The Polk County Commissioners met for the final time in 2020 last week. It was the final meeting for Commissioner Don Deidrich, who spent 16 years as the Polk County Commissioner for the Fifth District.

Polk County Board Chair Gary Willhite shared some memories of Diedrich and Diedrich said he was very thankful for the people he’d worked alongside as a commissioner. “I’d like to thank all the people who voted for me and all the people who didn’t,” said Diedrich. “I tried to represent you in the best manner that I could. I tried to answer your complaints and answer your phone calls. I guess I’d like to have a shoutout to the employees of the county that always had a friendly smile and a greeting for me, especially the department heads. On the county board, the guys that we worked with the most were Chuck Whiting and his predecessor Jack Schmallenberg. Good fellows, good people to work with. And I’d just like to say thank you to each and every one of them. You guys have given me a lot of memories to ponder. Thank you so much to each and every one of you.”

Polk County Administrator Chuck Whiting also wished Diedrich well. “Want to thank Don Diedrich,” said Whiting. “It was his last meeting today after 16 years on the board. He’s certainly been a good commissioner to work with, and we wish him well in his retirement.”

Diedrich will be replaced on the County Board by Mark Holy, who won the November election with 56.2 percent of the vote over former State Representative Tim Finseth.

The final cuts to the 2021 Polk County tax levy had been made already by the December 1 board meeting. But the board officially voted to pass the levy onto the taxpayers. The County met its goal for having a levy under three percent by maintaining a conservative budget said, Whiting. “The final levy is $25 million, which is a 2.88 percent increase over 2020,” said Whiting. “It’s a pretty conservative budget. No great initiatives. We just want to get through the pandemic.”

The County Commissioners approved a Polk County reserves’ expenditure to renovate the technology in the Polk County Courtrooms. Whiting said three other entities also appropriated funds. “Approved $17,000 for some courtroom improvements,” said Whiting. “The County Attorney and the Law Library is putting up $105,000, and the State of Minnesota is putting up even more than that to get the technology up to date in the courtrooms. That will be a project that gets done over the winter, so we’re glad to see that happening.”

The courtroom’s technology has become so outdated and unreliable that some court sessions had to be delayed because the technology wasn’t working properly on a particular day. In total, $17,515.77 came from Polk County Reserves for the project, $10,000 from Polk County Forfeiture Funds, $95,000 from the Polk County Law Library, and $151,727.45 from the State of Minnesota.

In mid-December, the Minnesota Legislature passed a $216.8 million business relief package, which was subsequently signed by Governor Tim Walz. The bill includes $88 million in direct payments to restaurants, bars, and gyms; $14 million for convention centers and movie theaters; and $114.8 million for local economically significant businesses and organizations, including non-profits, that will be distributed by counties.

The payments will be distributed through local governments. Whiting said Polk County will receive the funds and will work with the economic development staff in the county’s three largest cities to distribute funds around the county as they did with the CARES Act funding. “We are going to receive some more money from the State of Minnesota for business grants,” said Whiting. “We look forward to working with the city staff in Fosston, Crookston, and East Grand Forks. And helping businesses out with that money after the first of the year.”