Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Broadband Resolution Passed at County Board Meeting

Today was a very full and productive day at the Courthouse.  The County Board met from 8:30 AM until approximately 4:30 PM today (less a lunch break).  Following is a summary of the day.

County Chair Jim Johnson and Commissioners Hakes,  Hall, Martinson and Sobanja were all present for today's regularly scheduled Board Meeting which included an evaluation presentation on Superior National Golf Course (SNGC) from Sirius Golf Advisors.

Open Forum
Richard Olson and Shawn Perich requested the County work with Hovland property owners to resolve flooding issues caused by the undersized culvert where Otis Creek crosses the Arrowhead Trail.  Otis Creek has overtopped the Arrowhead culvert five times over the past six years causing damage to private property.  County Engineer Dave Betts is aware of the problem and will prepare a plan to resolve this issue for presentation at the 8/16/11 County Board meeting.

Highway Department
County Engineer David Betts asked the Board to assign (2) Commissioners to the Facility Study Committee to assess the work on the Highway Department Master Site Plan being led by Oertel Architects. Commissioners Martinson and Sobanja will join the Committee of Maintenance Supervisor Russell Klegstad, Maintenance Department Head Brian Silence, Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Highway Department Accountant Anne Zellner.

Moose Habitat Collaborative Support Letter
Land Commissioner Mary Black requested the Board write a letter of support for the MN Moose Habitat Collaborative application for Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council funds to restore moose habitat in NE Minnesota.  The Board voted unanimously to join the MN Deer Hunters Association, Nature Conservancy, USFS, MN DNR, 1854 Authority, Grand Portage and Fon du Lac Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lake and St. Louis Counties by providing a letter of support.

Office of Planning and Zoning (OPZ)
As recommended by the Planning Commission, the Board unanimously approved a zone change from Lakeshore Residential to Resort Commercial/Residential on property adjacent to Gunflint Lake and owned by John Schloot, dba Cross River Properties.

The Board denied a request for a Conditional User Permit to allow placement of a single family residence on a property owned by Joseph Sanders within the General Commercial zone district.  This request was denied for non-compliance with other zoning requirements 4-1 with Commissioner Sobanja dissenting.

The Board unanimously approved a request from Arrowhead Electric Cooperative for an Interim Use Permit to allow the temporary storage of fiber optic cable on property within the Lutsen Town Center Single Family Residential District.

Arrowhead Electric Cooperative Request for 1% Funds
Arrowhead Electric Cooperative (AEC) came before the County Board to request $4 million of 1% Local Option Sales Tax funding for their Broadband Project.  AEC has been awarded a combination grant and loan of $16 million through the federal Rural Utility Service for purposes of installing broadband technology throughout Cook County by making high speed internet available to all customers served by Arrowhead Electric and the Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission.  AEC is incurring at least $5.4 million in debt to undertake and complete the Broadband Project.  AEC needs an additional $4 million to ensure that the system is adequately robust, redundant, and long lasting.  The Board approved this request unanimously.

Capital Purchase Request
The Board authorized IS Director Danna MacKenzie to purchase (3) Dell computers as part of the IS Department's regularly planned rotation and maintenance plan as budgeted.

Community Center Project Update
Tom Wacholz of ORB Management informed the Board that sample collections (drilling) at the various Community Center site options will begin tomorrow, July 27.  The Board voted unanimously to add samples to be collected from the potential school site option.

ISD166 Superintendent Beth Schwarz updated the County Board on the School Board's two-part motion indicating the School District's willingness to consider a proposal that would attach the Community Center to the School District.  Advocates for attaching the Community Center to the School envision this to be at no-cost to ISD166 and should reduce annual operations and maintenance costs for the District.

The County Board discussed possible options to allow the City of Grand Marais to participate in the Cook County Community Center project.  Ultimately the Board passed a motion to suspend further Community Center design activities and expenses until the matter of the City's participation is resolved.  The contracts with ORB Management for Community Center Contract Management and Meyer Group for Community Center design will be suspended with the exception of the current site evaluation process.  The County will invite the City Council to a joint County/City work session on 8/23/11 to discuss the matter further.

Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers asked the Board to approve a Public Hearing for Miscellaneous Fees.  The Hearing will be scheduled for 10 AM on August 23.  Powers also asked the Board to approve an extension to the Tait Lake Firewise Grant, which was approved.

Evaluation of Superior National Golf Course (SNGC) in Lutsen 
Sirius Golf Advisors President John Waite and Golf Course Architect Jeff Brauer presented their draft Evaluation of SNGC to the County Board and several members of the Public, including members of the EDA.  The final report will be available in approximately 2 weeks; no significant changes are anticipated.  An Executive Summary of the ~175 page document was also provided.

Overall response to the study and the presentation was very positive and well-received.  The County Board, as well as others in attendance asked clarifying questions of Waite and Brauer.  The report noted the original SNGC mission to spur economic development in the area and to bring more tourists into the area.  So, at this point, the most important question to be asked is whether or not the original mission statement for Superior National Golf Course is still valid.  Answering this question is critical to how the County Board and the EDA should move forward.  Sirius Golf Advisors offered (3) different scenarios for consideration, each requiring a different amount of funding.  The EDA and SNGC staff will explore possible funding sources in addition to their anticipated request for 1% Local Option Sales Tax funds.