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County welcomes new engineer, removal of blighted building

New Carlton County Engineer JinYeene Neumann started Monday and attended her first Carlton County Board meeting Tuesday morning.

Neumann was employed at Cottonwood County in southwestern Minnesota for four years before starting at Carlton County. Before that the Hibbing native worked in Iowa. She replaces Mike Tardy, who retired last month.

"I look forward to seeing how Carlton County runs things," Neumann said. "I have been very impressed so far, the crew is very talented."

She added that Carlton County has several ambitious projects planned for 2017. While Neumann does visit the project areas, there are several employees in the engineering department who oversee the day-to-day on-site work.

"We have an estimated budget of $12 million per year, with $2.7 million coming from local tax levy and the remainder coming from local option sales tax and county state aid," Neumann said.

The transportation department employees 42 people, including administration staff, engineering, surveying and maintenance staff.

In other matters Tuesday:

• Minnesota GreenCorps member George Knutson gave the Green Schools Project overview. He said the ongoing project is going smoothly and Churchill Elementary and Esko are the only schools in Carlton County not participating in the Green Schools Project. Queen of Peace School has begun collecting organics for recycling, Knutson said.

• The Moose Lodge building will be sold to the city of Moose Lake for $100 plus extra costs for a total of just under $200 according to Carlton County Auditor Paul Gassert.

Carlton County Economic Development Director Connie Christenson reported to the board that the Moose Lodge building has been vacant since 2011 and became tax forfeit. There has been no maintenance or upkeep which caused the building to become a blight on the community. Delinquent taxes and significant rehabilitation costs have been deterrents to any interested buyers. The lodge will be demolished as part of a Neighborhood Revitalization Program in early summer, according to Christenson, who explained that blighted property such as the former Moose Lodge lowers the property values of surrounding properties. The zero percent loan provides an incentive to the community and helped defray initial costs. Program eligible activities require that once the property is cleared it must be used for either an economic development or housing project. Simple removal of the blighted property and leaving for green space is not an eligible activity. The project has strong support from both the County EDA and Carlton County Board of Commissioners.