Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Board of Commissioners Meeting---First Regular Meeting of 2011

Today was the first regular meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners; highlights of the meeting are below.  A complete copy of the meeting agenda and minutes will be posted on the County's website at http://www.co.cook.mn.us/.

Sheriff's Response Unit (SRU) Snowmobiles
The County Board unanimously approved Sheriff Falk's proposal to transfer ownership of (3) older snowmobiles (1990, 1991, 1994) that are no longer in use by the SRU to local volunteer fire departments and/or first responder units.  The first transfer will be to the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department (GTVFD) for rescue missions within their response area.  The other (2) snowmobiles will be transferred based on interest and need.

Annual Review of Permitted Gravel Pits
At its December 8, 2010 meeting the Cook County Planning Commission reviewed (13) gravel permits under consideration for renewal for the 2011 calendar year.  The Planning Commission recommended 10 of those permits for renewal without modification; the remaining (3) permit renewals were also recommended for permit renewal, but only with some modifications.  After some discussion, the County Board approved (9) of the requested permits without change and requested that the Office of Planning and Zoning work with Tim Scannell on the appropriate corrective language for the remaining (4) permits.  These (4) permits will be reviewed at the next County Board meeting.

Conditional Use Permit on Caribou Lake
The County Board approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to allow the extended use of a recreational vehicle for habitation on property adjacent to Caribou Lake.  The Planning Commission recommended this approval with (8) conditions, including limiting the hours of generator operation to between the hours of 8:00 am and 7:00 pm.  Bill Lane (OPZ) informed the Board that the noise from the generator was the only real concern raised by the neighbors.  I made a motion to approve the CUP as proposed by the Planning Commission, but it died for lack of a 2nd.  After some discussion, a second motion was made which included extending the hours of generator operation to 10:00 pm and a requirement to build an insulated box around the generator.  This motion passed 3-2 with Jim Johnson and Sue Hakes opposed;  Commissioner Johnson and I were both in support of the Planning Commission recommendation without modification.

County Assessor/Land Commissioner Issues
County Assessor Mary Black requested the Board support the Minnesota Association of County Land Commissioners (MACLC) recommendation to move the administration of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Revenue.  The County Board voted unanimously to support this change with a letter from Chair Jim Johnson.

Mary Black, with support from ACMU Vice-President Chuck Silence, presented a draft letter from the Arrowhead Coalition of Multiple Use (ACMU) to US Representative Chip Cravaack requesting that the procedures for developing and implementing forest plans, or modifying existing plans be redesigned for improved efficiency, consistency and cost effectiveness.  The County Board agreed unanimously to write a companion letter to Rep. Cravaack in support of streamlining the existing process.

Appointments to Boards and Commissions
The County Board reviewed the Board and Commission assignments making the following changes:
1.  The Broad Band Task Force is obsolete and has been replaced by the Fiber Optic Commission.  Of course this was extremely disappointing to me as I had been named the County Board representative on the Broad Band Task Force.  Alternatively, I was named as the alternate to Bruce Martinson on the Fiber Optic Commission.  My intention is to be very involved in the FOC as the opportunity for Broadband evolves in Cook County.  Bruce and I agreed to work together positively on this important Commission. 2.  The County Board also recommended me as the replacement for Bob Fenwick on the Superior Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) as authorized under Title II of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (Public Law 110-343), so I will be making application for that position. 

There are still several Board openings for Citizen participation.  If you are interested in becoming a member of the Airport Advisory Commission, Community Center Board, NE MN Housing Consortium Advisory Committee, Planning Commission or the Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee, please contact Braidy Powers at 387-3646 or braidy.powers@co.cook.mn.us.

See complete list of County Board and Commission Assignments.

1 % Project Updates
Commissioner Fritz Sobanja provided an update on the Grand Marais Library expansion project including the DSGW Architectural Firm's preliminary rendition of the building exterior and interior floorplans.

As a member of Community Center ad hoc Committee, I reported that the proposed contract to hire an architectural firm for the Community Center is being prepared by County Attorney Tim Scannell and will be presented to the County Board for review at the 1/18/2011 County Board Meeting.

I suggested that the One Percent Coordination Committee (Hakes, Martinson, Tim Scannell, Braidy Powers) meet to discuss the overall One Percent budget, projects with preliminary approval, projects not yet approved, legislative requirements, project prioritization, schedule, budget, etc. and present to the County Board for discussion in a Work Session to be scheduled.  The County Board supported this action and Bruce Martinson offered to schedule the first meeting with the One Percent Coordination Committee.

Public Input at County Board Meetings
In a sincere effort to increase and improve opportunities for Public Input at County Board Meetings, the Board had 4 yes votes (Hakes, Hall, Johnson, Martinson) to add an "Open Forum" to every County Board meeting for a 6-month trial basis.  Commissioner Sobanja abstained from voting.  During this Open Forum, the public is encouraged to address the County Board with any question, concern or idea related to County Business that they might have.  During the Open Forum period, the County Board will listen and perhaps ask clarifying questions. Comments will be limited to 5 minutes per person.  With Board approval, issues raised during the Open Forum may be added to the existing or future agenda as appropriate.

I advocated for the addition of this Open Forum because it guarantees the Public an opportunity to address the full County Board and allows members of the Public the freedom to address issues which may or may not be on any Board agenda.  It should be noted that the Open Forum is designed to enhance public participation.  Public participation during the regular portion of the County Board meeting will remain as it is.  Generally the County Board is liberal in receiving Public input at regular County Board Meetings, but it is technically at the discretion of the Board Chair to call on members of the Public.  The Open Forum will guarantee opportunities for the public to raise issues.  Coming before the County Board in person is a powerful way for the Public to address the Commissioners.  I'm hopeful that Cook County residents and taxpayers will take advantage of the Open Forum as they need to.