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Board grapples with tenure, per diem

Hubbard County Board chairman Greg Larson took a humorous opportunity to jump ship Thursday, not wanting to extend his tenure at the helm.

And board members winced when they learned the Board of Adjustment chair, or a designate, was being paid $70 plus mileage to sign off on orders of variance forms days after a meeting, collecting the usual per diem for the paperwork.

For Larson's post the board discussed whether the county chair position should run two years, as it has in the past. Larson was noncommittal about serving a second term, but when Dick Devine was nominated as chairman for 2012, Larson quickly seconded the motion to widespread laughter.

Board members were split as to whether two years is too long or just enough for the learning curve leading the board.

"It got to be an awful long time," commissioner Cal Johannsen recollected of his two-year tenure.

Larson had his own reasons for wishing to change the dynamic.

"I think when you serve two years, there's too much power there," he said.

So Devine, who was trying his hardest to fly under the radar, will lead the board next year. He laughed at his "conscription." A vice-chair will be selected next year.

Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf justified the expenses of the BOA chair in an e-mail to county coordinator Deb Thompson, but suggested the rate could be adjusted to save money.

When the BOA grants a variance, the chair must sign off on the officialorder of variance and it is notarized. Those decisions generally take a few days to prepare, Buitenwerf said.

The county board grudgingly set the rate at $20 plus mileage as "the cost of doing business," reasoning mailing the documents and back out would slow the process unnecessarily.

In other business, the board:

n Learned the flu season has been moderate, but strep throat continues to be an issue for public health officials.

RaeAnn Mayer, the county's chief health officer, told the board that "finances have become a real issue" as the county renewed the North Country Community Health Grant, which was $5,000 less than last year.

Mayer said the department continues to focus on healthy eating, healthy living and curbing tobacco use.

n Learned the third phase of a proposed truck route around Park Rapids is now on the construction calendar for 2016, county engineer Dave Olsonawski said.

That third leg, running south from County Road 28 and then heading east to RDO on Highway 71, will cost an estimated $2.2 million with 80 percent of the construction costs reimbursed, Olsonawski said. At a recent regional planning meeting, the 10-ton route got 16 letters of support, Olsonawski said.

Sarah Smith

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

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