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Kaniyohi Co., Minn., Board to apply for grant for larger inspection program for invasive species

WILLMAR — Kandiyohi County will be applying for a grant to help combat the spread of aquatic invasive species in and around the Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District.

The County Board voted Tuesday to move ahead with applying for a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources grant for an $18,500 watercraft inspection and public education program. If the grant is received, the county will sign an agreement with the watershed district to hire employees to work 980 hours over 15 weeks to inspect watercraft leaving lakes in the area.

A primary goal of the program is to limit the spread of zebra mussels in the area.

The board had been presented with two options. The other would have provided 480 hours of inspection time. The larger program approved by the board Tuesday pending the grant approval would use $11,000 in county funding from a $15,000 budget in the county’s water planning fund.

Some commissioners said they preferred the smaller program, which would use $6,000 in county funding and leave more available for other uses.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl said another concern was the DNR’s requirement that the county assume liability for the inspection program.

Chad Anderson of the watershed district said the district has run inspection programs for the past two years and will still have some sort of inspection program if the grant is not approved. The grant would allow the program to expand and operate more efficiently, he said.

Commissioner Dean Shuck said he preferred the smaller program. “There will be other requests,” he said.

For Board Chairman Harlan Madsen, the liability issue was a concern. While he said he would support applying for the larger program, he said, “that is still a red flag for me; the money is secondary.”

But Commissioner Doug Reese said he felt the issue was too important to fund only 480 hours of inspection, which would make it “impossible” to cover the county’s lakes.

Even the larger program won’t cover the county adequately, Madsen said.

Commissioners Roger Imdieke and Jim Butterfield asked if the county would still have to fund the program if the DNR grant is denied. Kleindl said the two were tied together.

Butterfield said he would support the grant application with the understanding that the county was not obligated to the program if the grant money isn’t available.

The vote on the grant application was 4-to-1, with Shuck voting against it.

The board also conducted its reorganizational meeting after recently elected commissioners Madsen, Imdieke and Reese were sworn in. Imdieke and Reese are new to the board.

Madsen was elected chairman of the board, and Commissioner Jim Butterfield was elected vice chairman.

The commissioners spent an hour discussing and assigning positions on the various committees on which members of the County Board serve. Some slots were vacant because of the retirement of former commissioners Dennis Peterson and Richard Larson. Other slots were vacant because of term limits or because commissioners wanted to switch to other committees.

The commissioners chose the West Central Tribune as the county’s official newspaper for publishing legal notices and county financial statements. The Raymond-Prinsburg News was chosen as the secondary newspaper, which also publishes county financial statements.

In other business, the commissioners:

- Reviewed the ditch repair liens for 2013. Commissioners decided that a ditch lien of less than $100 will be included on landowners’ property tax bills and not billed separately.

- Adopted a resolution asking legislators to allow the county to consider appointing the county’s recorder and auditor/treasurer. They are now elected positions. If the Legislature passes a bill giving the county the authority to appoint county officials, the change would have to be approved by four of the five commissioners, and voters could petition to put it up to a countywide vote.

- Approved agreements to have the County Attorney’s office conduct prosecutions of misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors for the cities of Spicer, New London and Raymond. Willmar and Atwater handle their own prosecutions.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340