Photo by Robert Williams
The Becker Becker County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of 36 electronic poll books to improve voter registration at the polls in 2024. Pictured include: administrative assistant Peggy Martin, county administrator Pat Oman, board members Richard Vareberg, chairman Barry Nelson, David Meyer, Erica Jepson and John Okeson.

By Robert Williams


The board approved the purchase of 36 electronic poll books in the amount of $75,000.

County auditor-treasurer Mary Hendrickson noted the purchase is to upgrade paper voter rosters for cities and townships with over 500 voters to electronic poll books beginning with the 2024 Presidential Nomination Primary.

“The poll books are like an iPad that is not connected to the internet,” Hendrickson said. “It’s only used for voter registration.”

The device will allow voters to register prior to placing their votes and it replaces the hand-written rosters used to check in voters at polling locations. According to Hendrickson, 70 percent of Minnesota counties changed to this method in 2022. Becker is one of the few counties of similar size who does not have the system in place.

“The only thing it’s used for is the signature,” said Hendrickson. “It is not used for the marking of the ballots or the counting of the ballots. It’s just when you register to vote.”

The hand-written rosters took weeks for the election officials to register voter information. The new system will allow that information to be downloaded and the task to be completed in days.

“I think it adds a layer of security to those voting,” Chairman Barry Nelson said. “I think this will be a benefit to not only staff here but the security of those votes. It will be a lot easier to check and cross-reference things too.”

The purchase is within the department’s budget and part of the five-year capital improvement plan.

There are three Federal and State elections scheduled in 2024.

Highway department

The board approved the purchase of a new $330,000 snowplow to be in service for winter 2024.

The purchase is for a 2025 Mack Tandem Plow chassis with applicable plow equipment. It is a 2024 budgeted item and will replace a 2013 snowplow with more than 212,000 miles and 8,100 hours of service time, according to County highway engineer Jim Olson.

One of the department’s older units will be sold at auction for approximately $35,000.

“We haven’t decided which truck we’re going to sell,” OIson said. “Until we get through the winter, we might actually keep an older truck that we put a new motor in recently. So, we’ll decide that next summer when the truck comes in.”

The request was being made early due to the time it takes to acquire the truck.

“It’s just that long lead time to get these trucks so that’s why we’re requesting this now,” said Olson. “We’re seeing it in all equipment, so it’s not like we can shop around and find different brands and some of the different brands can’t deliver as fast as the Mack trucks can.”

The truck will be in need of an additional estimated cost of $181,000 in equipment costs and installation.

Olson also noted in his request that continuing to replace one tandem plow truck per year allows the department to remain with a 12-year replacement plan on these units. The adverse conditions that these trucks are subject to, due to the chemicals necessary for snow and ice control deteriorates and rusts the cab frame, chassis, and all parts of the equipment.

“Down time is critical for our maintenance operations,” he said. “By updating this equipment annually we will see less down time of equipment and a continued timely and effective snow and ice control plan.”

County assessor

Lisa Will submitted her resignation as the county assessor of Becker County, effective Friday, Oct. 20. Will served as the chief deputy assessor for Becker County for three years, prior to being appointed by the board in 2019 to replace former assessor Steve Carlson.

A transition team has been set up to meet future milestones after Oct. 20, according to county administrator Pat Oman. At that time, a temporary county assessor will be appointed. 

Veterans Service Office

The board reviewed modifications to the Veterans Service Office in the courthouse to improve privacy when conducting meetings when discussing private health information with veterans. Cost for the modifications is $750.

Tobacco licenses

The board approved the renewal of tobacco licenses to the following area businesses:

• The Cormorant Store – Lars Odegaard – Cormorant Twp

• Dollar General – DG Retail, LLC – Cormorant Twp

• Richwood Store – Kerry Swiers – Richwood Twp

• Lakes Corner Liquors – Aaron Aslesen – Erie Twp

• Lake Park C-Store – Lakes Community Co-op – Lake Park Twp

• 4 Corners Convenience Store – Josh Swangler – Erie Twp

• Seven Sisters Spirits – Debra Nelson – Lake View Twp

• Wildflower Golf Course – Beth Schupp – Lake Eunice Twp

• Chief Corner Store – Patricia Moran – Pine Point Twp

The board questioned if future cannabis licenses will be distributed along with tobacco licenses, with that decision yet to be made. Licenses for cannabis will not be available to businesses until 2025. State legislation proposes that retail sales for adult use cannabis in Minnesota begin in the first quarter of 2025.