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Hubbard County timber sale 'policy' reviewed again

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

PARK RAPIDS -- Hubbard County's timber sales policy, which recently came under fire from a local logging company, has now become a sticky situation.

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That's because no such policy exists as the county was trying to enforce.

Last month logger Robin Walsh complained that he was unable to work on side-by-side timber sales bid at different prices. That was to avoid commingling the wood, county officials told him at the time.

Walsh's company then had to complete logging one site and move its equipment to start the second sale. Walsh said it lost $3,000 moving its equipment. The reason stated was that the county had a longstanding policy that one timber sale must be fully completed before the next can begin.

"This is kind of embarrassing," commissioner Dick Devine said. "This cost us a chunk of money. This isn't the way we want to operate" or treat local loggers.

Forestry department employee Allen Lysdahl had to take the heat for his department. Land Commissioner Mark Lohmeier couldn't attend Wednesday's board meeting.

Lysdahl said as the county begins revising its 10-year forest plan, having written policies "will be a part of it."

"We were defending a policy we didn't even have," Devine said.

"It seems like we didn't trust anyone," board chair Greg Larson said of the reason loggers couldn't work on two sales at once.

"It's more about managing sales in an efficient and fair manner," Lysdahl told the board. "It's not a matter of trust."

"We should be able to tell if somebody's sticking it to the county," commissioner Cal Johannsen said. "We have to be really careful how we administer this."

"We try to keep things efficient for the loggers," Lysdahl said, noting the department had been working with Walsh.

"I think we worked it out OK," Lysdahl said, promising to check into the expenditures Walsh Forest Products said it lost in the recent sales.

"We don't want to be a roadblock to our people," Devine said.

In other business, the board:

- Learned from Auditor Pam Heeren the county will receive a dividend on its property, casualty and workers comp insurance of almost $355,000. Heeren said the county regularly budgets only a $100,000 dividend so the extra funds were good news.

The county will also receive $674,531 in PILT monies, payments in lieu of taxes the state reimburses the county for tax-exempt lands.

But as Heeren passed out preliminary department budgets for 2012, Johannsen noted that to keep the county's levy at the same rate it's been for the past three years, "we gotta cut close to $1 million out of the budget or find another revenue source."

- Directed Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf to draft an expanded list of conditional uses for lakeshore property that would include churches.

A new Lutheran church wants to purchase the Velvet Antler, but that building is within 1,000 feet of Lake Belle Taine's shores.

Churches are not among the permitted or conditional uses for shoreland property.

Buitenwerf said churches should be considered a conditional use, and then would go through the conditional use process to build within 1,000 feet of a lake.

Buitenwerf said inconsistencies between two sections of the Shoreland Management Ordinance must also be reconciled.

It deals with adjacent or back lots. A glitch in the wording would allow a house to be built on a back lot if it met width and setback rules, but building a garage would entail getting a variance.

Buitenwerf said the ordinance provisions should be consistent so that properties could be "improved in the same manner."

- Learned from community health director RaeAnn Meyer that Hubbard County is among the high risk counties in Minnesota for contracting tick-borne diseases.

That news comes as Mayo Clinic announced last week a new strain of tick virus called ehrlichia.

Mayer said health officials are seeing increases in tick illnesses such as anaplasmosis and POW disease, both increasingly being diagnosed in humans and dogs.

In 2010, Mayer said Hubbard County had 35 anaplasmosis cases and 31 cases of Lyme disease.

"We're seeing more deer ticks and more infected ticks," she told the board. "Tick-borne (illnesses) are becoming almost as great a concern as the flu."

And Mayer said the county is preparing for the flu season, to "target the same strains as last year."

No vaccines have arrived yet, she said. Meanwhile, she urges residents and visitors to protect themselves from ticks in the grassy areas by wearing long pants.

Commissioners said they are seeing more people wearing wristbands outdoors that function like dog tick collars.

- Amended the Board of Equalization minutes to reflect that Fairhaven's .85 percent downward adjustment in value applied to the whole course, not just the greens.

Sarah Smith is a reporter for The Park Rapids Enterprise. The Enterprise and the Bemidji Pioneer are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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