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 @Crystal_Dey.
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In what might have been the shortest tax hearing in Douglas County history, commissioners passed both the levy and budget for 2013. About a dozen people, mostly department heads, attended the half-hour meeting at Public Works on the evening of December 12. The levy was passed at $24,548,839, a 0.31 percent decrease from 2012. The county's budget was approved at $44,307,217. Preliminary numbers had the levy increasing by 2.07 percent. Commissioners and department heads met prior to the budget hearing to trim costs. Budgeted revenue between 2012 and 2013 remained fairly stable.
They fought the law and the law won. A small victory was scored for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office at Tuesday's county commissioners meeting. Sheriff Troy Wolbersen was granted permission to retain one of his deputies until construction of the law enforcement center in Alexandria is completed. Debate over how much to spend on road deputies and overtime is often discussed when the sheriff's office budget is on the docket at county board meetings. County auditor/treasurer Char Rosenow presented the board with yet another set of numbers to be considered at a December 12 tax hearing.
Seven Douglas County families can resume their lives as usual without fear they are losing a source of income. Douglas County commissioners voted on whether or not to turn the license bureau service over to the state at Tuesday's meeting. In a two-to-three vote, the motion failed. "It stays as it is," said Chair Jerry Johnson. Johnson and Commissioner Norm Salto voted to relinquish the county's control of the office.
Four elected officials in Douglas County discussed salaries with commissioners for the coming year at Tuesday's board meeting. Salaries will be set at the December 27 county commissioners' meeting. Auditor/Treasurer Char Rosenow requested a 1.8 percent increase, which would raise her pay from $83,000 to $84,500. In 2011, she requested $84,000. Last year, County Attorney Chad Larson asked for nothing above what was considered for other officials.
A white Christmas scene arrived just in time to set the stage for the 64th annual Jingle Bells telethon at the Lake Geneva Christian Center on Saturday. While many folks opted to stay in and watch the program on one of three television channels or online, a full house showed up to see the acts perform live. Vocalists, dancers, musicians and magicians shared the spotlight with a common bond - to help make the holiday season a little merrier for families in need.
Three individuals were arrested in connection with a fraudulent check cashing scam spanning at least four states on December 3 in Alexandria. Alexandria police, Douglas County sheriff's deputies and Minnesota State Patrol responded to the Anytime Fitness parking lot on a suspicious activity call.
Douglas County Commissioner Dan Olson will continue to represent District 5 in 2013. Olson picked up one vote in today's recount giving him a total of 1,532. Challenger Carol Wenner's total remained the same as in November's election, 1,511. Wenner initially challenged the one ballot but withdrew her request less than 20 minutes later. Wenner submitted a written request for the recount on November 26. The Douglas County auditor/treasurer's office met at 9 a.m.
Program changes after KSAX closed its doors earlier this year had folks concerned about a silent night during the annual Jingle Bells telethon in Alexandria. But the show must and will go on thanks to community support. A collaboration with Selective TV, Gardonville Telephone Cooperative and Excellent Multimedia, Inc. has provided a platform for the talent. The broadcast will cover an approximate 60-mile radius around Alexandria. "We realize it's a loss to not have KSAX anymore," said Alexandria Jaycee Public Relations Representative Mike Schreiner.
Douglas County has mailed residents their annual truth-in-taxation notices in preparation for the upcoming budget hearing on December 12. However, commissioners and department heads met recently and revamped the figures. Notices show numbers resulting in a 2.07 percent increase in the county's levy. The new percentage is a .15 decrease. The 2012 net budget was $24,625,224. In September, commissioners were looking at $25,134,304 for 2013. County Auditor/Treasurer Char Rosenow said the county board and department heads trimmed the budget resulting in a $37,630 decrease from last year.
Three Douglas County residents were arrested on Thursday in connection with an arson incident that occurred in Lowry. Jeremy Adam Williams, 23, of Alexandria, Kyle David Kloehn, 19, of Garfield, and a 17-year-old juvenile from Alexandria face first and second degree arson charges, second degree burglary charges, felony theft and criminal damage to property charges. On October 16, the Pope County Sheriff's Office responded to a cabin fire in the area of Lake Reno and County Road 15 in Lowry. The fire was determined to have been caused by arson.