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Paynesville Press - December 28, 2005

County Board discusses comprehensive plan and approves increase in aid for burials

By Michael Jacobson

The Stearns County Board of Commissioners took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 20.

*The commissioners learned that the county is moving ahead with updating its comprehensive plan. Environmental Services is in the process of hiring a consultant to do the work.

The county's comprehensive plan is the foundation to the county's zoning and planning ordinances. It takes a broad look at issues such as land use, parks, transportation, and the economy to determine where we are at, where we want to be in coming years, and how we get there.

For example, the comprehensive plan looks at how the county is growing, how it should be developed, whether to preserve farms or encourage development, where to locate additional parks, how to boost economic development, and how to fix transportation problems.

Public input is critical to this plan. There will be a series of eight public participation meetings over the next year, with the first planned for April.

Stearns County last updated its Comprehensive Plan in 1998.

*The commissioners approved increasing the amount the county spends to help with burials. The county is responsible to provide a proper burial if someone dies without the means to pay for it.

Currently, Stearns County pays up to $2,700 for burial services, but that will change to a maximum of $3,400 next year. The County last changed its fees in 2000.

Funeral home directors and cemetery associations have requested an increase from the county as reimbursement rates were falling far below the actual cost. Now the cost will be split a little more evenly between the funeral homes/cemeteries and the county.

In 1996, Stearns County paid funeral/burial expenses for 19 people at a cost of $22,140. So far this year, there have been 35 people buried at a cost to the county of $64,336.

*The commissioners approved salary increases for the county's four elected officials. Both the sheriff and county attorney received a 4.1 percent increase. The auditor-treasurer received a 4.0 percent bump, and the county recorder received a 3.5 percent increase.

*The commissioners approved a gambling permit for the Ducks Unlimited Koronis Chapter on April 17-18, 2006.

*The commissioners agreed to assess a property in Richmond to pay for the cleanup of a meth lab.

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