County board offers to purchase lots adjacent to Deane Point Park
The Hubbard County Board decided to move forward with a proposal to purchase three lots on Fish Hook Lake, then turnaround and sell it at a discount to the City of Park Rapids.
The lots, which are for sale by the Gulbranson family, are adjacent to Deane Point Park. Additional acreage would allow the city's parks committee to extend the current public beach.
"The Hubbard County Board Parks and Recreation Board is recommending that, if the city is willing to buy those lots, we would buy those lots at full price, which is $265,000, and sell it back to the city at half price with a five-year payment plan, beginning in 2018, with no interest charged," explained County Land Commissioner Mark "Chip" Lohmeier at Tuesday's county board meeting.
The plan is to remove the existing house on the lots, Lohmeier said. Soffits were cut around trees, allowing them to grow unimpeded.
"I think they're going to have to take trees out to get the house out," he added.
"So they're recommending spending $265,000 and getting a $132,250 back? How does that pencil out for taxpayers?" asked County Board Chairperson Vern Massie.
"Well, the money comes from timber sales," said Vice Chair Cal Johannsen. "We've done that with other projects."
Johannsen cited Lindquist Park as another example, noting that similar land exchanges have occurred with townships and other cities as well.
"It's pretty generous on the county's part, but it's not going to happen otherwise," he said.
"So we're just fronting the purchase?" Massie asked.
The county is fronting the purchase because the city doesn't have the money, replied Johannsen.
"And it will be for public use," added County Commissioner Ed Smith.
"It has nice swimming beach capabilities," said Johannsen.
Smith inquired about possible public dissent.
"I've talked to several of them. They're not opposed to it being a park. As a taxpayer, they're opposed to losing half their money," Massie said. "But we've done it prior."
County timber sale proceeds would be used to purchase the property, Johannsen said. "It's county money. It's just not levy money."
If the county doesn't purchase the land, a private individual may do so. "It wouldn't come up for sale again for another 50, 60 years. It's kind of a timing thing," he added.
Smith noted that Deane Point Park is presently confined to a small area.
It currently encompasses three acres, sitting where Fish Hook River connects with Fish Hook Lake. There are picnic tables, grills, swing sets, monkey bars, a merry-go-round, bandstand, echo ring and a dock. The city recently constructed new restrooms. Long-term plans involve renovating an existing open-air pavilion.
Ultimately, the city has to decide if it wants to work to improve the park, Johannsen said, adding both city and county residents will use the park.
"So this is all contingent upon the city?" Massie inquired.
"Unless you want to go more. Buy it and give it to 'em," Johannsen said. "That's the other option."
"Uh, no. Heck, no," Massie said, chuckling.
"There are people out there that think that's what should happen," Johannsen replied.
He made the motion to accept the parks board's recommendation and proceed with the proposal. It was seconded by Smith.
Lohmeier said the county won't purchase the property unless the city agrees to buy it from the county.
"If the city council approves the plan, we could purchase this as soon as July or August and then hold it until the beginning of 2018 when they start making payments," he said. "The deed would not transfer until, I would guess, five years from now when they make their final payment."
"They might want to do it in less than five," Johannsen said.
"Hopefully," Massie replied.
The motion passed 4-1, with Massie opposed.
"I've got to vote 'no.' Just on principle," he said.
Wanted: recreation planning consultant
The county is still seeking proposals from consulting firms to develop the Hubbard County Comprehensive Recreation Plan.
Only one response was received, reported Lohmeier, adding the county parks and recreation board felt that was insufficient. The deadline was extended to June 23.
"We needed to give them a little longer to respond," he said. "It was an awfully tight window to submit anything."
The parks and recreation board will review proposals, interview consulting firms and make their recommendation to the county board in July, Lohmeier said.
Minnesota Forest Resources Partnership membership
The Hubbard County Board agreed to join the Minnesota Forest Resources Partnership (MFRP), a statewide organization of county land departments, the Minnesota DNR, the Minnesota Forestry Association, forest landowners, professional loggers and the timber industry.
It is a voluntary, non-profit, self-funded partnership. The annual membership fee is $600.
Lohmeier said MFRP is dedicated to finding the best way to implement forest management guidelines and determining whether they are feasible or not.
Johannsen asked if Hubbard County must abide by the guidelines.
The guidelines are voluntary, Lohmeier said.
"As long as the guidelines are voluntary, that's good. The minute they become regulatory, that's when we start having problems," he continued. "The idea is to implement what you can to keep them voluntary rather than the Legislature coming down and saying, 'You shall do this, you shall do that.' The more we implement, the less chance of that happening."
Formed in 1995, MFRP "influences forest policy based on the concerns and interests of local, regional and statewide natural resource stakeholders," states the letter inviting Hubbard County to join.
Hubbard County is the only active land management department in Minnesota not currently sitting on the 25-member board of directors.
County commissioners voted unanimously to join.
Transportation bonding benefits
Hubbard County will benefit from funding passed by the State Legislature.
First, the Legislature approved additional money for forest roads, Lohmeier reported.
"It will be $1 million dollars divvied up amongst the 12, 13 county land departments that have forest road maintenance departments. You'll be getting additional dollars for that for the next two years," he said.
Lohmeier didn't know the precise dollar amount, but said it "should be a good chunk of change for some road improvements."
Johannsen estimated in the neighborhood of $100,000 per year.
Due to the recently passed transportation bonding bill, Public Works Coordinator David Olsonawski said Hubbard County is scheduled to get an eight-tenths (.8) of a percent increase. "So in 2018 and 2019 that's less than $200,000 each year, but then in 2020 and 2021, it doubles," he said. "You're looking at $400,000-plus. So that's good news. Probably the biggest transportation bill they've passed in recent years, plus along with some bridge bonding and local road improvement funds. We'll try to capture as much of that as we can."
In other business, the county board did the following:
• Met new Hubbard County Natural Resource Manager Jake Keranen. He started May 22.
• Approved a $192,561 bid by Tri-City Paving for mill, paving and adjusting manhole covers on CSAH 15.
• Approved a $891,654 bid by Mark Sand & Gravel for mill, overlay, geogrid reinforcement and reclamation on CSAH 18 from Hwy. 71 to the Potato Bridge dam.
• Approved a $358,094 disbursement for the Heritage Living Center construction project.
• Authorized the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office to upgrade software for the Law Enforcement Center's cell door control system. The cost is $10,613. Chief Deputy Scott Parks said the software was last updated in 2010, "but it's reached it's end of life."
• Authorized the sheriff's office request to upgrade the Vesta 9-1-1 system for $162,120. This was a budgeted item, said Parks, adding, "Nationwide, there's a big push to get to text 911 capability and this would allow us to be compatible with that."
• Approved changes to section 10 of the county's personnel policy regarding overtime approval by department managers or supervisors. Previous policy required all overtime approval to come before the county board.
• Approved Hubbard County Historical Society's sub-lease with the Nemeth Art Center, per the county attorney's recommendation.
The next county board meeting is Tuesday, June at 9 a.m. at the Hubbard County Government Center.