Ramsey County declares disaster

Louise Oleson, Editor
The Ramsey County Commission listens to Francis Schneider of rural Minnewaukan, seated far right, at the Tuesday, Jan. 18 meeting in the Ramsey County Courthouse.

It was the very last item of the day and garnered little discussion but the Ramsey County Commission voted unanimously to declare an emergency due to the threat of spring flooding.

And that is how the meeting began, discussing the threat faced by area residents from the rising water of Devils Lake. Visitor Francis Schneider, a resident of rural Minnewaukan, read a lengthy statement in opposition to the state’s plan for increasing the capacity of the present west end outlet, armoring the Tolna Coulee and the construction of an east end outlet.

He stated that officials had missed the opportunity to adequately deal with the lake’s level several times through the years and said he believed the answer was to build an outlet from Stump Lake.

“We’re not learning from the past. We keep doing the same thing and it isn’t working,” Schneider said.

“Raising roads and dikes isn’t solving the problem. They are ‘band aid’ solutions.

“I’m asking the county commission to change the course of action so we don’t repeat this cycle. Do things smarter this time.”

In response to his statement the commissioners for the most part agreed with much of Schneider’s statement, informing him of a meeting coming soon on a Saturday with the nine counties of the basin getting together to unite their voices and then, again, appeal to our legislators for their help.

“I hear your frustration, we’re frustrated, too,” Commission President Joe Belford said.

Belford also said the flood forecast for the Lake Region is due out the 27th, that should help with the urgency of their appeal to the state to get going on a plan to get water off the lake as soon as possible.

Other business

Belford asked that the Commission Portfolio Reports be on the agenda at only the first meeting of the month, rather than both meetings.

Jerry Ratzlaff, tax director, discussed farmland valuations and maps that include the soil values.

Steve Moe, from the county’s IT and GIS department, requested permission to purchase a plotter/large format scanner. He said he’d talked with the city and they were willing to help with the cost and figured the water board would also be interested in using it. It will cost $9,450 and Moe had budgeted about $5,000 for a plotter, however, this would be more helpful for more departments as the city no longer has a large scale scanner. The commission voted to approve his request.

Kevin Fieldsend, county highway superintendent, reported that they would need to service all motor graders soon and informed the commissioners of the cost of oil and filters. That led to a discussion where the commissioners asked if it would benefit the county to look into bulk oil. Fieldsend said he would look into it and let them know what it would cost.

Two county residents were present to discuss the annexation of Dry Lake and Freshwater Townships. Mike Zeigler from Dry Lake and John McCarthy from Freshwater Township. There was no opposition to the resolution, so the commissioners voted to approve the annexation.

A committee will be assembled to go through the applications for the Emergency Management position to be vacated by Tim Heisler when he retires effective next month. Belford thought it would be good to have the committee do the interviews, as well, and to include a number of individuals on the committee who would then advise the commission on their choice of candidates. There was some discussion about who should be included on that committee and then voted to approve forming the committee.

The commissioners briefly discussed an offer from the Ramsey County Rural Utilities to purchase a building they no longer need which is located on county property. The utilities have purchased the former Kingdom Hall building and will be utilizing that as their offices.

There was no further information, yet, about Crary school other than waiting to hear on grants Rick Anderson from North Central Planning had applied for for the removal of asbestos.

The commission approved a proposed AT&T tower near Edmore on the condition that they receive a better map of its location and are assured that should it fall, it would not hit the county highway near its location.

They also approved a raffle permit for the Snowmobile Club.

The next meeting of the Ramsey County Commission will be Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 8 a.m.