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January 18, 2022

11/26/2021 2:12:00 PM
Chisago County board briefs...

After a few years of a concerted bridge repair and replacement effort leveraging state and federal monies— Chisago County Engineer Joe Triplett reports that the County Road 56 bridge becomes the last of the fracture critical spans in the county needing attention.  

Triplett told the County Board last week the plan has worked  as intended and all should be thankful for state bridge bonding program support.

Turning attention to the U.S. Congress and its infrastructure vote, Triplett said authorities are working on future distributions of the funding and the exact sum coming to each county is pending. Minnesota expects $6.8 billion over five years. All four Minnesota GOP House members voted against the bill. Rep. Stauber had inserted a request for Highway 8 for $20 million which was stripped out, Triplett added. (Rep. Stauber voted no on the infrastructure funding measure.)

Highway 8 improvements and safety measures continue their journey toward bidding;  despite having about half the funding in place yet.  The project plans are getting final state DOT review and Triplett fully expects some changes.  Right of way acquisition experts will be brought on board in the near future.

Opioid Settlement update
In reviewing another future influx of money the county could be expecting— the prescription opioid industry settlement was explained by County Attorney Janet Reiter.

Three large distributors agreed to make payments to plaintiffs (which Chisago County was one of.) Funds will come in over 18 years, amounting to $21 billion. A separate agreement with Johnson & Johnson mandates it to pay $5 billion over no more than nine years.

A “broad range of uses” are authorized for the money to try to soften the budgetary blow of opioid addiction, Reiter continued. There were Health and Human Services family response impacts, court costs, law enforcement, recovery and  treatment costs and much more.  Reiter said the Association of County Attorneys are involved in creating a distribution and the goal is to avoid an outcome where counties with the best grant writers land most of the settlement proceeds.

County Administrator Chase Burnham said the county just wants to be sure the distribution shares are equitable.  The plan is for some form of resolution that the County Board would adopt that distributes the funds on “measureable factors.”

In another fiscal matter— the Board approved a date for selling $12.5 million in refunding bonds. Sale will be awarded December 15.  Sets of outstanding bonds (same amount) are being redeemed to save on interest costs.

The Board heard that parts of the Swedish Immigrant Regional Trail that had been closed for hunting season, were being utilized anyway.

Environmental Services Director Kurt Schneider said the segments to avoid are clearly marked and signed, but apparently trail users just  ignored the notices.

Landowners allowed the trail to cross their properties under various conditions.   It was agreed that hunting would not become restricted as a result of the public’s presence, so portions of the SIRT are closed when hunting activity peaks.  Please respect the landowners’ desires and the periodic segment restrictions.

The sheriff had two purchases approved on 5-0 votes.

The department is buying a $14,000 Skidoo MXZ850 snowmobile for the recreation enforcement division from Olson Power in North Branch.  This is funded through fees and fines and forfeiture income.

There are up to 20 sheriff reservists who will have a new Bison $6,700 UTV for mobility while providing security at events and parade patrols etc.

Sheriff Brandon Thyen explained reserve volunteers sometimes get an hourly stipend when they work events and this income goes into an account for equipment, so this is not a taxpayer expense.  The unit is being purchased from East Central Sports, North Branch.

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