February 14, 2019 Community news from the prairie to the lakes  
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  2020 Primary is a cause for concern

The Minnesota Legislature’s 2016 decision to hold a state-wide Presidential Primary, next year, is causing headaches for many smaller counties in Minnesota. The new legislation says the state will hold a primary election the first Tuesday of March in a presidential election year. Only major parties will participate to select the presidential candidate of their choice, and caucuses will still be held to take care of other business. Grant County Auditor Chad Van Santen told the Grant County Commissioners last Tuesday, to prepare to spend some money.

“This was a push by the state parties to get more money and attention for Minnesota,” said Van Santen, adding that the problem is that counties with mail-in ballots do not know how they will be able to administer it.

That is because voters will vote using one primary ballot that is all Democrat or all Republican, there will be no crossover voting.

“How will we be able to do this with mail-in ballots, like most of Grant County uses?” asked Van Santen. “There is lots of confusion at this point.”

Under the new system, every voter will have to request either a Republican or Democrat ballot and will be registered. In that way the two major state-wide parties will have the voter in their data base to ask for donations. This is not a problem when voting is done, in person, at a polling place. But since mail-in ballots are mailed out to voters, weeks before the election, voters will somehow have to tell the County Auditor, which party ballot they want sent to them.

Van Santen said his office is awaiting instructions on how to do this. He added that this voting method will not only cost the State of Minnesota an estimated additional $3 million, but is expected to bring down voter turnout to around 12 percent.

“We ARE having a primary in Minnesota,” said Van Santen. “But how to administer it has not been decided.”

Van Santen added that the primary will also be happening at the same time his office is sending out tax statements, and his office will most-likely have to hire additional help to get it all done. He suggested the commissioners contact State Representative Backer and State Senator Westrom about the county’s concerns.

Real Estate Exchange
County Attorney Justin Anderson presented the commissioners with a real estate exchange agreement to title all the property for the Grant County Office Complex and transfer the Grant County Social Services building to the Health Care Auxiliary. The move would transfer the current Bargain Bazaar building and property to the Elbow Lake EDA, and the Social Services building to the Bargain Bazaar. Plus the Elbow Lake EDA will pay the Health Care Auxiliary $30,000 for remodeling the Social Services building into the new Bargain Bazaar.

Health Care Auxiliary president Robin McNamar told the commissioners the Auxiliary will soon reach the half a million dollar mark in donations since they started making donations 10 years ago. These donations have gone to many health care facilities, including Prairie Ridge Hospital and Health Care Services, and Caring Hands Dental in Alexandria.

“As long as the organization serves Grant County people, we will donate,” McNamar said.

She added that once the transfer was approved by the county and the Elbow Lake EDA, they will begin to remodel the SS building to serve the needs of the Bargain Bazaar Thrift Shop. She said they hope to be open at the new facility by April 1, 2019.

The commissioners approved the real estate exchange agreement.

Other business
Office of Land Management Greg Lillemon asked for permission to spend $3,200 to rent space for an Aquatic Invasive Species billboard on Interstate I-94 near the Brandon exit. The rent would be shared between Grant, Douglas, and Otter Tail Counties. Lillemon said these funds will come from the Aquatic Invasive Species grant money. It would be the third year of the four-year rental agreement.

Lillemon said he would also like to use grant money to purchase 10,000 beer coasters that educate fishermen on stopping invasive species from spreading. Lillemon said, for instance, Zebra Mussels have now been found in Ten Mile Lake, Pomme de Terre Lake and Barrett Lake, as well as Elk Lake. To stop their spread, education is important.

Lillemon said resort owners on Pelican Lake are very proactive in making sure boats going into the water at their landings are clean.

“With high school fishing leagues starting, it is a great opportunity for further education in the schools,” he concluded.

Karen White, of the Eighth Judicial District Drug Court, gave an update on the program in which drug offenders can “graduate” from drug court by staying off drugs, out of trouble and completing other requirements. White said the program has had 280 referrals district wide, since the program started five years ago. One hundred and six have gone through the program and 38 offenders are active now in seven counties. The program has a 54 percent graduation rate with a couple voluntarily withdrawing from the program. There have been 11 referrals from Grant County, with six participants and three graduates. She said a fourth offender is about to graduate on March 5, and a fifth on March 7. Graduation takes place in the courtroom at the Grant County Courthouse.

The Grant County Commissioners approved the updates and revised County Emergency Operations Plan, as presented by Emergency Management Director Tina Lindquist. The plan covers, in detail, all functions of a response and recovery from a major disaster.

The commissioners also accepted a $16,156 Emergency Management Performance Grant. This grant is awarded annually to counties that abide by, and maintain compliance with, all state requirements for an Emergency Management Program.

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February 17, 2019