One of the first items on the Feb. 25 agenda of the Wright County Board was a retirement plaque presentation to Deputy County Assessor Randy DesMarais. Instead, the ceremony was postponed indefinitely.
On Feb. 23, County Assessor Greg Kramber was involved in a significant car accident in which he sustained serious head injuries and a shattered arm.
Kramber, who was on the way home from church with his son, was hit head on as an oncoming vehicle lost control and skidded into him. His son, who was wearing a seat belt, sustained minor injuries and was treated and released the same day. Kramber, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, was thrown within the vehicle – ending up on the floor of the passenger side of the vehicle.
“I went to visit him and he was in intensive care,” Commissioner Charlie Borrell said. “He was seriously injured and they’re still doing tests. His arm is likely going to need surgery, but the biggest concern was the head injuries he sustained. Any time you’re dealing with brain trauma, there are major concerns.”
DesMarais was looking forward to what he thought was going to be his final week of employment with Wright County after 33 years of service. The presentation of his retirement plaque was scheduled for the Feb. 25 board meeting and a retirement reception was scheduled from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28.
Given the circumstances, it didn’t take long for DesMarais to make his decision to postpone his retirement. “When I got the news, I thought it over, but not really heavily because I knew what I had to do,” DesMarais said. “From what I’ve been told, it was a pretty serious injury and we’re coming into a very busy time of the year in our office. I just couldn’t leave given the circumstances.” March is annually when property tax valuations are sent out and it is a hectic time in the assessor’s office. “I didn’t see any other option,” DesMarais said. “I didn’t think it was proper to leave everyone in the office or the citizens of Wright County.”
When the DesMarais retirement plaque ceremony is eventually rescheduled, you can be certain that the commissioners will express their thanks for the loyalty to his profession that DesMarais showed during a time of crisis in his department.
In other items on the Feb. 25 agenda, the board:
• Opted not to reintroduce a resolution supporting an Association of Minnesota Counties that called for counties to provide resolutions asking the State Legislature to approve county websites replacing official county newspapers.
Commissioner Mark Daleiden, who asked the item be laid over, said further information received on the proposal didn’t fit with Wright County’s situation. While counties like Morrison County have paid close to $80,000 a year to provide publishing services required by state statute, Wright County has what Commissioner Pat Sawatzke referred to as a “sweetheart deal,” adding at the Feb. 25 meeting that Wright County “doesn’t have a dog in this fight.” The Howard Lake Herald-Journal provides the publication of Wright County minutes and notices at a rate of 1 cent per column inch – about 100 times less than the minimum going rate.
Wright County’s 2013 bill to the newspaper for the publication of all county notices was less than $1,000.
• Heard from Borrell that an agreement in principle has been reached between Wright and Sherburne counties for the division of River Rider buses. The assets included 13 vehicles and it was deemed Wright County will get nine of them based on the 2/3 funding formula that the River Rider program has operated under.
• Set a committee of the whole meeting following the March 11 board meeting to discuss a proposed amendment to the subdivision ordinance that has been impacted by the housing collapse that began in 2008. The planning commission had considerable discussion about the topic because there have been some developments in Wright County that were unfinished when the housing bubble burst and the county is looking to provide security against being obligated to help finance unfinished developments that run out of funding.
• Announced the hiring of Duane Northagen as the new executive director of the Wright County Economic Development Partnership. Northagen held a similar position the last 15 years in Hibbing.
• Adopted a resolution reducing the repayment period for a tax-forfeited parcel of non-homestead properties from 10 years to five. By the time a property is in tax forfeiture, it has been delinquent for at least three years, so it was viewed that the repayment numbers should be doubled.
• Signed the contract Aerial Services Inc. of Cedar Falls, Iowa for the county flyover for aerial photography services. The contract calls for a payment of $63,214, a savings of more than $2,100 from the initial cost estimate.
• Referred discussion of applications the county drainage inspector to the next ways and means committee meeting.
• Acknowledged receipt of the January revenue/expenditure guidelines.
• Delayed the start of the meeting due to a malfunction in the streaming video technology.
The meeting began with available audio, but the video portion of the streaming portion of the meeting didn’t kick in until about 20 minutes into the meeting.
Freelancer John Holler covers government and the Wright County Board of Commissioners.