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Osakis Voices: Todd County hires coordinator

At its Sept. 4 meeting, the Todd County Board of Commissioners voted to hire Jonathan Stainbrook as the new county coordinator. This was after starting with 18 applicants, narrowing down to 11, and then to six. After interviewing the final six on Aug. 29, the board had a long discussion about the candidates. The decision was then made to offer Jonathan the position. He signed the contract with Todd County on Aug. 31. Jonathan's first day will be Sept. 24 and his salary will be $90,563 with an insurance adjustment of $1,531. Jonathan comes to us from Crow Wing County. We are excited to welcome Jonathan and his family to Todd County.

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Todd County is proud to be home of the 2018 Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Rebecca Paskewitz, a 20 year old college student from Browerville. She was crowned the 65th Princess Kay of the Milky Way in an evening ceremony at the Minnesota State fairgrounds on Aug. 22.

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Other meetings and committees I attend that I feel the public (taxpayers) should be aware of what is going on and how your tax dollar is being spent, are the Sauk River Watershed District and the One Watershed, One Plan, which I attend with three other county commissioners. I will try to explain. If you look at your tax statement from Todd County, you will see property tax jurisdictions: 1. County, 2. City or Township, and 3. School District. Then there are special taxing districts: 4. Region 5, and 5. Sauk River Watershed. Then there is a special assessment: 6. Environmental Fee. So these six taxes are what your property taxes pay for. My point being that four out of the six are set by elected officials. The county commissioners set both the county and environmental fee taxes. The city taxes are set by the city council. Township taxes are set by the electors and township supervisors at the annual meeting. The school taxes are set by the school board. The entire above are elected officials to serve you, the public, and to spend your tax dollars wisely. Most county and school board minutes are printed in the local paper. Next, Region 5, these are appointed by the county commissioners, townships, cities and schools. The Sauk River Watershed managers are appointed by the county commissioners.

A few years ago I was asked to attend a watershed meeting, because the majority of the Sauk River Watershed is in my district, and report back to the rest of the board. The watershed holds its monthly meeting on the third Tuesday of the month. The meetings start at 6 p.m. and the managers wear two hats. They are managers for the Sauk River Watershed and the county ditch authority for Stearns and some of Pope County ditches. The board of managers is made up of a nine-member board — four from Stearns County, two from Todd County, one from Douglas County, one from Pope County and one from Meeker County. I will address the "first hat" of the Sauk River Watershed managers, which pertains to Todd County. Now remember these managers have taxing authority! So if no one attends or nothing is published in the newspapers or on the radio on what actions the managers take, you and I as taxpayers have no idea how they are spending our tax dollars. So here is a little update from the Aug. 21 meeting. The district got a $1.5 million, zero interest loan in November 2017 to purchase cropland at $3,537 per acre and $2,358 for non-cropland. With this loan, $365,000 went to the Sward easement and $900,000 to the Guyette easement. This loan would not have to be paid back until 2021. It was recommended to pass a levy amount of $874,794 for 2019; there was no past year comparisons and they ended up at $699,558. Then came the bids to clean out the Judicial Ditch 2 sediment ponds. These ponds were put in back in 2003. When I asked how much is still owed on these ponds, I was told $22,000. Then I asked how much has been spent since 2003? I got an email on Aug. 27 telling me $368,240.58 was spent. The bid that was recommended was from Rachel Contracting for $469,445.50. Then I was told there is no money for this project. Wow! But then they passed it. Then there was the new building discussion! Well, with no money for the JD 2 sediment pond and two estimates — one at $892,250.00 and one at $1,014,800 — this was quickly tabled to the September 18 meeting. I'll report more on the One Watershed, One Plan in my next column.

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Osakis Voices is a rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.