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Meeker County Commissioner Dist. 3

Tim Benoit, Collinwood Township

Why are you running for Meeker County Commissioner District 3?

Over the past two years on the Meeker County Board, I have worked to bring more transparency to county government. This has been accomplished by video-taping county board meetings. I am pleased the board voted to do this, and I am now working to make sure all of the county-appointed committee meetings are video-taped, as well.

There is no reason to have so much of the people’s business conducted with the eyes and ears of the public absent.

I am running because I would like to continue the work I have started. Due to redistricting, I find myself on the ballot again this year, and that is OK. It is important the voters have the right to critique my performance and have the final say in who represents them locally, as well as at the state and national levels.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing Meeker County, and what are your proposed solutions?

The biggest issue is the insatiable appetite by government in general; to want to provide more and more services that taxpayers cannot afford.

Until you truly research what is actually going on in government at all levels, you don’t really understand the danger of giving up your liberty to attain a state of complacency – thinking the government will solve all of your problems and fulfill your needs.

You won’t believe the state and federal programs in existence; then try to understand the ramifications of voting for or against these programs for implementation at the county level.

Do we have enough people to qualify to get the funding for this? Do we have enough staff to not only provide the service, but does staff have enough time to do the forms and paperwork required by the state or federal government? What are the true costs of the program, and what happens if the promised matching dollars never arrive?

Try and get your arms around the idea that government will actually provide good health care to us, provide transportation to those who don’t have any, and a roof over the heads of those who don’t have any. The government’s attempt to do these things has resulted in unfair competition with the private sector to provide these services, and the cycle of dependency that is created by a government to ensure their existence by selling people on the idea they (government) should be the one-stop shop when it comes to getting what you want.

For me, to have at least a fighting chance to figure out some of these things, I draw on the knowledge and experience of some key people in the county and beyond to help define what is best when it comes to participation by Meeker County in such matters.

My two areas of concern that I have experience with are drainage and road maintenance. I am not an expert, but I do understand the importance of these issues and the important role the county plays in ensuring these issues are handled correctly and timely.

The county is the ditch authority, but only takes action on maintenance when requested by a landowner or by petition of those in the ditch system. Time passes too fast when we look at the age of our clay tiles and ditch systems as a whole. For too many years, the only people concerned about ditch maintenance were the landowners affected when a ditch system failed to work properly.

County officials have demonstrated a bit of reluctance in pushing for maintenance and cleanouts, for fear of angering others in the ditch system not affected by flooding with the assessments of routine maintenance.

What we find today are ditches full of trees and brush, buildup of silt, and a failure to move water to where it needs to go.

With improved commodity prices, increased land values, and intermittent big rains, we find ourselves under the gun to get these systems back to working the way they were intended.

More tiling means each system has more benefitted landowners, and we will need to plan redeterminations for all county ditches going forward (unless a redetermination was done in the last decade or so).

It is imperative that this be done in a timely matter. We can no longer afford to pretend this problem will just go away. We need input by many. We need to demand the Department of Natural Resources improve their permitting process so these ditch maintenance projects can proceed, not allow these projects to be held up for years because of a bureaucrat’s personal politics preventing them from doing their job, and work with local governments instead of ignoring them.

The other issue is that of road maintenance and repair. The funding mechanism for road and bridge maintenance throughout the state is broken, and our Department of Transportation District 8 is no exception. We have allowed a few to tell the majority of Minnesotans that you can’t have good roads with multiple lanes. You can have good roads or multiple lanes, but you can’t have both.

Maintenance is only one-third of the MnDOT budget. Would you believe that aesthetics (bike paths and shrubbery) and public transportation makes up two-thirds of the MnDOT’s budget?

So, instead of real solutions to road and bridge issues, we are told once again in rural Minnesota that we are not a priority when it comes to real maintenance. We’re told we have to learn to get by with thin overlays and not road rebuilds.

We’re told we don’t have the numbers of vehicles using our roads locally to justify spending money on widening and rebuilding.

We can only expect some resurfacing, and that we shouldn’t be complaining about the rough ride we may encounter.

That is where we, at the county level, need your help in demanding the funding formulas for the DOT be changed to ensure good infrastructure for the movement of people and goods.

We need to demand more and better maintenance locally, including crack filling. These are things I am referring to when it comes to funding. We spend more money in areas where fewer people are served, rather than in areas where the most good can be achieved.

The adage of, “All boats float in a rising tide,” is true, and, yet, ignored by some of those who hold positions of power they are appointed to and not elected to.

The voters of Minnesota were duped in a previous election when told how beneficial Legacy Funds and other slush funds would be to our infrastructure. After passing the bill, we now find out that not less than 60 percent can go to public transit and not more than 40 percent of these funds can be used to maintain our road and bridge infrastructure.

How do you like that?

I guess the biggest problem in addition to all of this is the urban votes in the legislature outnumber the rural votes in the legislature. Something needs to be done to change this.

What specifically can this unit of government do to cut costs and operate efficiently, while still maintaining service to taxpayers?

Most local units of government have cut their costs to the bone. As I stated earlier, if a local unit of government can no longer afford to offer a non-required service, then they need to seriously consider cutting that service.

Historically, local units of government have tried offering additional services, in hopes of attracting businesses and younger residents to their area.

Today, these same local units of government find themselves short on funds, because the state no longer is helping to pay for these services.

Government then feels it is OK to not live within its means, and instead try to tax itself into prosperity.

This, of course, never works. Government only needs to provide the services they are mandated to by statute or by the constitution and nothing more.

Taxpayers have to live within their means; why doesn’t government?

Bryan Larson, Greenleaf Township

Why are you running for Meeker County Commissioner?

My grandfather, Richard Werner was a county commissioner. I remember how dedicated he was to the county. I would like the opportunity to follow in his footsteps, and keep Meeker County a great place to live and work.

I have the experience, as a farmer and business owner, as township board chair, treasurer, and supervisor; and serving several other boards and committees, to be a Meeker County commissioner.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing Meeker County, and what are your proposed solutions?

Economic development issues continue to be important to encourage job growth. Meeker County has a large agricultural base. Much of our industry is related to agriculture. The county needs to continue to enhance value-added ag production.

Meeker County has numerous beautiful lakes. The threat of aquatic invasive species is a real problem. It decreases lakeshore property values, water quality, and many water sports. Earlier intervention in this problem needs to involve township, county, state, and federal governments, and the lake associations.

What specifically can this unit of government do to cut costs and operate efficiently, while still maintaining service to taxpayers?

The board should take a closer look when allocating funds, especially since state support has been reduced in recent years. With many state mandates – especially unfunded mandates – we need to talk to our state representatives and senators. We also need to communicate with the Association of Minnesota Counties.

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