Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No Net Gain, One Percent Projects & Superior National Golf Course

Vice-Chair Jan Hall chaired the County Board meeting in Board Chair Jim Johnson's absence.

Public Comment
No member of the public opted to address the County Board during the Public Comment period.

Tuckpointing Project at the Courthouse
The County Board approved a request from Maintenance Director Brian Silence to enter into a Contract with Karr Tuckpointing to do some needed tuckpointing on the original Courthouse.  The $35,237 bid will be paid in part with a $20,000 grant; the balance of $15,237 will be paid from the Building Fund.

Highway Department
County Engineer David Betts was given Board authorization to solicit bids for roadway striping on CSAH 1, CSAH 10, and CSAH 17.  The Board also approved the Local Bridge Replacement Program Grant for the Junco River Bridge on CSAH 8.  No money from the General Fund will be used for this $233,900 project; funding will come from State Aid and the grant.

Leo and Clearwater Landings Annual Maintenance Contract
The County Board authorized a Contract for Services with Gloria Johnson to clean the Leo and Clearwater Landings from May 14 thru October 16, 2011 for $80/week. 

No Net Gain of Public Land
On February 17, 2011 the Association of Minnesota Counties asked counties "if your county has ever passed a resolution for no net gain of public land or if you plan to consider this in the future".  Because this issue is complex, the County Board decided to discuss it at a Work Session to be scheduled in May.  The Board discussion included dramatically different points of view on this matter. 

In today's meeting, I stated that, "I am 100% against losing property tax revenue, and that a no net gain policy for State-owned land in Cook County could, in fact, have a negative impact on property tax revenues we are able to collect".  The Bill currently before the Legislature, House File No. 332, is not a one-size-fits-all solution and while it may be beneficial for some counties or certain particular situations, I do not believe it is beneficial for Cook County.  It could inhibit Cook County in its ability to use its lands for the highest and best purposes and then nobody wins.  In addition, the administration of such a policy has the potential to add another layer of government bureaucracy to be paid for by the taxpayer.

The County Board made the correct decision to thoroughly examine this issue at a Work Session; it's very important to our future.

Water Plan Coordinator
Cook County Soil & Water District Manager, Kerrie Fabius, notifed the County Board of CCSW's intention to hire Illena Berg as the new Water Plan Coordinator replacing Cindy Gentz.

Auditor-Treasurer Concerns
Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers reported that Cook County has been awarded a Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grant (HMEP) for $6000 to carry out an airplane crash exercise scheduled for the last weekend in April.  Emergency Management Director Jim Wiinanen will provide the 20% match of $1500 from his budget.  This Aircraft Crash Exercise is being held as part of the 22nd Annual Cook County Emergency Services Conference. 

The County Board approved the March 2011 Terms and Conditions of Accepting Airport Improvement Program Grants.

Tom Wacholz, ORB Management
Tom Wacholz and Rob Barse of ORB Management were present to update the Board on the One Percent Sales Tax Projects they are involved in.

Community Center--Wacholz noted that the next Community Center Steering Committee Meeting is scheduled for this Friday, April 15 from 8-5 pm at the Community Center.  The goal of this meeting is to decide on a recommendation to be made to the County Board and the Public regarding the final location and programming to be included in the Community Center.  Wacholz also explained that the Steering Committee has been working on the financial feasibility for the proposed Center.

As the Community Center Steering Committee Chair, I discussed the process and the opportunity for public input into the Community Center design.  Once the Steering Committee makes its decision for recommended programming and location, we will bring it to the County Board to seek approval to continue moving foward, followed by (3) Public Meetings we are working to schedule in May.  The Public Meetings have (2) major purposes:  1) to inform the Public about the recommended design and financial picture, and 2) obtain Public input and feedback about the recommended design and financial picture.

I also shared with the County Board the work the Steering Committee has been doing to determine the financial feasibility of the new Community Center.  We've been working to project estimated costs for a) building the facility, b) operating and maintaining the facility, and c) determining anticipated revenues for the facility.  In addition, we're working to project users of each proposed area of the new facility to aid in our decision-making.  This process is complex, but critical to the long-term success of the project.

Birch Grove Community Center--Tofte Town Supervisor, DC Olsen, requested the County Board allow them to hire ORB Management as the Construction Manager for their project to improve the Birch Grove Community Center.  This project has been estimated to cost just under $500,000 with the current plan to include upgrades to the commercial kitchen, a new tennis court, hockey rink with outdoor basketball court, parking, outdoor toilet, playground, warming hut and landscaping. While most of the funding will come from One Percent Sales Tax funds, Tofte Township has been working to obtain grants and other funding to offset the total cost.  Olsen's request of the County board was approved.

Library Expansion Project--The Board approved the Library Project Construction Management Agreement and the Addendum to the Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between the City and the County for Library Services.  Under the JPA, which has already been approved by the City of Grand Marais, the County will act as the owner of the Library project for purposes of signing all contracts. 

Superior National Golf Course--Rob Barse reported that (4) proposals were received in response to the RFP sent out to hire a Golf Course Consultant to study Superior National and make recommendations for an overall strategy to maximize the potential of Superior National.  The Review Committee to study the proposals includes Myron Bursheim and John Lindell representing the community at large, Braidy Powers and Tim Scannell, Bruce Martinson and Sue Hakes.  Every attempt has been made, and will continue to be made to keep this study and the resulting recommendations a truly independent study.  The Review Committee has met to review the proposals and will be conducting interviews this week.  It is anticipated that a recommendation will be made to the County Board on April 19.  Copies of the proposals are available to the public upon request.

Superior National Golf Course Discussion
The Board discussed the EDA's recent decision to hire a Manager at Superior National Golf Course, a decision I believe to be premature.  My recommendation to Bruce Martinson, County Board liaison to the EDA is to wait until the Golf Course Study is complete before making any hiring decisions or spending any money.  This is consistent with my position with the EDA and Friends of the Golf Course to not allocate any County or One Percent Funds until there is a sound business strategy in place.  Clearly, the EDA has gotten "the cart before the horse" in this matter.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Janet Simonen and Sue Hakes reminded the Board that April 13, 2011 is "Denim Day", a day that has been set aside to wear jeans as a way to raise awareness and take a stand against rape.  If you, or someone you know, needs help, you may contact the Violence Prevention Center at 218-387-1262 or on their Crisis Line at 218-387-1237.  For more information about the Violence Prevention Center, check their website at http://www.hope-4-u.org/.