County kicks off comprehensive plan talks

If you want to have a say in the future of Mille Lacs County, now is the time to speak up.

The second round of community meetings on an in-the-works comprehensive plan is set to begin next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the city hall at Princeton.

Another meeting will follow Thursday, June 7, at the same time in the Kathio Township Hall and the final one will be on Saturday, June 9, at 9 a.m. in the courthouse in Milaca.

This round of meetings follows a series of meetings held during the first three months of the year at nine locations throughout the county.

Written and verbal input from the meetings was categorized by topic and meeting location and a report is available on the county’s website, at city halls in the county, and will soon be available in county libraries.

Paper surveys were also sent  at random to 20 percent of county residents and 1,005 of those – a 25 percent response rate – were returned by the April 2 deadline. There were also 124 electronic surveys completed.

The surveys asked a number of questions, such as why residents lived in the county, and included a number of topics, with 8 to 10 items listed under each of those topics.

Asked if the results were surprising in any way, County Administrator Roxy Traxler said in an interview last Friday that the results were still being tabulated.

“There’s a lot of data to sort through,” she said.

Traxler said task force committees are being formed in nine primary topic areas and that those committees will draft goals and policies, based on input from the surveys and community meetings, to help develop the comprehensive plan.

Those nine topic areas are: public safety, economic development, energy and environment, transportation, land use, recreation and tourism, quality of life/social and public health programs, intergovernmental relations, and agriculture and forestry.

County commissioner Jack Edmonds, Princeton, a member of the steering committee for the comprehensive plan,  is on the transportation task force.

Edmonds, in the trucking business for life and a school bus driver in Princeton the past seven years, feels that developing a comprehensive plan is “something that should be done.”

Will the plan help the county?

“It can’t hurt,” he said. “It depends on how it’s followed through. Ideally, it should be updated every three to five years. Once you get a good foundation in place, the upgrades are just maintenance.”

Traxler said input by citizens will be essential in helping shape county policies for the next 7 to 10 years, through development of the comprehensive plan.

Estimated cost of the plan is $150,000, although Traxler said she thinks it will be less.

The money comes from the county’s Land Use Office fund, which is generated by fees paid to that office. There was also a $10,000 grant from the Initiative Foundation.

Plans are to have community meetings done by next January, with the final report to be done in 18 to 24 months from this past January.

For more information on the project, survey results, or how you can become involved and participate on a committee, visit the county website at www.co.mille-lacs.mn.us; e-mail plan@co.mille-lacs.mn.us; send a note to Administrative Services Office, 635 2nd St. S.E., Milaca, 56353; or call Traxler at 320-983-8218.

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