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Commissioner's Report: Wetland Preservation Program starts up

Fri, Nov 15th, 2002
Posted in Features

Lora Friest

The Wetland Preservation Program took a major step forword as the county approved its first two qualified applicants. Jeremy Maul, Soil & Water Conservation District, presented applications for an 11.9 acre parcel in Jordon Township owned by Gary Anderson of Chatfield, and a 3.4 acre parcel in Sumner Township belonging to Dennis Severson of Fountain. This program provides an option to landowners who wish to preserve wetlands and receive a tax break on those acres. The program allows wetlands of one acre or more, plus a buffer area of up to four times the size of the wetland, to be exempt from property tax. The county is reimbursed by the state for actual lost tax revenue.As an incentive to preserve remaining wetlands, the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners has adopted the Wetland Preservation Area (WPA) program. Maul pointed out that the county has very few wetlands in comparison to northern Minnesota. Fillmore County is first in the state to move ahead on this program.Those interested in the project can file a Notice of Intent with the SWCD Office. A $20 nonrefundable fee is used to pay the recording fee when a WPA application is approved. The landowner agrees not to drill or fill the wetland, produce agricultural crops, construct any structures, or graze the wetland without the approval of the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources. Owners must plant vegetation approved by SWCD and weeds are kept in control. Wetlands are not open to the public. Further information is available upon request. SWCD chief The Commissioners met their new Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) Administrator, Lora Friest. Friest replaces Kevin Scheideker. Prior to Fillmore County, Lora was the Project Coordinator for the Upper Iowa River Project, which included multi county/state coverage. Friest will supervise the SWCD office and its activities. Besides monitoring the SWCD budget, searching out grant funds, attending a multitude of meetings, she will coordinate the Ag Best Management Practices loan program, and assist the cities and townships in their endeavors to prepare and implement resource management projects. Lora, her husband, D.J. and daughters Jessica (freshman) and Jennifer (senior) live just north of Decorah, 45 miles from Preston, where they have recently purchased a 115 acre farm. Her husband operates Friest Reality. Comprehensive Plan The county’s Comprehensive Plan will once again come under scrutiny. county Board Chairman Duane Bakke requested fellow commissioners to "mark up" the present plan, looking for weak and/or non-compliance areas that require improvement. Commissioner Helen Bicknese noted the plan had been extensively reviewed two years ago. Bakke, however, felt that with the census study now completed and analyzed; the housing study near completion (at a cost of $8,000) and the fact that there is no mention of tourism in the plan, the board should go through the 21-page booklet again. Commissioner Randy Dahl pointed out that since there has been a redistricting and new members coming onto the board, a review was in order. "The plan speaks to a faceless people," described Bakke. The chairman noted that zoning comes face to face with a variety of people, looking to obtain the county’s approval with projects that aren’t always seen in a positive light by others. County Attorney Opat supported the review saying the Comprehensive Plan is "the fore-runner for Zoning" which can become very personal. The board will revisit the plan in January. Other business•Philip Burkholder, Auditor -Treasurer, presented more input on a laminating project for vital statistics records as requested by the Board. U.S. Records, a laminating company in St. Cloud, MN presented a bid of $8,718.09 to complete the process. A second bidder came in at almost $2,000 higher. Burkholder checked with Houston and Crow Wing counties who had their records laminated by U.S. Records. He said they were very happy with the end results. The company would need three days at the courthouse to complete the work. Dec. 16-19 was available on the work calendar and was approved by the board.•The city of Fountain has requested a speed study done. The roads of concern include County Road 11 into Fountain and County Road 8 east of Hwy 52 that runs by the city’s park. John Grindeland explained to the board that there are criteria that could mandate a 55 m.p.h. speed zone next to the park if a study is completed. But, with all the activity at the park, he views this as a potential disaster. Chairman Bakke said he would meet with Fountain’s council and discuss the issue with them•Assessor Robert Pickett brought in a residential sales ratio study for 2002. His list included 171 sales within 13 cities, which indicated a normal pattern. Commercial sales were up slightly, but Ag fell dramatically from the usual 50-60 sales per annum to 26 (this includes parcels with more than 35 acres).

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