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Polk County Board of Commissioners: 2.88% county levy increase in 2021

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    After a 3% levy increase was targeted and the preliminary levy set at 4.9% in September, Polk County is now eyeing an even smaller increase for 2021 after discussions at this week’s Board of Commissioners meeting. County Administrator Chuck Whiting presented an updated budget with a 2.88% increase, an “easy to remember” $25 million levy, and the Commissioners approved.

    Whiting told the Commissioners he was putting the “finishing touches” on the budget, trying to make sure wages were correct as a couple of departments had decreases or minor increases, and incorporated input from Finance Director Ron Denison. He also clarified a move was made for interest payments on the capital improvement bond to avoid confusion.

    When asked about the upcoming public budget hearing, which is scheduled for Tuesday, December 15 at 6 p.m. at the Polk County Transfer Station, Whiting said he believes he could manage the public if they wanted to attend in person and hold the meeting virtually for the commissioners. He added that they should consult with Polk County Public Health Director Sarah Reese before making a decision as the COVID-19 numbers are “still very high” and to expect a “further surge after the Thanksgiving holiday.” Commissioner Chair Gary Willhite (District 3) agreed with the consult and felt they could hold the decision on a public meeting for “seven days or so” as “it’s certainly difficult to do that on Zoom with the public.”

    Whiting added that most of the public comment comes after they receive their property tax valuations.

BRIDGE TALK, APPOINTMENTS AND CARES FUND REQUEST

    • After requesting approval for final acceptance of projects completed in Fanny and Andover Townships, County Engineer Rich Sanders announced he would be meeting with Traill County (North Dakota) to discuss the Climax and Nielsville bridges. Sanders said he would be joined by District 2 and 5 Commissioners Warren Strandell and Don Diedrich, and the group would come up with a list of priorities.

    “Nielsville didn’t get funded again,” Sanders pointed out. “It’s difficult with Nielsville being closed and Climax still open.”

    He said that Traill County has money allotted for the Climax bridge, but not Nielsville, and that his own priority would be to get Nielsville’s bridge funded and replaced.

    “I think Climax can wait, but I think Traill will push to get Climax done first,” Sanders added.

    • Commissioners also heard from candidates for the Red Lake Watershed District and Sandhill Watershed, and moved to reappoint Gene Tiedemann for Red Lake and reappoint Clayton Bartz plus add Don Andringa for Sandhill. District 1 Commissioner Jerry Jacobson said they “need more representation on the west end” and thought Andringa would be “excellent.”

    • Polk County received a CARES Act fund request from the City of Fosston for Titan Machinery in Winger to assist with the purchase of PPE materials totaling $336.93 and the commissioners approved their request.

    “There was an oversight with this application and that is why it is late,” Whiting explained in the board packet while suggesting the board make the exception. “It has been reviewed by the City of Fosston and appears to have met the grant standards.”

    “These grants were approved to local businesses that showed the detrimental business effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.