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AMC proposal to redefine government is likely dead

At a recent legislative conference put on by the Association of Minnesota Counties, some startling revelations came to light.

The AMC has been under fire from counties for unveiling a surprise proposal designed to save Minnesota $945 million, a proposal that would shift many state responsibilities to counties without the funding to carry out the programs.

Commissioner Don Carlson attended the conference last week. He repeatedly asked where the dollar figures came from, he reported Wednesday to the county board.

"They just pulled them out of the sky," Carlson said, shaking his head in disbelief.

"They said it was something to get the media's attention."

"That doesn't surprise me a bit," said commissioner Cal Johansen.

"They want to shrink the number of counties but that has nothing to do with the number of people on social services" programs, board chair Lyle Robinson said.

"It was all political propaganda," said commissioner Dick Devine, adding he hoped the AMC learned from the visceral reaction the proposals drew.

They included counties taking over maintenance of state highways, taking over State Patrol duties and absorbing certain parole, probation and court duties.

Devine said the AMC needs to do "some critical and careful thinking or they'll damage the counties" in the public's eyes.

Carlson said the executive director resigned after the unveiling of the proposal for what he said were unrelated reasons, in disarray with no leadership and "no direction."

The proposal to reform government was dead on arrival.

"This whole things really shocked me that it could get this far," Devine said.

"Not one of them things went through the committees" that local county officials sit on for input, Robinson said.

In other action, the board:

n Readopted its old septic system ordinance and suspended implementation of the ordinance it passed late in 2009.

"The state rule-making process was not complete," said Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf. "The county will wait for the final outcome before implementing" that ordinance.

"This is the best route we've got basically?" questioned Johannsen.

"It's the best option we've got," Buitenwerf responded.

Uncertainty over what the state would do to the septic system ordinances, and whether the county's new ordinance would be in harmony with those actions led to the decision to re-adopt the old ordinance so contractors would have some certainty this building season.

The Environmental Services Office has scheduled a contractor meeting for April 22 at 6 p.m. to cover the state rule-making process and review the regulations septic system contractors will follow this season.

n Approved 18 parcels of timber for sale May 4 at 10 a.m., encompassing 740 acres of soft and hardwoods. The county holds three timber auctions each year.

n Reviewed maintenance issues for the county's two transfer stations eventually.

"Those buildings are 23, 24 years old," said Public Works superintendent Vern Massie. "They need maintenance. There's a lot of rust on the support beams and siding. They're starting to show their age."

He said the concrete floors have chipped from the out rigging equipment that works inside the building.

n Learned that a traffic study of the intersection at County Roads 45 and 9, where a county employee and another man were killed in December, has not been completed yet by the state Department of Transportation.

County engineer Dave Olsonawski requested the study of the intersection, which currently has stop signs on it. Commissioners and Olsonawski discussed bright flashing lights, which would highlight the stop signs even more.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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