Guest column: Crow Wing County Commissioner shares year-end message with voters

As I reflect on my third year in office, I am both proud of what has been accomplished and touched by the amount of work that remains to be done.

The world is very different from the one in which I took office; however, I remain committed to ensuring that our riding offers excellent programs and services while maintaining reasonable budgetary practices.

2021 presented many challenges and opportunities for our community. The local economy and the environment are two areas particularly affected.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our community, and I proudly supported initiatives that help them through this difficult time. One of the ways the county has supported local businesses has been to commit $ 6 million of our federal CARES funds to go directly to them through grants.

I think it is crucial that these organizations continue to employ community members and provide much needed goods and services.

The second way we offered our support was to dedicate $ 500,000 of federal ARPA funds to grants to child care providers. These providers play a key role in our local economy by providing care to our youngest residents, ensuring that their parents can stay in the workforce.

Linked to these issues is the need for additional housing. We have created a Housing Trust Fund, which sets aside money to invest in projects that directly address our housing shortage for the workforce.

Last year, we also focused on preserving and protecting our natural resources. Working with Cass County, we created the Pine River Watershed to protect water quality in the northern half of our county. Our residents, businesses and visitors all depend on access to clean, safe water.

To further protect water quality, Crow Wing County facilitated the creation of Lake Improvement Districts, which allow lake owners to use their own taxes to fund projects to protect their lakes.

Additionally, I am proud of the way county staff have worked with lake associations to help slow the spread of aquatic invasive species.

2021 also saw an important community conversation around short-term vacation rentals. This issue impacts both our local economy and the environment. After years of analyzing the effects of short-term vacation rentals, the county has finally established an ordinance that balances the rights of landlords with the impact of their rental accommodation on the neighborhood and the environment.

Of course, these are just a few of the initiatives and projects that took place in 2021. If you have an issue you would like to discuss, please contact me at 218-232-0257 or [email protected] .

As I prepare for 2022, I plan to focus more on workforce, housing, childcare and broadband. These economic engines will help us reduce our taxes and build a strong economy.

Hope you each had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I look forward to continuing to work with and for you.

Bill Brekken is the Crow Wing County District 2 Commissioner representing the towns of Crosslake, Jenkins, Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point and Nisswa.

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