BEMIDJI -- Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, said he believes medical marijuana will be legal. In a conference call between Beltrami County Commissioners and Reps. Persell and Roger Erickson, DFL-Baudette, Persell vocalized opinions on legislative issues that affect Beltrami County.

Transportation funding, land, marijuana and veterans were points of interest. The controversial medical marijuana conversation seems to be getting more ink than it is making progress, according to Persell.

“The newspapers and the media are making a bigger deal out of it than it is down here,” Persell said. He added the main concern is how to formulate the drug into pill form to help with medicinal needs.

“We use plant medicine all the time,” Persell said. “I think there could be enough votes to pass something like that.”

Persell said there is talk of transportation funding, potentially $50 million for critical repairs of highways, roads and bridges.

“Nobody’s talking about raising the gas tax at this point this year,” Persell said. “But that will absolutely need to be revisited.”

Persell said the House is waiting on the Senate before anything further can be done with taxes. Persell said a land bill put forth by Beltrami County was up for a second hearing Tuesday and there hadn’t been any negative feedback to his knowledge.

In regard to veterans homes, Persell said it may come down to the number of beds available and establishing a priority criteria or if it would become a first come first served basis.

More than 20 people attended Tuesday’s commissioner meeting in person. Some were there protesting union labor negotiations, others advocating for the safety of ATV riders and the lady slipper flower.

Commissioner Jim Lucachick advised those opposed to the proposed union contracts currently in the works to make their concerns known to their union representative as the county board is working with representatives on negotiations. Commissioner Richard Anderson said the five unions are in agreement with the new terms.

Under the new contracts, workers will receive a 1 percent cost of living increase in 2014, a 2 percent increase in 2015, a 1.5 percent increase January 2016 and another 1.5 percent increase July 2016. Flex dollar contributions will increase by $50 per year starting with $890 in 2014.

A change to Ordinance 41, also referred to as the ATV ordinance, drew people from Blackduck and Pennington to the commissioners’ meeting.

Mike Supan, of Pennington and president of the Lady Slipper Scenic Byway, spoke at first in favor of the amended ordinance which would add County State Aid Highway 39 to the zone where riding ATV’s in ditches is not allowed.

After public comment from two Blackduck residents, commissioners agreed to a compromise to only add a portion of the roadway. A revised draft of the ordinance change will be revealed at the final reading on April 1 at 5 p.m. in the Administration Building at 701 Minnesota Avenue.

Under the ordinance, ATV’s are not allowed to travel through ditches on certain roadways. CSAH 39, which runs from Pennington to Blackduck in the easterly part of Beltrami County, is considered because of significant work that has been done and for Lady Slipper preservation.

Presently, the following CSAH’s are included in the ordinance: 1, 42 and 44 along with County Roads 700, 701, 702, 703, 704, 705, 706, 707 and 709.

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