Tuesday, June 14, 2011

County Board Meeting

All County Board members--Jim Johnson, Fritz Sobanja, Bruce Martinson, Jan Hall and Sue Hakes--were present for today's Board Meeting.  Also in attendance were County Auditor Braidy Powers and Human Resources Director Janet Simonen.

Public Comment Period
No members of the public opted to address the County Board at today's meeting.

County Car Purchase
Maintenance Director Brian Silence reported that the county car used by the Emergency Management Department has unsafe front tires, needs alignment, has broken left spring, bad left lower ball joint, and old fuel filter.  This car has 125,000 miles on it.  The County Board authorized Silence to look into replacement costs of this vehicle.  Hakes also asked Silence for a summary on the fleet and ideas for reducing fleet costs.  This request was supported by the Board and study should include vehicle lease vs. purchase costs, sharing cars, mileage reimbursement for employees, affordable make/models, etc.  Silence agreed and will provide the requested information at a future Board meeting.

Poplar River AUAR Update
Planning and Zoning (OPZ) Director Tim Nelson reported that the AUAR (Alternative Urban Areawide Review) for Poplar River is nearing the end of its (5) year cycle.  Nelson is soliciting comments for review and consideration and will make a recommendation to the Board for updating or letting it expire.

Nelson also requested Board approval to draft a temporary SSTS (Subsurface Sewage Treatment System) Ordinance to fill the gap between now and the 2014 deadline set by the Legislature to have an SSTS Ordinance in place.  The OPZ will also explore offering low interest loans to those qualified and the ability to pay such loans with property taxes over a longer period of time to make payments more affordable.

Ehlers & Associates
Carolyn Drude and Bruce Kimmel of Ehlers & Associates presented a preliminary bond issuance plan as an example of how the County might structure the debt for the 1% Sales Tax projects.  This preliminary plan is based on the current estimates for 1% Sales Tax project costs and construction timelines.  Bonding for the 1% Sales Tax projects will change as project costs and timelines are confirmed.  Ehler's example plan includes issuing a combination of both taxable and tax-exempt GO Sales Tax Revenue Bonds, as well as loaning ourselves money from the County general funds.  Coordinating debt services on these issues will help ensure that total annual principal and interest payments are relatively steady to minimize the overall interest expense.

Community Center (existing)
The County Board approved the Community Center Board recommendation to appoint Joanne Smith to replace Bob Spry who has resigned from the Community Center Board of Trustees.

Booth informed the Board that the Cook County Curling Club has requested indoor ice from early October 2011 through April 1, 2012 and will pay $2200/month for ice use.  The Curling Club is working to build their club by increasing the number of Bonspiels held and by attracting Canadian curlers.  To do so, the Club needs to start their curling season in October.

The needs of the Curling Club for ice time conflicts with both indoor skating and hockey.  As a potential solution, the Community Center Board of Trustees asked the County Board to consider purchasing synthetic ice that could be used for both figure skating and hockey.  The County Board agreed on a motion to consider paying $60,000 for synthetic ice subject to volunteer committments for maintenance, finding a suitable location (possibly the tennis courts), and storage for the ice.

Booth also asked the County Board to approve a motion to move forward with mitigation of the wetlands between County and School property.  This area was delineated in 2006, so the County Board approved a wetland review for an estimated cost of $300.

1% Sales Tax Project Updates
Tom Wacholz of ORB Management gave updates on the 1% projects currently underway:  Community Center, Superior National Golf Course, Library Expansion and Birch Grove Community Center

Community Center--Wacholz and Hakes reported that the Community Center Steering Committee met last Friday (June 10) to discuss, among other things, (6) location options for the facility.  Hakes informed the County Board that the Steering Committee passed a motion to ask the Board to direct ORB Management to prepare a proposal for estimated sites cost for (3) sites including Options 1, 5, and 6.   Hakes requested that the Board also consider Option 2, stating she felt it was too early to eliminate this option.  The Board discussed the options, and ultimately asked ORB to prepare the proposal for sites 1, 2, and 5, eliminating the option to attach the proposed facility to ISD166.

Superior National Golf Course--Sirius Golf Advisors prepared and presented a summary of their site visit to Superior National Golf Course last week.  After leaving Minnesota, Sirius learned that George Nelson is willing to donate enough land to the County to build an additional 9 holes of golf.  The County Board unanimously turned down the Sirius recommendation to perform a second site visit to review this additional land for the purpose of expanding the golf course.

Library Expansion Project--Work on the Library Expansion project continues.  The Library will be operating temporarily out of ISD166 and has agreed to pay $2000/month in rent up to $15,000.

Birch Grove Community Center Project--Egle Vanagaite of the Center of Changing Landscapes presented the results from their site analysis, the grading and planting plans and an illustrative master plan for the Birch Grove project.  This project has a budget of $700K and includes a tennis court, hockey rink and warming hut, playground, trails and parking.

Auditor-Treasurer Office
The County Board approved Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers' recommendation to hire Angela Cook in his Department.  The Board also approved a liquor license for Clearwater Lodge.

2010 ATV Report
As required by Cook County Ordinance #54, the County Board reviewed Sheriff Falk's Report on ATV use in Cook County which included data from Law Enforcement and feedback from the DNR, USFS and Highway Patrol.  The Cook County Sheriff's Office generated just 9 calls for service regarding ATV use in Cook County, down from 15 calls in 2009. All of the calls were minor in nature and no citations were issued for violations occurring on ATVs.  Several members of the Public (John Bottger, Vil Neilands, Rhonda Silence, Chuck Silence) spoke about how well the Ordinance is working from their individual perspectives. 

ATV Club Secretary Rhonda Silence invited the County Board and those in attendance at the Board meeting to the Cook County ATV Club season Kick-Off Party on June 19 at the Cook County Ridge Riders Devil Track groomer building.  All are welcome.  For more information call 387-9844 or ATV@rideupnorth.com.

Good news!  Nancy Grabko of the Lake and Cook County Joint Housing Initiative and EDA Chair Mike Litfin were pleased to report that Cook and Lake counties were awarded $370,000 from the 2011 Small Cities Development Program to be used for owner occupied housing rehab,  rental and/or commercial rehab, or public facility improvements.  Leveraging these funds with $106,000 in resources from Grand Marais, Lake County and AEOA results in a $476,000 project. 

Grabko is also working to secure Sec 8 Rental Assistance Certificates for both Cook and Lake counties.  She will be meeting with the Duluth Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA) to make this much needed request.  Commissioner Sobanja will join this effort on June 23 in Duluth.

Potential Government Shutdown
The Board discussed local areas of concern should the State Government shut down for lack of a budget deal by July 1.