By Robert Williams
Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander presented the 2023 WE Fest agreement for law enforcement and traffic control to the Becker County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, July 18.
The agreement was approved in the amount of $66,350, which is up from $55,000 last year.
Attendance for the festival is expected to be bigger than 2022. Due to overwhelming demand an extra campground (Eagle) has already been opened for this year’s festival.
The board extended discussions ahead of the festival with chair Barry Nelson asking Glander what the top enforcement priorities are for this year’s event.
“One of the major issues that we’ve experienced over the years is the underage drinking,” said Glander. “It isn’t just the underage drinkers that get involved in fights, but that is the majority. That’s one thing that we want to cut down on and do what we can to make it a safer event for everybody.”
Nelson agreed and wanted to make a public plea about underage drinking at WE Fest.
“That’s a message that we want everybody to hear,” said Nelson. “The security forces that are out there and local law enforcement are going to be looking for that. Hopefully, we can minimize that to reduce some of the calls that you get.”
Nelson also commended the department on the improvements in both traffic during the festival and the dip in DWI-related arrests in the past few years.
Glander also presented an approved grant for $10,800 to purchase two night vision goggles to combat auto theft.
The board approved a $6,100 renewal of the Cellebrite, a Digital Intelligence Platform that aids law enforcement agencies in collecting, reviewing, analyzing and managing data in investigations, along with a $7,353 to continue the department’s Motorola Maintenance Agreement.
The board discussed developing a cannabis-use ordinance due to the legality of such beginning on Aug. 1. County Administrator Pat Oman presented sample ordinance to Planning and Zoning Administrator Kyle Vareberg for review.
Chairman Barry Nelson suggested the process be expedited.
“I don’t think we can wait that long to get an ordinance for cannabis use on public properties; I think we have to move very quickly and get ahead of when it’s allowable,” Nelson said. “We need to have it in place.”
Nelson suggested mimicking the public use ordinance passed by the city of Detroit Lakes to avoid conflicts.
“If you want to use it, it should be in your personal space,” said Nelson.
According to Oman, much of the public use portion of an ordinance would be in line with the current bans of public cigarette smoking.
“They’re equivalent,” said Oman.
The board reviewed the city’s ordinance that bans usage in public places anywhere in the city, except private residences and yards.
Sheriff Todd Glander endorsed the county adopting a similar ordinance.
A draft ordinance will be created prior to the next board meeting Aug. 1 and discussed at that meeting. There will be a public hearing and a first and second reading of the ordinance will be held prior to approval.
Land Use/Environmental Services
The board approved the advertisement and hiring of a full-time Natural Resource Manager/Forester. The funding for the position will be covered by timber sale revenues, land sales, lease payments and other miscellaneous revenues generated or appropriated to the Tax Forfeit Fund.
Becker County has approximately 75,000 acres of tax forfeited land. Most counties average one full-time forester per 30,000 acres, according to a memo presented by Environmental Services Director Steve Skoog. According to Skoog’s memo, one forester can generate approximately $185,000 per year through timber auctions.
Parks & Recreation
Donations in the amount of $42,350 for Dunton Locks tram repairs were approved.
County Administrator Pat Oman reported on the approval of a 2022 approved grant of $97,000 the county applied for a regional dental facility. More details will be provided on the funds in August.
Fee increases were approved regarding marriages. Due to the state legislature passing that any person over the age 21 may perform marriage ceremonies with only a certification of filing recorded in one Minnesota county, that certificate filing fee has been upped from $20 to $40.
A marriage license replacement fee of $25 was also created.
A Capital Expenditure request from the highway department was approved for a heavy rack system in the new building. The low quote from Dakota Storage Products in Fargo was $55,154. Special Reserve Funding was requested to cover the one-time expense.
County Highway Engineer Jim Olson presented the county highway financial expenses annual report to the board highlighting a bigger construction year than normal. The annual reports had been posted online at the county website in past years, but have not been done so since 2019.
Chair Nelson began Tuesday’s meeting with a moment of silence for the July 14 incident in Fargo that resulted in the death of a police officer.