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Good news for highway construction efforts in Minnesota: The Legislature has approved emergency funds to fill up its empty wetland bank. Minnesota law requires wetlands destroyed in road construction projects to be replaced elsewhere. This is accomplished through a "wetland bank" or wetlands that have been restored or purchased to serve as replacement acreage when needed. Becker County is rich in banked wetland credits, having about 27 acres.
After a rough start, the Perham Resource Recovery Facility, once known as the Perham incinerator, is getting onto solid financial ground. Last April, Becker County had to kick in an unexpected, unbudgeted $200,000, it's share of an incinerator bond payment that the joint powers facility was too broke to make on its own. The "dirty mixed-waste processing facility" takes in truckloads of raw garbage from Becker, Otter Tail, Clay, Todd and Wadena counties and runs it through a system of conveyor belts and centrifugal force cylinders.
Health insurance looks to get a lot more expensive in this part of the state— especially if you're older and lower income—under a U.S. House bill that would repeal and replace Obamacare. On average, those in Becker County who qualify for subsidies would see a 27 percent drop by 2020—from an average of $4,100 under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to an average of $3,000 under the House plan.
Becker County has to keep an eye on what's going on in its courthouse, but it needs new glasses. The county hopes to land a $45,623 state grant to improve courthouse security by replacing old surveillance cameras and adding additional ones. If the county lands the grant, it will match it with an identical sum, covering the total project cost of just over $91,000. The project would have to be completed by the end of next year.
A local nursing home administrator is very concerned about a game-changing Republican plan to quit fully funding Medicaid. The plan would cap federal spending on Medicaid and force states, nursing homes, hospitals and others to make up the difference, which would grow over time. "What a huge impact this could have, even here in Detroit Lakes," said Janet Green, regional director of Ecumen, which owns Emmanuel Nursing Home in Detroit Lakes and manages Sunnnyside Care Center near Lake Park for Becker County.
If all goes well, Becker County will soon be the proud owner of a new 20-passenger transit bus, five new Armer radios for its transit system, and expanded service routes three times a week to Lake Park and Audubon. The county has applied for a $210,500 state grant for a service expansion pilot program for 2017 and 2018. The program, which includes $78,000 for the new class 400 bus, would be fully funded by the state for two years, and the county would get to keep the bus even if the program ends at that point, Transit Director Chris Damlo told the Becker County Board Tuesday.
A controversial North Shore Drive extension, from City Park to Zorbaz, which would create a new street through an established neighborhood a half-block away from the Detroit Lakes City Beach, has been taken off the table by city officials, and will no longer be eligible for funding under a proposed half-cent city sales tax.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has restored some of the tens of thousands of animal welfare documents that it abruptly removed from its website. But they are only a small number of the documents that were scrubbed from the agency's website on Feb. 3. The USDA announced that it is "posting the first batch of annual reports of research institutions and inspection reports" resulting from a "comprehensive review" that began with the complete removal of previously public documents that are generated by the agency as it enforces the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.
Enjoy Airport Road while it lasts—which will probably be until next autumn. A public hearing on the proposed permanent closure of Airport Road, otherwise known as the back route to Menards and Walmart, will be held at 5 p.m. March 14 at Detroit Lakes City Hall. The road has to be closed, since an expanded runway and parallel taxiway will cross where the road now curves around between the airport and wetlands.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson met with about a dozen Internet service providers in Detroit Lakes Friday to help solve a nagging problem—how to get high-speed Internet service out to everybody, even rural areas where there is only one home or farm every mile or two. One possible solution—put funding for it in the new Farm Bill, which would cut red tape, simplify the regulatory and funding process, and put the focus on rural areas where the need is greatest.