January 18, 2024 at 2:46 p.m.
CASS LAKE — The Cass County Board and the Leech Lake Tribal Council met for their annual joint meeting Wednesday, Jan. 17 at Cedar Lakes Event Center in Cass Lake, with several department heads from both the county and band giving annual updates.
County Administrator Josh Stevenson mentioned there has been a Memorandum of Understanding between Cass County and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO) for almost 10 years. The purpose of the memorandum is to provide a framework for cooperation, with all departments stating the understanding has been working well.
County Attorney Ben Lindstrom, Probation Director Jim Schneider and Tribal Court Judge Rebecca J. McConkey-Greene presented an update for the Judiciary and Legal departments. The two departments plan on continuing to work on a number of juvenile programs along with the continued development of a Civil Commitment Code and Services. Lindstrom mentioned the Justice center has not been used since 2021 due to most court hearings being conducted via Zoom, but will continue to cooperate on new opportunities to utilize the center.
In a roads and trails update, LLBO Roads Director Eric Devault and Cass County Engineer Darrick Anderson both spoke on the status of joint projects. Anderson noted there are numerous upcoming joint construction projects for 2025 along with improvements on the Bena Trail on US 2. The LLBO and County are also continuing their partnership to develop a noxious weed control program within the reservation on county highways.
Tribal Police Chief Ken Washington and Sheriff Bryan Welk were both at the meeting stating that the departments have been working well together and they have begun including Records and Dispatch in these meetings. An update on the E911 house number replacement was given by stating it is almost complete with only two areas remaining, Cass Lake and Onigum. Sheriff Welk mentioned they are now offering joint trainings, therefore if an officer or deputy is absent when offered through their department, they can join the other departments training day to avoid having to offer it again.
Topics discussed concerning the human services and public health update included information regarding building relationships while increasing coordination between the Crisis Response teams. Currently Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Behavioral Health has a 24 hour crisis line and mentioned there is a need for volunteers to help answer those calls. Health Human Veteran Services Director Brian Buhmann spoke briefly about the opioid crisis and stated with the newly hired Public Health Planner the department would like to collaborate on prevention and support initiatives.
Discussion concerning environment and land management was next on the agenda, with Environmental Service Director Jeff Woodford sharing that Aquatic Invasive Species infestations are trending downward with a lack of new infestations. Woodford would also like to co-host a basic aquatic identification workshop, with the last one held in 2022, this is something he would like to conduct every-other year.
County Administrator Josh Stevenson wrapped up the meeting by informing the boards there is continued efforts to keep locally generated funds in the community to be used on projects that benefit everyone. Another goal for 2024 Stevenson mentioned is to update the State Health Improvement Program priorities to include opioid prevention and support for impacted individuals and families.
Final words were given by all Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Council Members and County Commissioners, with the majority of them stating they are appreciative of the collaboration. Stevenson also invited the Council members to the public meeting being held Feb. 20 regarding the ATV ordinance since that ordinance affects everyone in the county and on the reservation.
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