March 15, 2024 at 8:39 a.m.
Cass County Board:

Commissioners seek more data in workforce housing request



By By Kyndra Johnson of the Press-Citizen | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

      BACKUS—Cass County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Executive Director Mike Paulus came before the board on Tuesday, Mar. 5 with a request from Central Minnesota Housing Partnership, Inc. for a 20 year tax abatement concerning the Hackensack Workforce Housing project.

   Paulus stated the request came before the Cass County EDC Board whom unanimously voted to forward the requested application to the Cass County Board of Commissioners. It was noted Cass County EDC has done one tax abatement in the past which was for a total of only five years and that the EDC Board would normally screen out this application due to the requested length of time on the abatement. 

   Central Minnesota Housing Partnership, Inc. Executive Director Deanna Hemmesch was on hand to answer questions and to inform the board that with this project the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Workforce Housing Development Program requires a local match, which was explained as for every one dollar the project would receive two dollars in Workforce Housing funding. By giving a tax abatement, this will qualify as a local match and will reduce the remaining amount of local match needed.

   In the application presented a total tax abatement of $720,000 was requested with $240,000 being from the county and $480,000 from the City of Hackensack. Hemmesch stated currently the project needs a total of $1.6 million in community support in order to be considered for funding. 

   Board Chair Neal Gaalswyk stated he felt a 20 year tax abatement was too long of a commitment and maybe the county could do a tax abatement of a specific dollar amount instead. It was also noted that the budget for the project did not balance within the application, therefore the board was unsure what the total cost would be for the project. In order for the board to make an educated decision they requested Central Minnesota Housing Partnership, Inc. revise their application with accurate and complete figures for the project and resubmit their request.

   Jody Derks, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Assistant Area Manager Walker Area Fisheries, joined the meeting via Zoom to answer Commissioner Jeff Peterson’s questions regarding the request that was tabled during the Feb. 20 meeting. The request was to allow the MN DNR to utilize an unnamed pond in Woodrow Township for raising fingerling walleyes. Peterson’s question was what the MN DNR’s plans were for the pond after they remove their fingerlings. He mentioned in the past when the MN DNR has been allowed to use a pond, they leave the pond barren.

   Derks, stated the MN DNRs practice is to first study the pond to see if there are competing species of fish and if walleyes can survive in it. If nothing is found, then they would stock the ponds at the end of May and allow them to grow until late September. Also, the MN DNR typically picks ponds that would not allow the survival of walleye over the winter. 

   Peterson’s main concern was the southern pond in question is currently  being used by bait dealers. Derks said the MN DNRs practice is to not use ponds that are active bait ponds. Therefore, it was requested if the MN DNR could do a study on the northern pond to see if it was a viable use. The board took no action on the request until the MN DNR could access the ponds and see if either one was actively being used as bait ponds and report back with an updated request. 

   In other business, the county board: 

   • Recognized Amy St. Clair for one year of service as Cass County Agency Social Worker.

   • Approved a letter of support to Congressman Pete Stauber for the Volunteer Driver Tax Appreciation Act.

   • Approved a letter of support for the Establishment and Efforts of the Reclaiming and Advancing Leech Lake Youth (Rally) Coalition.

   • Approved a letter of support for the City of Hackensack Workforce Housing Project.

   • Heard the fourth quarter North Memorial Longville Ambulance report from Kevin Lee stating both year to date revenues and expenses were unfavorable, but due to the subsidy increase received in 2023 they were able to meet their 10% margin goal.

   • Approved the bid for the replacement of the sheriff’s office window in the amount of $9,316 from Craig’s Glass LLC.

   • Approved the updated engineer proposal from Martin Mechanical for Health Human Veterans Services air cooled condensing unit replacement in the amount of $8,500.

   • Approved the bid for the replacement of Deep Portage Energy Center roof, due to damage during a storm, in the amount of $23,500 to Jackson & Associates LLC.

   • Awarded the revised contract to Canine Forensics Foundation in the amount of $20,300 for canine search services on County State Aid Highway 37.  

   • Adopted a resolution approving the submission of a grant application requesting $160,000 for the monumentation of public land survey corners in Woodrow Township and a second grant application requesting $120,000 for the monumentation of public land survey corners in Sylvan Township.

   The next meetings are as follows: Commissioner’s board meeting, 9 a.m. Tuesday, Mar. 19 at the Land Department meeting room in Backus; Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe State of Band Address, 10 a.m. Friday, Mar. 22 at Northern Lights Casino, 6800 Y Frontage Rd NW, Walker and commissioner’s board meeting, 9 a.m. Tuesday, Apr. 2 at the boardroom in the courthouse annex in Walker.


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