MORRIS - The Stevens County Board of Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to approve an easement for wildlife habitat protection on about eight acres of property in section 17 of Synnes Township.
Current landowners Lawrence Pavek and Darlene Kossan of Brooklyn Park, Minn., requested the easement, which would protect the existing wetlands and uplands while also allowing haying on the property after July 15 each year.
The other 13 acres of the property are already a protected wetland, said Lynn Sebek, realty specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. With the easement, the current landowners would continue to pay property taxes on the space because the USFWS is just purchasing specific rights to the property, not the property itself.
Stevens County has very few of these types of easements, when compared to a neighbors like Pope County and Big Stone County, said Bruce Freske, manager of the Morris Wetland Management District. Most of the people who want an easement like this one have cattle and would like to be able to use the grass.
"There's just not a lot of grass that isn't already protected in this county, and right now, with the current ag climate, it's not very often you're going to find somebody that would want to go into land thats in crop production and put it into grass, even though we pay to do it," said Freske.
Commissioner Ron Staples, who cast the single vote against the easement, said he had never seen this property farmed, and wondered why the USFWS wanted to buy an easement for that purpose.
"I can go tract over tract over tract that we've never bought easements or did anything on because we said 'That'll never be farmed,' and then it got plowed up," responded Freske. "I am not going to try and second-guess what might happen to a piece of property because I've seen it over and over again. ... If we have somebody that's interested in protecting it and there is a habitat value there, which there is, I don't try to guess what might happen."
A final approval about the easement will be made by the State of Minnesota later this year.
Highway maintenance, engineering summer projects going well
County Engineer Brian Giese told the board that the county has started nearly all of their summer construction projects and "the season is moving on quite well."
A paving project on CSAH 13 is expected to be finished within the first two weeks of July, and the extensive project in Alberta should be done by the end of the month.
The board also approved a final payment of $2,741 to Riley Brothers Construction, which completes payment on a bridge replacement project.
The board offered the position of full-time Human Resources Director to Janet Raguse, who currently serves as the county coordinator for Traverse County. Raguse will start at a salary of $68,473, and is scheduled to begin work in Stevens County on Sept. 4.
The board approved an application to renew a liquor license at the Pomme de Terre Golf Club.
The board approved a wage of $12 an hour for absentee ballot board members for the upcoming election.
The board approved extending a professional services contract with Computer Professionals until Dec. 31, 2018, with a four percent increase annually. Auditor/Treasurer Neil Weise, Assessor Judy Thorstad and IT Director Scott Busche all endorsed continuing the contract.
The board approved a cooperative agreement to continue partnering with nine other counties to operate the West Central Regional Juvenile Center.