Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Full Agenda at the County Board Meeting

We covered a lot of ground at today's County Board meeting.  Below is a summary of the highlights from my perspective:

Public Comment
No member of the Public opted to address the County Board today.  As a reminder, this time is set aside at the start of each County Board Meeting for members of the Public to bring issues, concerns, questions, or ideas to the County Board.  Whether you are a bit shy or quite seasoned at advocating for your cause, coming before the Board is a powerful way to have your voice be heard.

Trunk Highway 61 Intersection Lighting
County Engineer David Betts and Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Traffic Engineer Rob Ege shared the MnDOT Strategic Safety Plan Initiative in District 1 which includes plans to install intersection lighting at various trunk highway intersections in Cook County.  MnDOT will install (1) dark sky compliant light fixture at (3) Highway 61 Intersections in Cook County:  CSAH 2 (Sawbill Trail), CSAH 5 (Ski Hill Road), CSAH 7 (West of Grand Marais).  The Board agreed to enter into an agreement with MnDOT to provide power and routine maintenance for these lights; MnDOT will provide major maintenance such as replacement of knocked-down poles and long-term replacements.

Highway Department Winter Maintenance Update 
Highway Department Maintenance Supervisor Russell Klegstad reported that the added personnel and the changes made to the snow removal routes has resulted in getting the County's roads plowed more expeditiously.  He also reported that the Highway Department is making plans to ensure that they have enough salt and sand to get us through this winter season.

Committee Openings
Diane Booth presented the U of M Extension Committee request to have Deb Benedict and Tim Nickolay fill openings on their board.  She also requested that Don Goodell be appointed as the Extension Committee representative on the Community Center Board of Trustees.  The County Board approved both appointments unanimously.

Judge Magney Survey Plat
The County Board approved the plat presented by contract County Surveyor Wayne Hensche for the Magney State Park Citizen Petition.  A Public Hearing is being scheduled for February 22, 2011 at 10 am for the public to assess the costs/acre.  If landowners have any questions about this plat, the assessments, or the process, they should call Cook County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers at 218-387-3646 or Wayne Hensche at 218-387-1172.

Grand Marais Library Expansion Project
John Geissler, Architect from DSGW Architects, along with Librarian Linda Chappell and members of the Library Board presented an overview of their progress to date on the Library Expansion project to be paid for with 1% Sales Tax Funds.  DSGW presented a Project Budget based on a 2767 sf addition for an estimated $1 million.  I stressed the importance of understanding the Operating & Maintenance costs of the proposed addition and building only what the City and County can afford to operate and maintain.

At the request of DSGW and the Library Board, the County Board authorized the Library Board to proceed in seeking construction bids.  There was discussion about how to proceed contractually and whether or not to use a Construction Manager, Owner's Representative or General Contractor, but no decision was made.  The County Board will need to make this decision in early March.

Copies of the Library Expansion project may be seen at the Library.

Office Furniture Request
Requests to purchase new office furniture were made and approved for the Attorney's Office, Planning & Zoning, and the Assessor's Office.  The motion to purchase passed 3-1 with Commissioner Martinson opposed.  (Commissioner Hall was absent from today's meeting and did not vote.)  I really struggled with this decision and spent time yesterday looking at the existing furniture and talking with the department heads requesting the furniture.  Ultlimately, I supported the decision based on the fact that the existing furniture in each office was either broken down or ergonomically dysfunctional.  The furniture will be paid for out of the Building Fund.

Enterprise GIS Software License Agreement
The County Board passed a motion to renew the ESRI Enterprise GIS Software Agreement for (3) years.  Danna MacKenzie and Kyle Oberg were able to negotiate with ESRI to reduce the price of this contract by 50% based on a cost analysis of actual software use vs. purchasing other options.

Blandin Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) Projects
The County Board approved a motion to authorize the expenditure of the MIRC grant budget as approved by the Blandin Foundation.  This grant includes $80,400 in project funds for (8) local projects selected to foster sustainable use and adoption of broadband in order to help create technologically and economically vital rural communities.

Allied Radio Matrix for emergency Response (ARMER) Radio System 
Sheriff Mark Falk and Geo-Comm Representative Rey Freeman presented for approval the ARMER Paticipation Plan for Cook County; the County Board moved to approve the plan.  The Plan will now move forward for approval from the NE MN Regional Advisory Committee (NE RAC), NE MN Regional Radio Board (NE RRB), and the State of MN Radio Board Operations and Technical Committee (OTC).

Project Summary from the Plan: 

Cook County and the public safety entities within Cook County have developed a plan for the replacement of the existing VHF public safety radio systems currently used by those agencies.  A comprehensive radio system analysis was conducted in 2009, which presented options for either continued VHF radio operations, or a migration to the 800 MHz ARMER system.

The primary goals of a new radio communications system are:
-Meet the FCC mandated migration to narrowband (12.5 KHZ) before the January 1, 2013 deadline.
-Provide improved radio system coverage and capacity.
-Replacement of the existing aging VHF radio system equipment.
-Provide expanded county and region wide interoperability between public safety agencies, whether utilizing VHF or 800 MHz.

After a thorough review of the options available, the County has determined that a migration to the 800 MHz ARMER radio system, utilizing the system's multi-use, digital and trunking tehnologies would best meet the county agencies radio communications goals, and will provide the required level of interoperability between public safety agencies in the region.

Funding for the implementation of the ARMER system within Cook County is being considered from local bonding, local levy and grants.