Pipeline still in the forefront of county residents' mindsA handful of county residents was on hand at Tuesday’s meeting of the Carlton County Board seeking clarification of the county’s current stance regarding the proposed Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline route.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
A handful of county residents was on hand at Tuesday’s meeting of the Carlton County Board seeking clarification of the county’s current stance regarding the proposed Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline route.
Steve Schulstrom of Mahtowa Township asked if the county plans to proceed with a letter of recommendation submitted at last week’s Committee of the Whole by Wrenshall landowner Janaki Fisher-Merritt on behalf of the Carlton County Land Stewards. The document was drawn up by Fisher-Merritt as a suggested form letter for involved stake holders to submit to Enbridge stating their opposition to routing the pipeline along a new corridor that would at least partially intrude on the property of private landowners and causing “unacceptable disturbance” to farms, forests and wetlands.
Carlton County Land Commissioner Greg Bernu explained that no firm route through Carlton County has yet been formalized by Enbridge for the segment of the pipeline leading east from I-35 to Superior, Wis. He said Enbridge has indicated an intention to meet with various stakeholders regarding the project in coming weeks and he recommended the county hold off on sending a letter of recommendation until Enbridge comes up with an actual route proposal. He said consideration of Fisher-Merritt’s letter will be made at that time.
Sandy Sterle, a landowner in Blackhoof Township, asked if the county would consider helping to inform landowners of their rights when it comes to dealing with public utility companies and what sort of minimum contract they should consider.
“We need to protect ourselves as a county the best that we can,” said Sterle.
Bernu said that private land owners would be well advised to go through their own attorneys for advice on their individual situations. He added that state statute requires that a utility company must provide $500 per mile to help fund the cost of a right-of-way agent to serve as a county spokesperson in the pipeline discussions. Bernu stated that person should be well-versed in soils and farming to assure that certain environmental standards are followed. He recommended Caleb Anderson, agricultural soils specialist with the University of Minnesota-Carlton County Extension Office.
Carlton County Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert clarified that whatever person is hired for that position will be acting on behalf of the county and not the specific issues of the Land Stewards or other special interest groups.
The board agreed to consider the recommendation.
In other business, Commissioners voted to extend the services of Long-Term Recovery Director Drew Digby and Moose Lake Flood Relief Coordinator Tom Paull.
Dave Lee, director of Carlton County Health and Human Services, asked the Board for permission to utilize the $30,000 remaining in the Minnesota Department of Public Health flood relief grant for the purpose of continuing to work with the families who still have unmet needs related to the flood. He went on to explain that $15,000 of the grant money will be used to extend Digby’s contract, which expires at the end of this year, and $15,000 will be used to enlist the services of Tom Paul, whose contract with the city of Moose Lake expired Oct. 1.
Commissioner Gary Peterson expressed the hope that the flood relief effort will be wrapped up in the very near future. Digby said he will present a plan for the wind-down and the subsequent Resiliency Outreach Planning Proposal at the next meeting of the Board, to coincide with the Oct. 16 deadline for the conclusion of the regional flood effort.
Lee pointed out that some 15 Carlton County families remain in case management for flood-related issues, and he also indicated the desire for continuing support in the area of mental/behavioral health until the Resiliency Outreach Planning Proposal is fully under way.
In another flood-related matter, the board approved a request to waive the $200 fee for a sewer permit for Patricia Jeffers, whose Moose Lake home was a complete loss following the flood. Jeffers is currently in the Quick Start program and is being assisted by Lutheran Social Services with a total rebuild of her home. The board recently waived the same fee for another flood survivor under the same circumstances.
Three current members of the Solid Waste and Recycling Advisory Committee were reappointed, including Del Prevost (District 1), Jack Ezell (District 4) and Randy Crestik (Business). In addition, two new members were appointed, including Merrill Loy (At Large) and Maggie Schulstrom (Student).
Commissioners agreed to grant a 100-foot easement to Great River Energy along the west side of Highway 73 in Red Clover Township for increasing the capacity of that line.
Sheriff Kelly Lake announced the upcoming retirement of Jail Administrator Deb Zauhar, who has served the county for more than 30 years, and requested permission to fill that position. The board agreed to the request.
Economic Development Director Connie Christenson told the board that the deadline is approaching to utilize the $1.7 million in loan money from the Minnesota Investment Fund. She said all loan applications must be submitted by Nov. 1 and work on the projects must be completed by Dec. 31. Christenson said the county has thus far processed eight such loans, and she proposed three more applications to the board at Tuesday’s meeting. The board subsequently approved the following loan applications: $57,000 to Wyndtree Lakeside Traders for floor and inventory replacement for materials and supplies lost in the flood; $25,000 to Park Lake Resort reimbursement for flood repairs and future building repairs; and $95,100 to North Country Lawncare, Landscaping and Lake Services for gravel work and door replacement.
Finally, a liquor license was approved for Joseph Jirovek, new owner of Gamper’s in Moose Lake.