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County rejects library plea for funds

Due to a glitch in the budgeting process, the Kitchigami Regional Library System got fewer dollars than it was expecting for 2012.

Some counties actually cut funds to the system that serves five Minnesota counties. Others, like Hubbard, gave 90 percent of the allocation it did last year, a total of $171,623, based on what commissioners thought was a recommendation by the state's Department of Education.

"The state is not involved in budget requests, it just sets a floor below which you cannot go," KRLS director Marion Ridge said repeatedly, asking if the county could "restore some level of the decreases this year."

Ridge said, "The floor changed for 2012 but the decrease didn't reflect Kitchigami's library requests."

The collective cuts of funding have been devastating, she admitted.

"The cities kept a flatline levy. Five counties took five different approaches," Ridge said. She visited the Hubbard County board Wednesday to review the budgeting process for 2013.

A July 2011 request came out asking for funds, Ridge said, but county officials said they didn't recall receiving it. In July, Beltrami County commissioners voted to approve $15,000 less in operational funding for the system than it had in the past.

Commissioner Lyle Robinson said, "I think you guys are going to have to live with this and do better next year."

System-wide, bookmobile stops have been cut back and library hours reduced.

Speaking of Park Rapids, Ridge said, "The city has stood behind their level of value of the service."

And that seemed to raise Robinson's ire.

"We're getting less service," he said. "You're not stopping at Akeley or Benedict. We're not getting much service for the amount of money paid."

Robinson maintained the northern half of Hubbard County isn't served.

Ridge said it wasn't cost effective for the bookmobile to stop in Akeley, only to have one person or no one use the service.

But Robinson said different hours might reach more people. The bookmobile could operate nights and Saturdays, he suggested. Its current hours only serve the elderly and unemployed, he added.

Commissioner Kathy Grell asked if the library system could purchase some e-readers so potential customers could access books electronically.

"The e-book industry is not set up to help libraries," Ridge responded. "It's set up to sell books."

While acknowledging there is a digital gap between classes of readers, she said, "We have to consider the larger public."

Ridge said libraries "don't buy people technology. We provide content."

In other business, the board:

n Approved settlement of an environmental lawsuit filed against the county's Board of Adjustment.

Stephen and Mary Kusske filed the suit in July 2011 after they were denied a variance request to build a retirement home on their Lake Plantagenet lot while allowing two guest cabins to remain on the duplex lot.

The board narrowly denied the variance on a 3-2 vote, contending the density would be too much for one lot.

Based on recommendations from the county's insurance attorneys, the case was resolved after Kusskes agreed to move some lot lines on contiguous property the couple owned. The property was then structured to allow one dwelling and guest quarters on one lot and another dwelling on the other lot.

This solution was proposed by the BOA to the couple when they presented their variance request in June 2011, but the couple didn't want to divide the lots at the time.

n Learned that the South Transfer Station's hours will change April 14 to 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. That reflects the influx of summer residents and increased loads of garbage and recyclables.

n Refinanced the Law Enforcement Center bonds to realize a savings of $53,000 a year. Over a ten-year period, the savings will be $500,000. The new rate will take effect in the summer of 2013, auditor Pam Heeren told the board.

"Do you want to take a chance at rates going up?" she asked the board. The unanimous answer was no.

n Approved a 3.2 beer permit for the MS Tram event July 24 in Heartland Park and waived vendor fees for food sellers. Chamber of Commerce director Katie Magozzi said the event would attract 800-900 campers to the area for the evening as bikers ride through the region.

n Approved the purchase of a "throwbot" for the SWAT team. The two-wheel gadgets can be thrown into a tense situation and relay pictures from a scene too dangerous to send personnel into. The $4,950 cost is covered by grant funds. Sheriff Cory Aukes said the department likely would not have made the purchase without the funds. Hubbard County pairs with Wadena County to form an Emergency Response Unit team, which will share the throwbot, along with three cameras purchased for $144 each.

n Learned MAHUBE has expanded to include Otter Tail and Wadena counties and will now be known as MAHUBE - OTWA. The community action partnership now serves a five county area, combating poverty.

It got its original name from the three counties it began the program in, Mahnomen, Hubbard and Becker. It runs the Head Start program and offers a variety of services to senior citizens, families and children.

n Approved the hiring of Michelle Fischer as Social Services supervisor. She replaces Julie Terdan, who is retiring.

n Learned from Community Health Director Raeann Mayer that the warm spring has brought an early onslaught of ticks and tick-borne ailments. Most of those ailments begin with flu-like symptoms, so Mayer suggested north country residents monitor their symptoms and keep an eye out for ticks, especially the tiny deer ticks. Although a Lyme Disease shot is available for dogs, Mayer said it is not available for humans yet.

Sarah Smith

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

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