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Beltrami County formally opposes AMC redesign

Beltrami County formally opposes the Association of Minnesota Counties' 10-point redesign plan in letters signed late last week by all five commissioners.

"The County Board expresses disappointment with the process employed by the AMC Board of Directors in regards to the plan," the commissioners' letter to AMC President Jon Evert, a Clay County commissioner, states.

Beltrami County commissioners also signed a letter to the county's legislative delegation to be hand-delivered Tuesday by County Board Chairman Jack Frost during Bemidji Day at the Capitol.

The 10-point plan, approved two weeks ago by the AMC Board and publicly announced before counties had time to absorb it, called for counties to assume state highway maintenance, cut the State Patrol in half by having counties patrol highways, allow counties to levy a half-cent sales tax in return for eliminating County Program Aid to counties, and authorizing counties to adopt home rule charters.

The historic process of the AMC is to thoughtfully and respectfully engage all counties in policy development, the Beltrami County letter states.

"However, the AMC Board of Directors failed to follow established process in the adoption and advocacy of the 10-point plan," it states. "The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners is disappointed and feels betrayed by the actions of the AMC executive director and the AMC Board of Directors in this regard."

AMC Executive Director Jim Mulder announced his resignation a day after the plan was made public, although he says the redesign plan has nothing to do with his decision.

Some of the plan may be acceptable, the letter states, "however, we would respectfully request that the careful consideration and thoughtful dialogue on these ideas take place with all member counties prior to any additional AMC legislative effort."

The letter adds that Beltrami County hopes a new executive director "will recognize and value the diversity of Minnesota counties and will be exceptionally skilled in communications processes that help member counties reach needed consensus on policy issues."

In the letter to legislators, commissioners note that the Legislature got the 10-point plan from AMC "before AMC member counties had the opportunity to review the details of the plan and it is now clear that many, perhaps a majority, of Minnesota counties oppose the AMC plan as currently constituted."

Commissioners say they "regret that AMC leadership did not follow the established AMC process for establishing county legislative positions ..." Also, "we appreciate our partnership with members of the state Legislature and we appreciate your tireless labors on behalf of Beltrami County taxpayers, especially during the current fiscal challenges that se face."

The letter will be delivered to Democrats Sen. Mary Olson of Bemidji, Sen. Rod Skoe of Clearbrook, Rep. John Persell of Bemidji and Rep. Brita Sailer of Park Rapids.