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Camp Wilderness expansion proposed

BCamp Wilderness on Bad Axe Lake may soon be home to two tornado-safe buildings to house Scouts in the camp as well as "neighbors" in the event of severe weather. Brad Olson, program director for the Boy Scouts Northern Lights Council, came befor...

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An architects drawing depicts what one of the proposed tornado-safe buildings would look like at Camp Wilderness near Park Rapids.

BCamp Wilderness on Bad Axe Lake may soon be home to two tornado-safe buildings to house Scouts in the camp as well as “neighbors” in the event of severe weather.  Brad Olson, program director for the Boy Scouts Northern Lights Council, came before the Hubbard County Board this week requesting the county serve as fiscal agent for the $1.8 million in hazard mitigation grant funds being sought from FEMA.  The total cost of project is $2.1 million, the Northern Lights Council will be responsible for a quarter of the project costs and any remaining amount. There will be no cost to the county.  The 2,400-acre site in the center of the county has 10,000 people in the camp throughout the year. The closest safe room is 20 miles away, in Park Rapids.  

Camp Wilderness is the only Boy Scout camp in the United States to have been designated as a “storm ready community” by the National Weather Service. The status is typically reserved for municipalities, Wayne Stephens, camp health officer, explained.  As part of the grant, the current warning system will be replaced and interconnected to the county’s sirens.  An 86x35-foot building, with a basement and first floor with an eight-bed medical treatment facility, is planned for the Boy Scout area. A 60x35-foot below-ground structure would be built for Cub Scouts, with plans to eventually add the main floor.  The Boy Scout building could hold 450 people (at five square feet per person), the Cub Scout safe room 200 if a tornado was approaching. During storm warnings, duration of stay ranges from 20 minutes to an hour, but this could be extended, Stephens said, as well as the number of people taking shelter in the building.  

Construction will likely begin in August or September 2016, Olson told commissioners. The buildings would be in use by the summer of 2017.   The grant is currently under review and is nearly ready for submission to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Risk assessment began three years ago, Olson said of the people coming to the camp, the length of time it would take to bus people to the school in Park Rapids as well as the statistical average of 1.73 tornadoes per year. The likelihood of occurrence is in May, June and July.  According to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, Hubbard County has experienced 12 tornados, 5 funnel clouds, 25 large hail storms and 30 damaging wind events over the past 10 years.  Most of this activity occurs when Camp Wilderness may have a population of 700 camping in tents and cabin structures “that would be extremely vulnerable to these severe weather events, potentially placing their lives in peril.”  

The last “tornadic event” was an EF3 tornado skirting the south end of the camp the morning of June 6, 2008.  Estimated construction cost for the Cub Scout building is $469,219; the Boy Scout building budget is $1,321,498. Project “soft costs” are an estimated $280,000. The total project budget: $2,070,251.  A public meeting on the storm mitigation plan will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7 at the Camp Wilderness Boy Scout dining hall.  

In other action, commissioners: 

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-Introduced Community Services Director Tom Sandberg, replacing Daryl Bessler.  

- On a 2-2 vote, with Matt Dotta absent, the board denied a clothing policy for Environmental Services which would have provided $150 in the 2015 pay cycle for apparel or boot purchase and $175 in 2016.  Commissioner Cal Johannsen questioned how much time the staff spends in the field, learning a quarter to a third, when employees measure setbacks or check septic systems.  “I think this opens the door for a clothing allowance for all Hubbard County employees,” Johannsen said.  “When you take a job, you take on responsibility for clothing,” Commissioner Vern Massie said.  “I don’t disagree,” Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf said. “I’m just getting into place what had been approved in negotiations.”  This is department policy, County Coordinator Deb Thompson said, not in the contract.  “We’ll open a can of worms if we don’t approve,” Johannsen said.  “I understand how it got started,” Massie said, “but it may snowball.”  

An initial vote to approve died for lack of second; the second motion failed.  Commissioners told Buitenwerf they will revisit the issue at his discretion.  

-Officially approved a resolution to accept Capital Assistance Program funding, commissioners having agreed to enter into a joint powers agreement with Polk County for solid waste disposal and recycling.  n Approved a resolution supporting a public utilities tax court petition asking the Legislature to develop “transition aid” to address refunds, should they granted by the court.  This is in reference to Enbridge filing a petition in Minnesota Tax Court in an attempt to reduce property taxes retroactively.  

-  Approved the Nemeth Art Center’s grant application to the Minnesota Historical Society to fund floor refinishing, commissioners agreeing to a 10 percent match, not to exceed $1,000.  The board subsequently approved the low quote of $7,493 for the refinishing from Jeff Green’s Heritage Flooring, if the grant is approved. 

 -Approved an easement for James and Emily Bringle in Lake Hattie Township allowing them to cross 1,000 feet of tax forfeited land to access a buildable lot on Big Lake La Salle  n Added two names to cabin lease 59 in Clay Township.  

- Approved a grant agreement of $109,403 with the Two Inlets Forest Riders for maintenance and grooming of snowmobile trails.  

-Accepted a snowmobile safety enforcement grant of $12,470 for the sheriff’s department.  n Approved a disbursement of $533,369 for the Heritage Living Center construction project.

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Related Topics: HUBBARD COUNTYPARK RAPIDS
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