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County Board will begin trial broadcasts of meetings on local cable access channel

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WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County Board meetings will be televised on the local cable access channel starting in April.

On a unanimous vote Tuesday the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners agreed to broadcast the meetings on a trial basis, with a review of the venture to take place at the end of the year. The motion initially included a good-natured request from Commissioner Richard Larson that the county hire a makeup person.

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Each meeting will be recorded at the Health and Human Services building and broadcast on a delayed basis at least five times on WRAC 8.

Rudy Vigil, from WRAC 8, said in an interview that the exact broadcast times haven't been decided yet, but said the meetings will be aired Tuesday evening and twice on Wednesday and Thursday during the week the meetings are held. Depending on the local broadcast schedule, the meetings may also be played on weekends.

When the board discussed the proposal last month, they were told it would cost about $25,000 to replace four existing cameras in the board room. On Tuesday, the commissioners were told the current equipment works well enough and no expenses would have to be incurred.

County Administrator Wayne Thompson said that if the meetings continue to be recorded and broadcast beyond the trial period, equipment would eventually have to be replaced.

Before casting their votes, the commissioners said they had few, if any, phone calls about broadcasting the meetings. In comments they solicited from constituents, the commissioners said most people were not in favor of televising meetings if it meant spending $25,000 for new equipment.

Commissioner Dennis Peterson of Spicer said one constituent said he hoped televising the meetings wouldn't change the "constituent friendly" style of the meetings.

Commissioner Richard Falk of Willmar said he had "zero calls" from his district. He questioned how many people actually watch the broadcasts of the Willmar City Council and Willmar School District meetings, which are also televised on WRAC 8. He said he was told by a member of the Willmar City Council that senior citizens make up a large percentage of the television audience for the City Council meetings.

In other business Tuesday, an Atwater man may be given another chance to keep a conditional use permit that has allowed him to operate a summer outdoor motorcycle rally and musical festival in a gravel pit since 2003.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Gary Geer had recommended that the permit for Rick Kragenbring be revoked because of past violations, including failing to pay the Sheriff's Department for $2,610 in security charges for the 2005 "Rumble to Revys" event. Because Kragenbring no longer has a liquor license, there was also an issue of serving alcohol at the event.

Kragenbring admitted he's made some mistakes in the past but argued that he's been "targeted" by people who have complained about the event. He said he spent "hundreds" of hours cleaning up the gravel pit, which he called an "eyesore." He promised to pay the sheriff's bill and comply with any new conditions the board chose to place on the permit.

The commissioners tabled the issue until April 4 to allow Kragenbring time to work out issues with Geer and the Sheriff's Department.

In other action the commissioners:

- Approved a grant agreement with the state for construction of a new maintenance facility to replace a building on the Willmar Regional Treatment Center campus that was sold to MinnWest Technology. The state is providing the county with a $900,000 grant to build a 60-by-180-foot concrete maintenance building near the jail.

Coincidentally, that's roughly the same amount of money that MinnWest paid the state to purchase a majority of the buildings and land on the campus.

The county needs the building, in part, to store equipment used to maintain the WRTC buildings and property that the county purchased from the state for $1. The state is leasing five of those buildings from the county for programs.

- Approved the specifications and plans for a wastewater collection system around Lake Florida. Bids will be opened April 18. A public hearing is scheduled for May 6.

- Agreed to hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss whether to proceed with a proposal to build a new vehicle storage facility for the Public Works Department. The project, which includes significant site improvement, is estimated at $2.7 million.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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