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County board learns Sauk Centre to PR trail is a no go

By Jean Ruzicka

A proposal to create a Jacob Brower Regional Trail on a railroad bed running from Sauk Centre to Park Rapids appears to have derailed before the process was put in motion.

Michael Dagen, Nemeth Art Center curator and former clerk in Hewitt, had asked the Hubbard County Board to adopt a resolution in support of the proposal from the Greater Minnesota Regional Park and Trail Commission.

But prior to its discussion Tuesday, Todd County, which was asked to be the lead applicant, was reported to have denied the request.

The next step would have been to apply for regional designation through the GMRPTC in order to be eligible for state Legacy funds.

But the item was pulled from the Hubbard County board agenda when the news of the Todd County decision arrived.

The pre-application deadline for regional trail designation is June 22.

The proposal stated that a consensus had been reached via a feasibility study that motorized and non-motorized traffic would be recommended on the trail from Sauk Centre to Wadena.

Maurice Spangler, who was to address the board on behalf of Dagen, said all four counties and 11 cities on the route must be in support of the project. This will likely preclude the application, based on the timeline.

In a letter to Hubbard County Commissioners, Dagen said after this year’s round of applications for park and trail designations it will be increasingly difficult for projects to be chosen, due to the number that have already received regional designation.

In other action, the board:

n Approved timber appraisals for the Monday, July 13 timber auction. The estimated value for the 489 acres is approximately $244,000.

April’s auction raised eyebrows when bids came in 25 to 30 percent higher than anticipated.

n Learned Greg Remus of Hubbard County Veterans Services has been named state commander for Disabled American Veterans.

Remus reported the veteran population in Hubbard County is 2,316, up from 2,263 in 2013.

“Expenditures” - the amount spent by the Veterans Administration for veteran services in the county - totaled $17.3 million last year, “a huge impact for the community.” This compares with $15.6 million in 2013 and $12.7 million in 2012.

Expenditures rose 11 percent in Hubbard County, compared with the statewide average of 6 percent.

Direct compensation and pension amounts totaled $9.4 million last year in the county, compared with $7.7 million and $6.6 million, in the past two years, respectively.

Medical funding totaled $7.7 million, spent at VA facilities and locally ($7.5 million in ’14, $5.8 million in ’13.

For every dollar spent by the county ($130,000 to $160,000 for administration of the program), $125 are brought in, Remus told commissioners.

n Recommended county assessor Ginger Woodrum to be the primary “point person” for providing passport services.

Hubbard County is in the process of once again becoming a site to obtain passports. At a previous meeting, Environmental Services and the assessor were directed to administrate the federal process, but a “primary” office must be defined.

“We need to do whatever we can to get this done,” commissioner Cal Johannsen said. “We let it go when we shouldn’t have.”

Woodrum asked for the requested timeline to have the application in place.

“Yesterday,” she was told.

The hours for applying for a passport were tentatively set from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. with photographs to be available on site.

n Heard reports from Social Services director Daryl Bessler. He cautioned that the county’s Heartland Transit may be imperiled by “the state coming in,” he said of the Regional Coordination Council for Transit Programming.

Bessler reported a slight “dip” in income maintenance unit caseloads and monthly intakes.

The average caseload per worker continues to increase, however, due to the Affordable Care Act, Bessler said.

Commissioner Matt Dotta questioned if other counties are seeing the appreciable upsurge.

“Yes,” Bessler told him. “Health care is a big issue.”

n Learned the transit bus sold for $2,599, which is “more than anticipated.”

n Approved a joint powers agreement between the Minnesota Commissioner of Corrections and Hubbard County for secure offender housing, at the recommendation of Sheriff Cory Aukes.

Currently three inmates are part of the program, the reimbursement $55 per day.

n Approved a joint powers agreement between the state and Sentence to Service.

n Accepted the resignation of deputy Greg Swanstrom, “with regrets and acknowledgement of service to the county.”

n Learned highway surfacing work on CSAH 1 to 18 and on CSAH 6 going south are complete with chloride projects expected to be finished next week. Paving on CSAH 9 in the northern tier of the county started Monday.

n Approved a resolution accepting $10 donations from the American Legion Auxiliary to be distributed to veterans in need by the Veterans Service Office.

n Authorized the VSO’s application to the state to facilitate on-the-job applications for veterans employment.

n Tabled a request for an easement request for Joe Montgomery in White Oak Township pending receipt of a written document.

n Approved a policy addressing the courthouse/government center meeting room use.

n Reported a dedication plaque will be provided by contractors to hand in the remodeled courthouse/ government center, commissioners discussing specific wording.