Tuesday, March 22, 2011

County Board Meeting with One Percent Projects Update

The diversity of the work is a major reason I enjoy being a County Commissioner.  As is typical, we covered a variety of topics at today's County Board Meeting.

Public Comment Period
No member of the Public opted to address the County Board at today's meeting.  I encourage the Public to use this time to bring issues or concerns to the full Board, as well as become part of the public record.  It's a very powerful way to have your voice be heard.

Cook County Comprehensive Water Management Plan
Cindy Gentz, Water Plan Coordinator, requested the Board pass a resolution requesting an extension of the Water Plan from the Board of Water and Soil Resources.  This request was made due to staff changes in the Soil and Water Conservation District.  The County Board passed this resolution in support of a 2-year extension to the Water Plan (2014).

Highway Department
County Engineer David Betts notified the Board that Highway Department Engineering Technician Bill Parish will be retiring effective June 3, 2011.  With regret and appreciation for the dedicated service of Parish, the County Board accepted his retirement.

The County Board authorized the Highway Department to work with the Personnel Committee to prepare a final job description and proceed with the process to replace Parish.  Minimum qualifications for this position will be a graduate of a four-year civil engineering program plus 4-10 years experience in highway design and inspection. 

The County Board approved a grant application submitted by the Cook County Safe Routes to School Committee for the installation of a driver feedback sign on CSAH 7 (west of the school and facing eastbound traffic).

Planning and Zoning
The County Board approved (3) requests that were reviewed and recommended by the Planning Commission:

1.  The County Board approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for Ronald Wills to establish a home business within the Forest/Agriculture Residential (FAR-3) zone district.  Wills intends to continue the operation of his Caribou Cream maple syrup business on the Caribou Trail.

2.  The County Board approved a request for an Interim Use Permit to allow the extended use of a recreational vehicle (RV) for habitation on property adjacent to Greenwood Lake.  This is the 2nd permit granted to Walter and Nancy Sellman; it does expire 3-years after approval by the Board of Commissioners.

Note:  This is the 2nd request for a Conditional Use Permit to allow an RV on an inland lake lot in 2011.  Per the Office of Planning and Zoning (OPZ) it is anticipated that similar requests will be increasing in number.  Because of this, I asked OPZ to consider the character and economic impact to neighborhoods and make some type of recommendation to the Board.  I suspect one reason for the increase in this type of request is that due to the downturn in the economy, it has become more difficult for property owners to build.  I have formulated no opinion on this matter, but felt the County should study it and move forward with careful thought and consideration.

3.  The County Board approved a request from Jeff Latz for a zone change from Forest/Agriculture Residential (Far-3) to the Light Business Development Area zone in Lutsen.  Rezoning this property is consistent with the Lutsen Town Plan and the Cook County Land Use Guide Plan. 

PUBLIC HEARING to consider making changes to the Cook County Fee Schedule
No member of the Public opted to speak at the Public Hearing held to consider changes to the Cook County Fee Schedule.  The County Board passed the proposed changes to the County Fee Schedule.

One Percent Projects Update
Tom Wacholz, President of ORB Management, updated the County Board on (3) One Percent Projects:

1.  The Community Center Steering Committee continues to work through the Conceptual Design Phase of the project.  Wacholz believes this process is approximately 80% complete.  The Steering Committee's next full day meeting is slated for April 15.  At this meeting the Committee will study estimated costs associated for building, operating and maintaining the various types of programming the Committee hopes to include in the new facility.  Wacholz encouraged the Public to call members of the Committee with their ideas and input.  As the Steering Committee Chair, I noted that we intend to have Public Meetings regarding the Community Center sometimes between April 15 and 27.

2.  The Superior National RFP has been sent out in search of a Golf Course Consultant.  Proposals are due 4/1/2011. (Commissioner Martinson is the County's liaison to the EDA.)

3.  The County Board authorized County Attorney Tim Scannell to negotiate a Contract with ORB Management to be the Construction Manager (CM) on the Library Expansion Project.  The City and the County will create an addendum to their Joint Powers Agreement to allow for this partnership.  The Board again discussed the pros and cons of using a CM vs. the more traditional design-build arrangement.  Using the CM structure allows greater opportunity for local contractors to work on this project and played an important role in the Board's decision.  (Commissioner Sobanja is the County's liaison to the Library Board.)

Clearwater Lodge Satisfaction of Mortgage
On March 15, 2011 the County Board declined a request to further reduce the balance due the County Revolving Loan Fund to $21,750.  (Last year the County Board agreed to reduce the balance due from ~$55K to ~$27,500 in an effort to support a potential sale of the Lodge.)  Braidy Powers shared that the parties have agreed to $27,500 to satisfy the County's claim and release a Satisfaction of Mortgage.

Economic Development Agency (EDA) 
The County Board approved a Service Agreement between the County and the  EDA for the Auditor's Office to act as fiscal agent for the EDA (includes Superior National).  Prior to the County taking over this accounting-only function, the EDA needs to complete its 2010 Audit Work and ensure that the books are current and accurate as of the date the County takes over.  This agreement ends on December 31, 2011 at which time the process will be evaluated.  This change is being done to increase accountability for and understanding of EDA finances.
Commissioner Martinson reported that the EDA Board has selected  (3) candidates from a field of (5) to be considered for the proposed position of Superior National Golf Course Manager:  Todd Gervais, Keith Heckstrom, Bob Fenwick

ATV Ordinance Review
Cook County ATV Club Secretary, Rhonda Silence, (via email) asked to be notified when the County  Board conducts it next review of the ATV Ordinance.  Our ordinance states "the County Board shall request an annual report regarding ATV use from the Sheriff's Office, the Highway Department and the DNR." The Board will solicit this information from these organizations and will notify the ATV Club of its review process. 

Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program (FHPAP)
The County Board passed a resolution to support the FHPAP application for $30,000 for Lake and Cook Counties in the prevention of homelessness.  AEOA plans to partner with Kootasca Community Action  to apply to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency for this funding

April is National County Government Month
The National Association of Counties (NACo) has declared April as the month to celebrate County Government.  As a way to promote county government programs and services, increase understanding about local government and build a better relationship with the Public, I suggested we hold an open house at the Courthouse.  We all agreed that holding this event in April would be too short of notice to do it right.  So, I volunteered (at the suggestion of Board Chair Jim Johnson) to take the lead on this and work with the County Department Heads to plan an event sometime this calendar year.