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home : 2022 election coverage : 2022 election coverage
August 19, 2022

8/2/2022 9:49:00 AM
Chisago County Commissioner District #1 Q&A
The new Chisago County Commissioner District Map.
The new Chisago County Commissioner District Map.

Rick Cedergren
1. True or false. Chisago County would be most ideal, in your mind, if it retained its city spaces within the areas currently existing. Annexations of large tracts of township property should only be done in conjunction with comprehensive planning that involves the county?

Both. Personally, I appreciate the role that townships play within the county, the services they provide to residents, and the open tracts of countryside that make Chisago County feel further from the metro than we truly are. At the same time, I do not believe it is inherently bad that our cities grow beyond current borders. There are many factors which may contribute to jurisdictional ideals over time: population growth, changing demographics, resource and service availability can all impact the possibility of annexation initiated by either township residents or adjacent cities. Any annexation is a significant change and should be carried out with extensive planning, input from all stakeholders (city, township, county, other adjacent/impacted entities, etc), and in accordance with all relevant statutes to ensure the best possible outcome for the affected parties.

2. What is the priority area where you feel the county is falling short on an important service? How do you propose to correct that?
I would be remiss to call out any department or service as underperforming. I have been spending time meeting department leadership to better understand functions and services provided by the county, and I come away from each meeting with a real sense of gratitude that Chisago County has such a dedicated and passionate workforce. Of course, there is always more work to be done, improvement opportunities, and budget limitations that force some priorities further down the project list. As commissioner, I would strive to ensure that county services are prioritized to provide the greatest impact to the greatest number of residents as is possible.

3. Are you supportive of the broadband enhancement efforts being coordinated and promoted now by county government? Why? If you think Internet should be left to the profit-making marketplace, explain.
I whole-heartedly support the ongoing broadband initiative; research indicates significant returns on broadband investment in rural areas. The coordinated effort by the county to bring access to all residents affords greater potential for online education and remote employment, rising property values, job and population growth, and opportunities for new business creation throughout the county. The work by the county on behalf of residents to allocate federal relief dollars and coordinate grant applications, thereby reducing the financial burden of the infrastructure investment to the taxpayer, is commendable and indicates the proactive mentality necessary to position Chisago County for the future.

4. Local option sales tax, wheelage tax, auto parts revenues, charges for auto repair services are all going into roads and bridges and funding never seems to be sufficient. Is there anything new (or a shift in budget), you’d propose to boost road funding?
Every answer to this question is likely going to upset somebody, because transportation infrastructure simply requires regular, costly maintenance and rebuilding. While recent federal bills have injected funds to support these causes, the general trend over several decades is a reduction in federal spending for local transportation projects. The result is that one way or another, taxpayers are left to foot an increasing percentage of the bill. There are several articles and studies easily found online that highlight creative methods to finance transportation projects (e.g. special ownership tax, rural improvement districts, severance tax, increased fees for traffic violations, public private partnerships), all of which are worth exploring but, in the end, most are still taxes of one kind or another. Key factors in evaluating such fees include user equity (frequent/heavy users pay more), inflation sensitivity, and minimizing administration costs for collection. In the end, I would be open to exploring such options for feasibility, ease of implementation, and revenue reliability. A budget shift proposal can be a dangerous proposition. I have no interest in shortchanging other departments and consequently impacting the services provided to residents without first identifying operational inefficiencies that would free up funds to reallocate.

Tim MacMillan
1. True or false. Chisago County would be most ideal, in your mind, if it retained its city spaces within the areas currently existing. Annexations of large tracts of township property should only be done in conjunction with comprehensive planning that involves the county?
True.  Property annexation is fairly common this day and age, but the annexation should have sound rationale for why it is being annexed.  Local government or a County Board should have transparent processes in place by offering up a protest petition before the property is even considered to be annexed so land owners  have a voice and with proper planning so those that may be annexed have a choice to sell or stay with out a financial loss on their investment.   Annexations of large tracts of township property should only be done in conjunction with comprehensive planning that involves the county.

2. What is the priority area where you feel the county is falling short on an important service? How do you propose to correct that?
I feel the county is missing out on having a strategic alignment on the county department structure and goals of strategic planning around county redesign, which in turn can save tax dollars and increase customer service.  I would propose we study the best way to consolidate departments and create divisions and division leaders in a way in which we can streamline to be more efficient.

3. Are you supportive of the broadband enhancement efforts being coordinated and promoted now by county government? Why? If you think Internet should be left to the profit-making marketplace, explain.
I think it is important to build or expand on the process of broadband, it should not be a sole project of any state, county, or city to provide this, but it can be a collaboration of municipalities and businesses to help deliver this technology to all.

4. Local option sales tax, wheelage tax, auto parts revenues, charges for auto repair services are all going into roads and bridges and funding never seems to be sufficient. Is there anything new (or a shift in budget), you’d propose to boost road funding?
Great question and difficult answer.   I would work with our County Highway Engineer, fellow County Board members, and the state legislature on  how and what types of any new funding  legislation can be implemented so we can address the lack of funding towards are roads and bridges.  If we as a county can reduce our dependence on bonding, then this could save potential tax dollars and maybe create new revenue streams toward this issue.  If we know what our funding problem is or lack of funding, then we just need to roll up our sleeves and get to work on planning or having a coordinated effort to address the issue and if that means lobbying at the State Legislature or Federal level then I am prepared to do that.   Small auto repair shops should not be the ones having to bear this type of tax or extra cost.

Jim Swenson
True or false. Chisago County would be most ideal, in your mind, if it retained its city spaces within the areas currently existing. Annexations of large tracts of township property should only be done in conjunction with comprehensive planning that involves the county?
I believe this question is meant to reflect the recent pending annexation of Lent township by the City of Stacy. By MN law, a city may annex a township by the majority vote of a township board. However, it is very disturbing to me that a vote was taken by the township board to annex without FIRST holding a public hearing whereby full notice to all of the affected residents would have needed to be made. My general thoughts on annexation are that it is not a county issue. The county should be used as a resource to facilitate conversation, but should not be involved as a policy holder/maker to stop or promote cities and townships from annexing. The cities and townships are their own independent entities and have every right to decide for themselves what is best for them without the county creating a “plan” for them.
 
What is the priority area where you feel the county is falling short on an important service? How do you propose to correct that?
Our county needs a new approach when prioritizing how it is dealing with the mounting mental health crises affecting our residents. Health and Human Services, county law enforcement, and the county attorney’s office should work collaboratively with each LOCAL law enforcement unit around the county to individualize the needs of each individual affected. More needs to be done to help these individuals. Additionally, during the county’s budgeting process, the discussion needs to take place as to whether we have enough mental health services available and whether we are allocating enough funds to these mental health services.

Are you supportive of the broadband enhancement efforts being coordinated and promoted now by county government? Why? If you think Internet should be left to the profit-making marketplace, explain.
I would like the county to follow the hybrid model that North Branch has created. I led the efforts to bring point-to-point wireless internet access to every home and business in North Branch in spring 2021. When private companies did not want to lay “expensive” fiber in rural areas or sparsely populated areas of our city, North Branch worked with Genesis Wireless to put up three towers at the city’s expense. We used COVID funds for public safety which freed up our resources to pay for the towers-- “Rob Peter to pay Paul”. To have our  entire 36 square mile city internet-accessible cost only $487,000.  To contrast the expense of fiber, a local township of about 25 houses received a grant and installed fiber at a cost of $5,000/house. Our North Branch model cost 1/10 that amount per house! Additionally, fiber is not a viable option in rocky areas; private companies will never run fiber in rural areas where houses are great distances a part as this is too cost prohibitive for them. The most cost-effective way to get 21st century technology infrastructure to ALL of Chisago County’s residents and business owners in a timely manner is the North Branch model. Fiber can come later when the federal government wants to pony up the funds!
 
Local option sales tax, wheelage tax, auto parts revenues, charges for auto repair services are all going into roads and bridges and funding never seems to be sufficient. Is there anything new (or a shift in budget), you’d propose to boost road funding?
I have six years’ worth of vast experiences in budgeting and finance as North Branch mayor and councilor. North Branch has done an excellent job of maximizing dollars in all departments so as to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money. I look forward to bringing that same sense of fiscal efficiency and conservatism to the County Board and collaborating on the county’s budget and taxation processes.  I want to start a dialogue to determine the essential services of the county, then  prioritize  those services, and  “right size” those services to match the needs of our county. The budget allocated for each department’s services should be the amount needed to efficiently and cost effectively provide those services.  At this time, I am not privy to the various departments’ needs and budgets so I cannot and will not propose any new tax increases or shifts. That would be improper and ignorant of me to do so.






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