May 13, 2010 at 9:03 a.m.

County inspectors ok on state jobs and county board gets update on foreclosures

County inspectors ok on state jobs and county board gets update on foreclosures
County inspectors ok on state jobs and county board gets update on foreclosures

The County Board last week authorized the zoning department to enter into an agreement to provide building inspection services on state licensed facilities and public sector projects. County inspectors, Jim Schneider and Lou Malchow, put a lot of extra effort and time into applying to the state to administer locally the state code enforcement. They were commended by the county commissioners for taking this idea and running with it.

Schneider said the county can now inspect projects done at state parks, Rush City Prison, etc.

Having this Municipal Delegation Agreement may also result in extra inspection revenues for the county, which commissioners were all for.

The County Board meeting also contained updates and 2009 year-end reports from outside agencies the county contracts with.

Foreclosure update

The East Central Regional Development Commission sent some representatives. Staff reported that Chisago County has a 2.1 percent foreclosure rate. This is fairly high as a percentage of all the county's residential parcels that are in foreclosure, but there are other counties with much worse numbers.

(The numbers are from county sheriff's sales and the people who put the state foreclosure report together caution there could be commercial parcels included and there could be some parcels foreclosed on that don't end up in sheriff sales.)

In 2009 Chisago County officially racked-up 365 foreclosures. In 2008 there were 370 homes foreclosed on in this county.

For comparisons in 2008 Isanti County had 459, Sherburne 782 and Scott 952.

The Chisago County foreclosure rate was .62 five years ago, and now exceeds 2 percent.

The East Central Regional Development Commission works on the foreclosure epidemic with the Minnesota Home Ownership Council (which is responsible for the statistics in this story), and there's also efforts through a regional foreclosure prevention group. See www.hocm.org.

The Pine Technical College Employment & Training Center also had time on the agenda. The center supports three remote sites, one is in North Branch, in the Gateway South complex, just east of AmericInn and Perkins.

The center also has a part time Social Security advocate who can walk applicants through the Social Security benefits process. The center facilitated 16 Social Security awards last year.

Call the center at 651-328-6240. The employment program general website is at www.pinetech.edu.

Health and Human Services Director Mary Sheehan attempted an update for the county commissioners on the legislature's activities, and how social services and public health budgets, but she added-- "The whole thing is really up in the air." She wouldn't be surprised if there's a special session required.

Also; an eight-county consortium, headed-up by Hennepin County, is securing a transportation firm for "non-emergency" transport of clientele in HHS programs.

Sheehan said the existing transit contract expires June 30. She expects to know which vendor has been chosen by the counties shortly.

In public comment: two citizens addressed the County Board about the LS Electric Station development agreement. One asked for another commissioners' vote, this time rejecting the agreement.

Another person asked the Board to sanction a "committee" which he said neighbors want it to be given the responsibility for neighborhood enhancement fund monies; that LS Power would contribute under the electric station development agreement. John Werner asked that the committee be recognized by the County Board and officially appointed to oversee any dispersement of the fund.

Later in the Board meeting it was the consensus of commissioners to not act on a neighborhood enhancement fund committee now, because it is "premature." The status of the power plant project is far from certain as it enters state permitting phases, commissioners noted.

There's also a group of citizens interested in filing a lawsuit to have the court throw out the power plant development agreement.

Activists opposed to the LS Power electric station project met to discuss the legal effort last week. See www.stopsunriseplant.com.

One basis for their potential lawsuit could be that the state needed to be involved in the permit process before the county and township could relinquish their local zoning controls. The township and county repeatedly declared that the power plant as a utility is sited under state law, and it was their claim all local land use zoning restrictions were pre-empted.

The group might also legally pursue the argument the power plant project will result in devaluation of nearby parcels.

No suit has been filed yet.

The closed session at the end of the County Board meeting allowed commissioners to meet confidentially with Paul Reuvers, a lawyer representing taxpayers in a property lawsuit.

The County Board told the lawyer it was okay to make one more offer to settle the matter before a trial scheduled to begin June 7, according to the County Attorney who also attended the closed session. The litigants are Frank Dusenka and Marcus Clay, and the property involved is near the Lent Township-Chisago City border.


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