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Beltrami County Board: Complaint alleges county of 'double standard'

A Beltrami County homeowner says the county's Environmental Services Department treats homeowners differently when it comes to septic permits.

Enoch Gould has filed a complaint alleging that the department has double standards when it comes to issuing septic permits and others -- strict with some homeowners and lax with others. The matter will be heard by the County Board during its 5 p.m. regular meeting, which will be held at the Eckles Community Center.

Commissioners will also get their first look at a proposed 2011 county budget, which will be unveiled at the meeting in Commissioner Joe Vene's district.

"There strongly appears to be at least two levels of service provided to similarly situated landowners," Gould writes commissioners, "by the Beltrami Environmental Services office, that residents receive which I will call for simplicity sake receiving either the 'hammer' or the 'shield.'"

Gould includes documents pertaining to three adjacent properties, one of them his, in the Dandelion Lane Northeast neighborhood. He alleges numerous activities, such as allowing a structure to be built without a septic permit which was obtained after construction was complete. He also alleges work was done in a wetland without a replacement plan.

Gould also alleges on his property that he had to seek a court order to permit a driveway, which the Beltrami County office denied.

While one property constructed a driveway without wetland permits, Gould alleges that "the local agencies are capriciously and arbitrarily refusing to comply with a state court order that defines our easement, likely working in solidarity with two local individuals to block our easement to our property."

Gould will make his case to commissioners on Tuesday, and County Attorney Tim Faver and Environmental Services Director Bill Patnaude have been invited to attend.

Board action isn't expected at that meeting. "The County Board may choose to take the information under advisement or to direct county staff to provide a written response to the allegations," County Administrator Tony Murphy said in a memo.

Commissioners will receive the draft 2011 county budget and 2012 budget outline at the meeting and Murphy will provide an overview. State law requires the County Board to set a preliminary 2011 budget and tax levy by Sept. 15. After that point, the levy may be lowered but not raised. Both the budget and levy are finalized in December.

Also on the regular board agenda, commissioners will be asked to allow a citizen perception survey. Under an $11,500 contract with Marketing Assistance & Research Solutions at Bemidji State University, a telephone survey of county residents on how they perceive county government.

"The survey results will be used to gain insight as to the current perception of Beltrami County government activities as seen by its residents," Linda Tran, human resources director, said in a memo.

The county's Results-Oriented Government Theme Team will conduct future surveys to chart improvement as part of the team's effort "to achieve the vision of Beltrami County to create a legacy and tradition of success that expands opportunity to all of its citizens.," Tran wrote

At the board's 3 p.m. work session, commissioners will hear a proposal for county-provided children's mental health case management services, discuss options for relocating the Natural Resource Management Department and learn of Sentencing to Service cost-sharing opportunities.

County Board consent agenda items include county bills and warrant payment listing, approval of a memo of understanding with Hubbard County on a joint highway project, approval of bids for three highway projects and a resolution setting a bridge replacement list.

Commissioners will also be asked to approve a resolution to designate Fishermen's Haven Road Northeast as Unorganized Red Lake Township Road 901.

The board will receive monthly human services reports and licensing, and be asked to approve a staff member attendance at the National Welfare Fraud Conference.