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Environmental violations continue to frustrate county board, ES Office

Hubbard County officials continue to hear good reports about recently hired Veterans Services Officer Greg Remus.

"Vets are ecstatic with him," county board member Don Carlson said. "He's making people very happy. It's nice to hear the positive stuff. He was an excellent acquisition, very dedicated."

Remus was hired in the spring from the Fargo Veterans Association following the January resignation of Dave W. Konshok, who has been deployed to Afghanistan with his Air Force Reserve unit.

In other county action, the board:

n Accepted $7,200 in federal assistance dedicated to streamlining the voting process. The Help America Vote Act allocated $300,000 to Minnesota. The money is intended to assist counties with fewer than 50,000 voters.

Hubbard County will get its share based on the number of polling places. The funds will be used to upgrade election equipment and keep it maintained.

"We combined the polling places and get kicked in the ass," county board chair Lyle Robinson complained.

n Approved a low bid of $4.147 million for the Main Avenue renovation project. Because the project receives federal funds, the county is the administrator of the fund monies. The city of Park Rapids also will share in the construction costs.

The board also approved a low bid if $241,323.44 for three box culverts to be installed on County Roads 118 and 97 this summer. The winning contractor is Young Excavating, Inc., of Hackensack.

It approved a low bid of $408,092.64 for grading and aggregate surfacing on County Road 85 from CSAH 2 to Highway 34. The low bidder was Minnerath Construction of Cold Spring.

County engineer Dave Olsonawski said bids are coming in very competitively as contractors look for work.

"We've saved quite a bit of money on bridge bonding," he said.

The board also approved a final payment of $118,714.68 to Mark Sand and Gravel of Fergus Falls for aggregate surfacing in the county.

n Authorized the Solid Waste Department to study whether it should implement a 2 percent solid waste assessment increase.

"The tonnage is down so we're paying out less to have garbage hauled out," Robinson said. "That may be the 2 percent there."

n Approved personnel changes in the Hubbard County Sheriff's Department of transport officer Bill Schlag moving into the part-time deputy's spot and Joe Rittgers being named to supplement the boat and water patrol.

The board also heard it will cost $2,759 in annual dues to have a private company develop law enforcement policies for sheriff's departments in the state.

The Minnesota Sheriff's Association voted to join a company called Lexipol, which compiles and refines police procedures for law enforcement agencies. If the agency follows the prescribed policy, Lexipol provides legal support in court if the policy is ever challenged.

n Set a county auction for July 31 with Jokela Consignment Auction. The county will list specific times certain items, such as motor vehicles, will be auctioned off.

n Referred two Environmental Services files to the county attorney for prosecution. One concerns a commercial property with multiple structures and decks added without permits. The other involved a septic system that the owner has refused to upgrade.

The continuous violations bothered board member Dick Devine.

"Do they do it simply because they're not aware they have to?" he asked Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf. "Maybe we need a better system of notification. It does boggle my mind they do this."

Buitenwerf said some property owners are genuinely unaware they need various permits for improvements, but many are willful violations.

"It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission," commissioner Cal Johannsen reasoned.

Robinson said many retirees are moving here from areas that have zoning codes, so they should know better than to embark on improvements without permits.

But because township assessors get to each county residence every five years, they catch many of the violations and report them,

n Set an employee health fair for July 22 in which county workers will be able to get cholesterol tests, blood pressure and blood sugar readings and sign up for private health assessments.

Sarah Smith

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

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