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COUNTY BOARD: Severe-weather costs continue to mount for county

So far, Carlton County Engineer Mike Tardy estimates, the flooding on July 11-12 and the storm on July 21 have cost the county about $150,000.

“That’s as of about a week ago, and it’s a combination of roads and culverts that washed out in the flooding and trees that blew down across the roads from the winds a couple weeks later,” Tardy said.

The lion’s share of the expenses come from the flood repairs, with about $10,000 to $15,000 in costs associated with the high winds and severe storms two weeks ago.

“Those numbers will only increase as we do more permanent repairs,” Tardy said.

County Assessor Kyle Holmes presented the Carlton County Board of Commissioners with more storm numbers during Tuesday morning’s meeting in Cloquet.

Of the 33 properties he and his staff inspected following the flooding, only 12 sustained the level of damage to qualify for some abatement of their taxes, if the board chose to do so. The state will not help property owners because the threshold to qualify wasn’t met, he said. All together, the damages on the 12 properties amounted to an estimated $222,300. Damage assessments varied, with four properties coming in at 10 percent damage, while one, on County Road 12, was estimated at 60 percent damage (or $51,700) and another — which Holmes said “was being used as a shack” — came in at 95 percent, but only $21,400 worth of damage which is almost what the residential but non-homestead property was valued at.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve abatement of taxes for payment in 2016 on the 12 properties, in the amount of $3,444 total.

Commissioners also heard from Green Corps member Emily Kolodge, who will finish up her one-year stint with the county next week. Kolodge reported she worked with eight schools in the county to implement recycling programs and ultimately divert 3.2 tons of waste from the landfill. Each school also had to create an educational component to go with its new recycling program, and a recycling policy, which details what is and isn’t recyclable and where each item is collected.

“None of this would have been possible without each school’s Green Team,” she said, thanking the board for the opportunity.

“I thought I knew everything about recycling, and I learned way more,” she said with a chuckle. “And the schools learned that with proper infrastructure and education, students can easily pick up sustainable behaviors that will stick with them for life.”

Kolodge said several schools are eager to start an organics recycling program, for food waste.

Although Kolodge is wrapping up her Green Corps stint, Carlton County Zoning and Environmental Services Administrator Heather Cunningham said the county has been awarded another Green Corps member by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Commissioners approved the new position, which will begin in September.

In other matters Tuesday, the board also voted to opt out of the state’s “Granny Pod statute,” which allowed for temporary family health care dwellings to be placed on properties but bypassing many of the existing local zoning laws.

The intent of the law is to allow temporary placement of a structure less than 300 gross square feet on a property to allow a caregiver to provide assistance for someone with physical or mental disabilities.

Cunningham advised the board to opt out, noting that anyone applying for such a permit would have to prove to the Zoning department that they needed assistance for mental or physical problems, which falls outside of their usual expertise and would cause privacy issues. As well, the size of most septic systems are based on the number of bedrooms, she said, so adding a bedroom could negatively impact said septic system.

In addition, she noted, of 43 counties surveyed, 11 had already opted out and another 13 were opting out before Sept. 1. The city of Cloquet also opted out of the legislation recently.

Joyce Schmitz was also honored Tuesday for 40 years of employment with the Carlton County Public Health and Human Services Department.

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