Becker Board to discuss marijuana and comprehensive planning

Contributed photo
The Becker County Board of Commissioners will host White Earth Tribal leaders Tuesday, April 9 in Detroit Lakes to discuss marijuana and comprehensive planning. L-R: Chairman John Okeson, Commissioners Richard Vareberg, Barry Nelson, David Meyer, Erica Jepson.

By Robert Williams


The Becker County Board of Commissioners will host a special meeting on Tuesday, April 9, at 8:15 a.m., to hold discussions with White Earth Tribal Leaders in regards to marijuana, comprehensive planning and the White Earth Forest Land Transfer Legislation.

The proposed Minnesota legislation involved the potential transfer of 155,000 acres of White Earth State Forest lands from the state to the White Earth Tribe.

After Becker County representatives testified in St. Paul, the legislation has since been tabled and discussions between the county and the tribe have increased.

Interim County Administrator Carrie Smith submitted a written response, on behalf of the county, in regards to a public hearing held in late March on the reservation. Smith’s remarks were on late changes to format and a lack of professionalism.

“I added information about the disappointment on how that was conducted,” Smith said. “There was supposed to be a Zoom link and people were supposed to be able to be in that meeting and then they restricted it. I did make a point to put that in writing back to them, along with our opposition that we have submitted elsewhere. I felt it was of high importance. I talked about the transparency.”

Commissioner Barry Nelson also commented on the behavior.

“I think that type of behavior at a simple meeting like that shows, in my opinion, what can happen if that transfer happens,” he said. “This is a foreshadowing of what would happen.”

Chairman John Okeson was in attendance at the March 22 meeting, along with Smith.

“Seeing all the people that just wanted to sit in and hear the hearing—they weren’t allowed. A lot of them just left,” Okeson said.

“It was very much restricted,” said Smith. “That was very disappointing.”

The special meeting in Becker County on April 9 will be an open forum style and all five Tribal Leaders are expected to attend, but it will not contain an actual open forum for public comment.

“I think it would be too much,” said Nelson. “This should be more formal.”

Tribal leaders provided two discussion items for the special meeting regarding marijuana and comprehensive planning.

The entire county board discussed adding the land transfer to the meeting’s agenda and emphasized that no decisions will be made and it is for discussion only.

Chairman Okeson reported to the board that he expects a resolution in opposition to the land transfer to be passed by the Callaway Township Board, according to Roger Winter. Smith will be in attendance at the Thursday township meeting, along with Commissioners Dave Meyer and Erica Jepson.

After Tuesday’s special meeting with the tribe, the Becker County Tribal Relations committee will announce other counties that are joining the committee at 1 p.m. Jepson and Commissioner Richard Vareberg are the two Becker representatives.

Highway Grants

County Highway Engineer Jim Olson announced three approved grants to aid in county road construction.

The county received $1.5 million from a Local Road Improvement Program grant for the last phase of West Lake Drive construction in Detroit Lakes. Cormorant Township received $300,000 for the East Ida Road project and the trail from County Road 29 to the Wannigan Regional Park entrance in Frazee will be funded by a Transportation Alternative grant for $224,000.

Permits, license renewals

The following permits and license renewals were awarded at the April 2 Commissioner’s meeting.

Gambling Permit

1. Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics, MFG gambling permit at Frazee Golf Course Inc. in Burlington Township

Combination On/Off Sale with Sundays – Renewal

1. Two Inlets Country Store – Robert Peterson – Two Inlets Twp

2. Jack Pines Resort – Jacob Prouty – Carsonville Twp

On-Sale with Sundays 

– Renewal

1. Tri-Lakes Roadhouse – Gabe Line – Cormorant Twp

2. Curley’s on Cotton Lake – Deanne Kohler – Erie Twp

3. T & J Randy’s – Jennifer Goering – Lake Eunice Twp

3.2 On – Sale – Renewal

1. Ella Marie’s Café – Emma Mattson – Cormorant Twp

Wine and Strong Beer 

On Sale – Renewal

1. Ella Marie’s Café – Emma Mattson – Cormorant Twp

Off-Sale – Renewal

1. Byer’s Liquors – Dale Byer – Osage Twp

2. Seven Sisters Spirits – Brad Malstrom – Lakeview Twp

3. Richwood Off-Sale – John Johnson – Richwood Twp

Seasonal On-Sale 

– Renewal

1. Shady Hollow Flea Market – Chad Stenerson – Lakeview Twp