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Hubbard County approves 4 percent increase for preliminary 2018 levy

The Hubbard County Board approved a preliminary payable 2018 levy of $14,450,000 at their Sept. 18 meeting.

That's a $550,000 increase over the 2017 final levy of $13,900,000

County department budget requests totaled $14,568,082, or a 4.8 percent increase compared to last year.

"That's the dream list," said County Commissioner Char Christenson.

"I think we can do better than that, but I know as we've talked about before, we're watching some of those other funds — roads and bridges and social services — to see where they're going to end up. Right now, both of those funds are looking good," said Hubbard County Auditor/Treasurer Kay Rave. "Revenue is tough to look at, as far as budget to actual, right now because we have a lot of things that really distort our budget. For example, our insurances are paid in January, so you can't just say we should be at 68 percent of the year right now when we're not because we've paid things up front."

Social services revenue is down, but so are expenses, Rave explained. Roads and bridges are short on revenue and over on expenses. "That's understandable with the projects they have right now," she said.

"A lot of counties around us set at around 5 percent," said Board Chair Vern Massie. "City of Detroit Lakes was 6.2."

"I think I am hopeful that we can get down to closer to 3 percent on the final levy. I think it's very doable," Rave said.

"That's our goal, but we have to be careful we won't set a preliminary levy too low because we won't know all the details until December," agreed County Commissioner Cal Johannsen.

Rave said a 4 percent increase is a $14,450,000 preliminary levy.

"I like that better," Johannsen said. "It's more than we want, but I think we can get it down."

Rave recommended a conservative preliminary levy while the county watched the next two months of expenses and revenues.

"Don't panic when you see the headline," Massie said.

The 2018 preliminary Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA) levy was set at $230,000, the same as last year.

OHV, ATV enforcement

The board accepted an Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Safety Enforcement Grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The two-year grant provides $8,028 in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, or a total of $16,056.

"This basically pays for additional enforcement hours or equipment for ATV enforcement on the trails around here," said County Sheriff Corey Aukes.

"This time of year really brings out the ATVs," noted Johannsen.

"The cooler weather, they really like that. Akeley is a really popular area with the Stompin' Grounds and all the trails there," Aukes said. "It's just a matter of being at the right place at the right time, catching them."

Cyber attack prevention

County commissioners approved a technology committee recommendation to include data backup upgrades in their 2018 budget.

Last month, a cyber attack on Becker County took down its website, disabled its printers and slowly corrupted its entire IT network. The hackers demanded a ransom, but the county didn't have to pay to save its files because it had secure, uncontaminated backup data, according to a Detroit Lakes Tribune article.

Flooding at Heritage

Johannsen reported that a recent torrential rain caused flooding in the county-owned nursing home.

"Staff worked really well and got it cleaned up," he said.

The flooding was caused by the presence of the old building and the new one that is being finished. The rainfall was about three inches in an hour.

"The water came up on the building. It was high, just running into the floors. The carpet got wet," Johannsen said. "I don't think the water is in there long enough where it hurt the sheetrock any. The sheetrock felt good. But the retention pond is not in yet to hold the water. It was another near-disaster."

Commissioners inquired about the completion date for the $14.2 million replacement and restoration project, but Johannsen did not know when that might be.

In other business, the county board did the following:

• Approved timber parcels to be included in the timber auction scheduled for Oct. 9, as recommended by Land Commissioner Chip Lohmeier.

• Approved low quote of $65,877 for a Bobcat T650 tracked skid-loader with attachments (grapple bucket and grader) from Bobcat of Bemidji. The county will trade in its 2006 T250 skid loader for $26,000, resulting in a total payment of $39,877. Monies from the tax-forfeited fund will cover the expense.

• Approved the low quote of $7,375 for a 20' drop deck loader trailer from Mills Detail and Trailer Sales, Park Rapids. Payment will again come from tax-forfeited monies.

• Approved a Hubbard County Burial Assistance policy. A new Minnesota Statute requires counties to provide for the immediate burial or direct cremation for county residents who are unable to pay the cost. Hubbard County Social Services' burial assistance program has a maximum assistance level of $2,000.

• Accepted resignation of Veronica Andress, an administrative assistant for Hubbard County Environmental Services, effective Nov. 1, and authorized approved re-filling the position.

• Met Mike Juneau, new transit coordinator for Hubbard County Social Services. He began his duties on Aug. 21.

• Approved filling new assistant county assessor position that was budgeted for 2017. The job opening will be an internal posting only.

• Closed the meeting for a performance evaluation of Solid Waste Administrator Jed Nordin.

The next meeting is 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4 at the Hubbard County Government Center.