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Commissioner cautious of clutter in Douglas County

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Permit applications, donations, and bid contracts rounded out a fairly routine Douglas County board meeting on May 14. Inquiries from a first-term commissioner added a few points.


A permit application supported by the planning advisory commission for a landscaping and property management business in LaGrand Township was questioned by Commissioner Jim Stratton.

"There is no reference as to the equipment that would potentially be stored or utilized for that particular business."

Jim Stratton


Clarissa Holdings LLC out of Wayzata petitioned to allow outdoor storage, outdoor display and a sign on its property at 5533 County Road 82 Northwest. The planning advisory commission recommended approval with conditions that included screening of outside equipment storage by either a privacy fence or conifer trees. The outdoor storage area is restricted to 2,500 square feet.

Stratton was concerned the non-local company could create an eyesore in his district. He also raised questions regarding the vehicle maintenance on the grounds.

"There is no reference as to the equipment that would potentially be stored or utilized for that particular business," Stratton said. "If it's a 2-yard dump truck or a 50-yard dump truck."

Land and Resource Management Director Dave Rush said landscaping businesses typically have smaller equipment. He assured the commissioners that under the conditions listed, neither environmental or unsightly displays were allowed and would be a violation.

A motion granting the permit to Clarissa Holdings was passed in a 4-to-1 vote. Stratton voted no.

A permit was okayed unanimously for a commercial planned unit development for limited retail sales in Hudson Township. Owners Michael and Judy Fernholz currently operate a liquor store, bait and meat market on Highway 29 hear the Pope County and Douglas County border.

The permit allows separation of the business space within the building which creates a common interest community area in compliance with Douglas County ordinance. Since the zoning has not changed, certain uses are not allowed. Prohibited establishments include laundromats, dry cleaners, a gas or diesel filling station and a hotel or motel.

"Similar type businesses would be allowed that wouldn't cause additional traffic that is above what necessarily is there now," Rush said.

The retail space can house professional offices, financial institutions, health and fitness centers and a convenience or grocery store.

The Land and Resource Management office is expecting greater permitting activity due to the housing market picking up. Commissioners gave Rush the go-ahead to hire a person for a regraded office support position. This position fills a vacancy previously created when a secretary/technician was laid-off while the office was experiencing slower activity.

An adjustment was also made to the watercraft inspection staff. There will be five level-two inspectors and three level-one inspectors rather than the previously planned four of each level since the grant specifies $25,000 for level-two inspectors. More level-two inspectors increases scheduling flexibility, Rush said.

"We have an excellent pool of candidates to choose from," Rush said.


Commissioners approved a joint powers agreement contract with the Department of Corrections (DOC) that allows funding for the Institution Community Work Crew (ICWC) program. Through the program, state inmates provide labor to build housing.

"Currently we have six inmates in our detail," said Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen. The inmates are building for West Central Communities Action at the present time.

The contract agreed upon covers July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015 and is not to exceed $340,000.

Additionally, some inmates are afforded the opportunity to return to the communities they are from toward the end of their prison sentence to assimilate back into the community. Wolbersen said there are four inmates eligible for work release who have obtained employment and will be housed in the county jail until the end of their sentences.

Commissioners accepted the DOC grant for $95,000 which covers the time between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014.

The sheriff's office received a $50 general donation from Tom and Cheryl Haase and a $150 donation to D.A.R.E. from A'viands. A'viands provides food service to the Douglas County Jail. Stratton questioned whether the donation from A'viands might have some alternate attachment being there is a business relationship between the company and the jail. Sheriff Troy Wolbersen affirmed that all donations are unsolicited.

Donations were also reported for the Douglas County Public Health Department. The department's hospice program received $2,805 in April.


Douglas County and the Brandon School District have agreed to cooperate in the installation and maintenance of two school crossing signs. Wireless, solar, pushbutton blinker LED school crossing signs will be installed on Central Avenue at 4th and 5th Streets in Brandon.

The county will be responsible for labor and installation of the crossing systems. The district will pay the county for the sign systems and for any materials needed to maintain the systems in the future. Initial cost will be $4,950 per intersection.

The Public Works department will be ready for winter with a new 2013 Tandem snow plow truck. The county purchased an International 7600 SFA 6x4 from Maney International for $86,875. The truck was $106,521 less $25,000 for trade of a 1998 Ford LT9511. Additional equipment bought from Towmaster including, box, hydraulics, snow plow, wing, sander and underbody blade, cost $86,598. The total with trade and tax was $173,473.

The department awarded a contract to Swanston Equipment Co. for a 2013 pull type pneumatic tire roller to replace a 1955 Brothers roller. The new roller cost $18,703.

DeyCrystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.