Osage liquor store gets OK
Though it was not a unanimous decision, the Becker County Board acted Tuesday to approve an off-sale liquor license for a new liquor store in Osage.
A large contingent of Osage residents was present to provide testimony at the public hearing, which was continued from the previous board meeting.
The testimony was balanced pretty evenly between those who opposed the measure, and those who supported it.
Several Osage business owners came forward in support of granting the license, because, as one of them put it, "we need all the businesses in Osage that we can get."
According to Tuesday's testimony, most of the opposition was due to the location of the proposed liquor store -- which would be across the street from both Grace Community Church and a teen center.
"It would be lovely to have another business in the community," said Rev. Bill Ullom, pastor of Grace Community Church. "But a liquor store would not be the most appropriate ... at that location."
"I work with teens and children ... I would say that would be a very negative point to bring in (an off-sale liquor store)," said Brenda.
Attorney Carl Malmstrom, representing Osage Liquor proprietor Eugene Forbes, pointed out that "everything in a small town tends to be close together."
But the location for the proposed liquor store is zoned for commercial business, and "it would be difficult to find a more appropriate commercial space in that area," he added.
In short, Malmstrom said, there were "no valid reasons" to deny the license, and "many benefits."
"I share some of your concerns with the location (of the liquor store)," said Commissioner Barry Nelson, addressing those who were there to oppose the licensing of the liquor store. However, he did not feel those concerns were strong enough to go against the wishes of the Osage town board, which had previously approved the measure.
"This puts me in a difficult position," said Commissioner Larry Knutson, who represents eastern Becker County, including Osage. "I could easily have abstained (from voting on the license), because I happen to be a member of the church in Osage. But I can't do that."
In the end, Knutson voted in favor of the license; it was Commissioner Gerry Schram who voted against it. The resolution passed by a 4-1 vote.
At a strategic planning session attended by Becker County commissioners and department heads last month, the focus was on trimming the county's bottom line.
Just under $650,000 in budget cuts were implemented as a result of that meeting. But a second strategic planning session held Tuesday afternoon went a step further: determining whether those cuts are sustainable in future years.
Some of them are, such as cross training and sharing of staff between departments rather than hiring temporary help during busy times of year, or putting the county's computers on a five-year instead of a three-year replacement schedule.
Others, such as reducing the miles of county roads to which seal coating will be applied, or the frequency with which the surface of gravel roads is re-bladed, may not be.
Much discussion was also given to the county's objective of moving toward a "paperless" system in which interdepartmental memos and messages, county board agendas and information packets, etc., would be shared electronically rather than printed on paper.