3/21/2019 2:15:00 PM Chisago Lake Township Houle re-elected
Holding annual elections in their new town hall, Chisago Lake Township on March 12 proved that every vote matters. Incumbent Town Supervisor Wayne Houle outpolled challenger Shannon Johnson by a slim two-vote margin, 49 to 47. Incumbent treasurer Judy Straub, running unopposed, garnered 92 votes with a total of 97 ballots cast.
Fewer than 20 township residents attended the annual town meeting that began after the polls closed. Jim Froberg was elected to moderate the meeting that saw the township report a bank balance of $1.2 million held in savings certificates in three area banks. Looking ahead to 2020, Chisago Lake Township proposes no increase in its annual budget of $1.119 million.
“The plan for 2020 is to hold the budget exactly as it was this year,” Township Chair Sherry Stirling told those present. “We’re planning to keep our levy exactly the same.” The proposed levy won’t be finalized, however, until the recessed annual meeting reconvenes on August 20.
The tax levies and budget proposed for 2020 would remain the same as 2019:
General Fund $82,000 Road & Bridge 362,000 Fire Contract 225,000 Blacktop Repair 200,000 Contingency 5,000 Equipment 50,000 Through Road Blacktop 75,000 Library Operating 18,000 Building 72,000 Deadend Blacktop 30,000 Chisago Lake Township has fire contracts with four departments: Amador/Alme-lund, Center City, Chisago City and Lindstrom with the township paying a significant percentage of the cost of operating some of those departments.
By far the largest share of the township’s budget is devoted to roads, bridges, and road maintenance, which includes grading, dust control, snowplowing, and blacktop resurfacing. Township officers explained that when the township blacktops a gravel road that is a through-street, adjoining properties pay 25 percent of the total cost. When the township paves a dead-end gravel road, adjacent property owners pay 75 percent of the cost.
As part of a joint powers agreement, townships are expected to pay $3.50 per resident to maintain local East Central Regional libraries. In Chisago Lake Township, this totals $18,000 annually.
Chisago Lake Township levies $72,000 a year to pay off the certificate of indebtedness for its new township building. The building reportedly is well used not only by the township itself, but by various community groups and for events such as wedding receptions which helps recoup construction costs.
A small portion of the township’s General Fund is earmarked for support of various non-profit organizations. The township annual meeting included a presentation and request for funding from Sonja Palmer of Family Pathways. The township received letters requesting funds from the Chisago County Agricultural Society (county fair), the Seven County Senior Federation, the Chisago County Historical Society, ballfield recreation scheduler Bob Gustafson, and from Zion Lutheran Church for Monday Community Meals.
Residents at the town meeting voted to set aside $10,000 of the General Fund budget toward these donations with the exact amount of each donation to be determined by the town board at a later date.
County update County Commissioner Chris DuBose provided an update on Chisago County’s 2019 plans. On the much-debated topic of the law enforcement radio system, he said, “We are upgrading the radio system. The existing radios will still work on the system, and the townships and the cities who choose to keep the old radios won’t see an increase in cost unless they decide to buy new radios. “The county is going to give the cities and the fire departments the radios they have been using. There won’t be an increase in cost unless you decide to upgrade,” DuBose repeated. “The way it is set up now, the cost will be a little bit lower (than it has been in previous years) if you keep the old radios.”
Nancy Hoffman of the Chisago County Housing and Redevelopment Authority/Economic Development Authority (HRA/EDA) made a presentation on a possibility of enhancing broadband services in Chisago Lake Township.
A 2016 survey of the county showed that county residents looked favorably on obtaining better, high speed broadband with 45 percent saying they would use it for education, 34 percent to telecommute and 31 percent to start a new business. Most of Chisago County lies in an area that is unserved or underserved for high speed broadband.
Sunrise and Fish Lake townships improved their speed and capacity of broadband service through a cost sharing arrangement with CenturyLink, with the help of a Minnesota Border to Border broadband grant. CenturyLink does not serve Chisago Lake Township; MidContinent does not serve rural areas, and Frontier has not shown an interest in this type of project, according to Hoffman.
Hoffman went on to explain that Consolidated Telephone Company is currently working with Scandia and could work with Franconia and Chisago Lake townships to provide enhanced broadband similar to what has been done in Fish Lake and Sunrise. To be successful, the projects would rely on support and cooperation from the townships, advocacy by local residents, and obtaining the Border to Border Grant.
Hofman said that the first step is working with the Blandin Foundation, which has seed money to do a feasibiity/engineering study to determine actual cost of the local broadband projects. Obtaining that seed money requires local matching funds. The HRA/EDA would pay 50 percent of the required $9,555, she said.
The two townships are being asked to consider allocating $2,400 each toward the feasibility study.
“I would encourage the township to consider this $2,400 as it will leverage quite a bit of money which would give us a leg up on this ‘Border to Border’ broadband process,” said Commissioner DuBose. “It’s a small amount of money to find out if this is feasible.”
The request to “opt-in” on the Blandin Study will be considered by the Chisago Lake Town Board at its regular March 19 meeting. If the funding is approved, Town Board Chair Stirling said it would come from the township General Fund.