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County Board: Beltrami County, Beltrami Soil and Water Conservation District seek common ground

Beltrami County commissioners, at odds for years with the Beltrami Soil and Water Conservation District, hope to seek common ground Tuesday.

A report on that effort will be given as part of the County Board's 3 p.m. work session at the County Administration Building, 701 Minnesota Ave.

"The Beltrami County Board appointed representatives to meet with Beltrami Soil and Water Conservation District representatives to explore ideas for a more productive future relationship," County Administrator Tony Murphy writes in a memo to commissioners.

Cliff Tweedale, executive director of the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, was hired with a grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources to moderate negotiations.

"County representatives to the committee are now prepared to provide an update on the discussions and to seek further policy direction from the full County Board," Murphy wrote.

The fray between the two government entities started with the county, which used to pass funding through to the SWCD, kept state funds from the Wetland Conservation Act to do its own wetland mitigation permitting, contracting some enforcement work to SWCD.

The chasm deepened when the County Board tried to put all SWCD services on a contract for services basis, ending an administrative appropriation given to the SWCD. Threatening lawsuit, the SWCD sought relief from the state Board of Water and Soil Resources, resulting in an agreement for a smaller annual appropriation from the county for SWCD operations.

Meanwhile, the County Board has urged the SWCD to charge for its services to the public, becoming more self-sustaining.

The county's proposed 2010 budget includes project match funding for clean water projects and funding for Wetland Conservation Act enforcement, but ends administrative support payments entirely.

Commissioners, also during their 3 p.m. work session, will hear from Chairman Jim Lucachick an update on discussions to provide mental health patient transport after Jan. 1, when the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office will no longer provide such service.

A committee was established to probe options, such as private taxi service and ambulance service for those mental health transports needed from the hospital to a facility.

Commissioners will receive an update on Polk County incinerator operations (where Beltrami County solid waste is taken), hear from a University of Minnesota Extension educator on its Community Economics Program, review County Board committee assignments and consider a County Parks and Trails Advisory Committee recommendation for "Share the Road" signing along the bicycle-loop county roads that border Lake Bemidji.

Adopt budget, levy

The County Board during its 5 p.m. regular meeting will pass resolutions to adopt the 2010 county budget and property tax levy. No changes have been made in either since first submitted for preliminary approval in September.

The 2010 proposed budget calls for $58.1 million in expenditures, up from $57.6 million this year. Estimated expenditures for 2011 are $55.6 million, with revenues expected to show a $116,139 loss.

Property tax levies for 2010 are expected to total $16.97 million -- $330,855 less than 2009 levies, or down 1.91 percent. Estimated 2011 levies should go down again to $16.55 million.

As part of the last board meeting of 2009, commissioners will also set their salary and per diem allowances for 2010. A proposed salary of $20,753.67, a 2.5 percent increase, is the same percentage given in union contracts. Per diem would be set at $50 for approved committees, plus mileage.

The regular meeting includes the third reading and possible adoption of a county highway right-of-way encroachment removal policy, appointing a representative and alternate to the Kitchigami Regional Library Board, and consideration of 2010 County Development Fund grant applications.

On the latter, the board will try to dole out $80,000 among $221,000 in requests from non-profit entities.

Consent agenda

The County Board's consent agenda includes county bills and warrant payment listing, approval of fire protection contracts for Eland and Red Lake townships, recommended denial of an application from PJ Acquisitions LLC for the repurchase of forfeited property, and approval of a lease for tax-forfeited property for parcel now containing Domino's Pizza.

Also, commissioners will be asked to approve a victim services grant agreement, an addendum to a memorandum of agreement with County Extension Service staff, and an appointment of Commissioner Joe Vene, and Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks as alternate, to the PrimeWest Health Systems Board of Directors.

On the consent agenda is approval to submit a Minnesota Housing Finance Agency funding request under the 2010 Minnesota City Participation Program, approval of final payment for the Birchmont Drive highway project, approval of 2010 forest development activities, a resolution of 2009 timber sales apportionment and payment for contractors for 2010 forest development activities on projects as completed.

The County Natural Resource Management Department is also asking approval of a lease with the Bemidji Area Archery Club, which is a renewal of an existing lease.

Commissioners will also receive monthly County Health and Human Services Department reports and licensing, and be asked to approve monthly bills and host county contracts for 2010.

The board isn't slated to meet again until Jan. 5, at which time according to usual tradition, Commissioner Jack Frost will succeed Lucachick as board chairman.