Wright County honors longtime planning commission members

by John Holler

SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS

 

Over the years, former County Commissioner Jack Russek would jokingly claim the only reason he was the county board member on the planning commission was because “I drew the short straw.” While that wasn’t true, it was a difficult job at best. Whether members of the planning commission or the board of adjustment, when citizens came before either board, they were looking for approval to make changes to existing zoning ordinance requirements. Some got approved. Others didn’t. It was their job to weigh the pros and cons of each individual proposal and make the decision that was best for the interests of the county as a whole.

At the June 18 meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissioners honored six Wright County residents for their service as members of the planning commission and board of adjustment. The honorees were Dave Wagner, who served three years on the board of adjustment; Nancy Kopff, who served five years on the BOA; Gordon Weber, who served 10 years on the planning commission; Lawrence Bauman, who served 18 years on the planning commission; Russek, who served 19 years on the planning commission; and Franklin Denn, who was appointed in September 1974 and served 39 years on the planning commission — most of those as the commission chairman.

At the June 18 meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissioners honor six Wright County residents for their service as members of the planning commission and board of adjustment. Pictured from, left to right, are: Dave Wagner, Nancy Kopff, Jack Russek, Franklin Denn, Lawrence Bauman and Gordon Weber.

At the June 18 meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissioners honor six Wright County residents for their service as members of the planning commission and board of adjustment. Pictured from, left to right, are: Dave Wagner, Nancy Kopff, Jack Russek, Franklin Denn, Lawrence Bauman and Gordon Weber.

“We are recognizing the great job that these people have done for the residents of Wright County,” Planning and Zoning Administrator Sean Riley said. “It is a position that is neither glamorous nor well-compensated. They have done a difficult job and have been vital to bringing their own unique perspectives to both the planning commission and board of adjustment. We just want to take this opportunity to thank them.”

The role of the veteran planning commission members was vital because, when Denn took his spot on the planning commission, more Wright County residents lived in townships than in cities — a number that has radically changed over the last 20 to 30 years. Denn was the one constant over the last four decades. While he wasn’t averse to managing the explosive growth of the county, he was a steward for the county’s agricultural past and was sincere about preserving prime farm land and gravel reserves.

“I feel proud to have been in Wright County,” Denn said. “We should all be thankful for that. This is a great place to live. I worked with some very good people and the commissioners did an excellent job of putting the planning commission together.”

Instead of having a commission that worked in lockstep with one another, the county board had the foresight to put people with varied backgrounds and fields of expertise together to provide the checks and balances needed to make the planning commission successful. At times, members butted heads, but that was part of the process and, in the end, made the Wright County Planning Commission a group other counties could use as a template to manage growth and preservation simultaneously.

“We didn’t always agree, but when the meetings were over, we could all have a cup of coffee together and leave it behind,” Russek said. “I hope the new county board will preserve the agricultural heritage of this county. That is what we tried to do and I hope that spirit will continue.”

Board Chairman Pat Sawatzke, who served with many of the members honored at the meeting, thanked them for their invaluable legacy to preserving the quality of life in Wright County and preventing it from being absorbed into the Twin Cities metro area.

“I think Wright County is a better place and our citizens have a better quality of life because of your efforts,” Sawatzke said. “On behalf of those residents, I’d like to thank all of you for that.”

In other items on the June 18 agenda, the board:

RECEIVED an update from District 29B State Rep. Marion O’Neill about the changes made during the 2013 legislative session.

ANNOUNCED that, for an 11th straight year, the state board of appeal and equalization found know changes in the county’s property value assessment process.

RECEIVED two bids for the County Ditch 10 cleanup project. The original estimate for the project was approximately $100,000. The low bid received was $144,305 — almost half the total of the other bid received $277,974). The bids were laid over for review and presentation to residents along the ditch to inform them of the cost ramifications of the full project is done. Since ditch projects are assessed to benefitted landowners, it will need approval of those paying the bill before it can be approved.

APPROVED a funding agreement with the city of Otsego for the reconstruction project on CSAH 37. The city has approved a project for 2014 that would include the intersection of CSAH 37/70th Street that would have likely been torn up in 2017, when the county is slated to do a reconstruction project on CSAH 37. The approval will do the needed modifications to the intersection so it won’t need to be changed in 2017 when the county does its own project.

AUTHORIZED Parks Administrator Marc Mattice to submit his name for consideration to be a member of the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission as a representative for Region 4, which includes six Central Minnesota counties.

APPROVED a memorandum of understanding with the AFL-CIO Local No. 49 union of operating engineers to allow highway department employees to work the department’s information booth at the Wright County Fair.

AWARDED the contact for grooved edge lines on 2013 county highway construction projects to Traffic Marking Service Inc. in the amount of $197,475. The project falls under federal road safety grant guidelines in which the county has to pay just 10 percent of the total cost of the project, which means the county contribution to the project is $19,747. The project came in at about 20 percent under the engineer’s estimate.

APPROVED the purchase of an additional camera for the board room to provide video input to the overhead screen used during board meetings for maps and Powerpoint presentations. The purchase is part of the county’s plan to start streaming board meetings online in July.

SET a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. at the July 9 board meeting to discuss establishing a sliding fee scale for the public health department’s Family Planning Program. The county received a two-year, $471,000 family planning grant that requires setting a fee schedule.

SET a public hearing for 9:45 a.m. at the July 9 county board meeting to appr4ove the county issuing revenue bonds on behalf of Lake Ridge Care Center in Buffalo for and expansion project. The bonding would include $1.2 million for the new project as well as the refinancing of 2004 bonds, of which $1.3 million remains to be repaid.

REFERRED to the personnel committee a request from Commissioner Mark Daleiden to discuss the personal appearance of employees during business hours.

 

Contact John Holler at sunpressnews@ecm-inc.com

 

 

 

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