they want to do it.

Q: Given that research shows that forested land protects the environment, what are your ideas to protect our forested lands?

Peterson: I guess protecting the forested land goes back to my childhood here and enjoying the woods, there are many people I've known that went to school here that are still logging and have logging companies. We have a pretty good balance in Hubbard County between using the resources and replacing them. I don't see that there's an issue right now that the forest land is not being protected. I'm more inclined to say the more forested land we have available to the public the better it is for our economy with people coming up and hunting this time of year. I do want to see the forest land protected but to be available for the public.

Stacey: We have 266,000 plus acres in Hubbard County of public land that's used for the public. I continue to support the use of dollars generated by the sale of timber on tax forfeited land. That money goes into our Parks and Rec department to encourage new family friendly recreational activity in our area, which also promotes the economic development. It's definitely an asset. We have a great department that's done a fine job of protecting the environment, we have a 10-year plan of what we're going to harvest and how we're going to do it.

Q: What measures would you support to improve public health including mental health in our county?

Peterson: Working with both of the social services and county attorney's office and the sheriff's department. Much of the public health and mental health is hampered by rampant drug abuse and use. Creating a task force so that we can tackle this issue, get people off the drugs, into healthy environments, taking care of their children, getting back to work and hopefully that task force could bring up more suggestions that could bring better health care. I'm also concerned about keeping our baby boomers happy and healthy and in their homes so that they have a lifetime of enjoyment.

Stacey: We're doing that right now. We contract out with St. Joseph's Hospital. They take care of the public health entity of social services. It has worked very well for at least the last four years. We have a very proactive department making sure that immunizations and health records are kept up. Also, with mental health we've had numerous local vendors in the last four years that have come into our community to provide services for the individuals. I believe at this time we're very proactive. We have vendors that are here to provide services for the community.

Q: As the demographics of Hubbard County change how do you see that affecting our county services?

Peterson: One of the concerns I have when you ask people to move up here, and when they want to move up here, how do we keep them in their homes? How do we help them age in their homes or help them move into something that's appropriate for them? I'd like to have a task force to work on getting the social workers and different groups and different state funding to look at different ways to offer better services for the seniors, and that would also be another opportunity for employment.

Stacey: As a population, demographics change; whether that be an older age or younger. It is changing, it's changing all over the place. Nationally, people are living longer; which is great. As far as the people moving into the area, if you look into the northern part of District 4 we have a lot of people that are coming into our community and want to reside here because of the assets that we have as a county and the services that we provide. Whether it be social services, law enforcement or roads and bridges. The other aspect of that is as the demographics change we look at the nursing home. We put in $14.1 million to upgrade that to make it a viable nursing home with all of the entities that they may need. Others such as myself, we're caregivers for family members for the aging population and it takes all of us to make a difference, everybody working together.

Q: What do you see Hubbard County looking like in 10 years?

Peterson: We certainly have an aging population but a well taken care of population. They're the ones helping pay taxes and deserve the very best. I also do want to see a younger more youthful group here supporting our area and our taxes and committed to their schools, their children, their families and continuing to bring Hubbard County to where I loved it and I've enjoyed it for all these years.

Stacey: I think you can see it right now. You can look at the law enforcement aspect of it. I've been involved in law enforcement since the age of 15. I've seen squad cars running around with bald tires and Cory (Aukes) has done a great job of making sure the funding is there and the officers are supplied with the stuff that they need. Also the government center, we remodeled that because of energy costs; we looked at customer service transparency.

A link to the full Hubbard County Commissioners forum can be found on the LWVPRA website at " target="_blank">