County casts an eye toward redistrictingThe state’s done it, the city’s done it, and now that the county’s talking about doing it, not everyone is happy about it.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The state’s done it, the city’s done it, and now that the county’s talking about doing it, not everyone is happy about it.
“I want you to know that I don’t approve of it, and I don’t like it,” pronounced District 4 Commissioner Bob Olean at the adjourned session of the Carlton County Board on Monday.
The “it” in question is the mandatory redistricting of the county’s commissioner districts to stay in compliance with the state’s edict to keep them roughly proportionate population-wise.
Carlton County Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert informed commissioners on Monday that due to population shifts over the past 10 years, the county’s District 4 has grown by over the allowable 10 percent variance and District 3 has fallen to more than 10 percent under.
Gassert then spelled out a proposal he brought before the board for redistricting.
“The changes I am proposing would impact Districts 1, 4, and 5,” said Gassert, “shifting Progress and Corona townships from District 5 to District 1 and shifting Sawyer Township from District 4 to District 1.”
One of the possible casualties of the move would be Olean, who would have to rerun for his office this fall, though he was not originally scheduled to run until 2014. Gassert explained that if the shift into or out of a district involves more than 5 percent of the population (in this case, 354 people), the commissioner for that district must rerun for his seat, whether he was originally slated to do so that particular year or not.
Gassert said several other redistricting scenarios have been considered, including one that would require both Olean and District 4 Commissioner Marv Bodie to run for office this fall, which he said could be an even less popular plan with commissioners and constituents alike.
During the ensuing discussion, commissioners proposed various other suggestions to juggle districts according to population – including one to divide Twin Lakes Township in half – but Gassert explained that counties must keep townships intact during redistricting and they are not allowed to act according to precinct lines, as the state is allowed to do.
The board set a public hearing to seek input on the redistricting plan for 4 p.m. Monday, April 23, at the Carlton County Transportation Building on Old Highway 61 south of the Highway 210 business corridor. The new plan has to be approved by May 1.
In other business to come before the board, Walter Leu of the Northeast Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Area Transportation Partnership discussed upcoming federal transportation projects.
“Carlton County is very fortunate as far as getting its fair share of federal projects,” said Leu, stating that much of the upcoming work on Highway 210 and Interstate 35 will be in Carlton County.
Leu said the approximately $30 million I-35 upgrade will begin this summer with the southerly half of the project, which will go from Scanlon to just east of Esko. During 2013, the remainder of the project will be completed from that point north to Boundary Avenue.
Other transportation projects in Carlton County on tap for 2012 include the mill and overlay of Highway 210 from the western junction of Trunk Highway 65 to the junction of County State Aid Highway 61 as well as one bridge replacement along that roadway; a bridge replacement on Trunk Highway 45; the construction of a trail connection to County Highway 1 in the city of Carlton; and construction work along Pfeifer Road in Twin Lakes Township, including the removal of a 10-foot raised crossing.
Among 2013 transportation projects will be the construction of a trail connection along Big Lake Road on the Fond du Lac Reservation to the western edge of Cloquet; construction of a 10-foot-wide trail to connect Esko schools to a large residential area west of town; and intersection improvements at the junction of County State Aid Highway 6 and Carlton County Road 114 on Big Lake Road.
On tap for 2014 will be the mill and overlay of Highway 33 from the I-35 junction north to County State Aid Highway 7 (Big Lake Road). The project will include work on the traffic signals and turn lanes, as well as the reworking of the intersection of Highway 33 and Doddridge Avenue.
Also Monday, the board approved the appointment of Doug Juntunen and Scott Warner to the County Economic Development Authority Board.
In economic development activity, commissioners endorsed a loan in the amount of $56,250 to County Seat Theater for debt refinancing in order to allow them to hire a full-time general manager. Terms of the loan are 3 percent interest and a 20-year amortization. A $7,000 loan was approved for Thomson Township to finance the purchase of materials for an energy upgrade at the Esko Fire Department. Terms of the loan were 3 percent interest with a four-month amortization.