Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More on Budgets and the County Board Meeting

2012 County Budget Hearings
Monday was another full day of Budget Hearings by the County Board.  A follow-up meeting with the County Department Heads is scheduled for September 12.

County Board Meeting
County Board Chair Jim Johnson and Commissioners Hakes, Hall, Martinson and Sobanja were all present for today's County Board Meeting.  Also present were Braidy Powers, Tim Scannell and Janet Simonen.

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

Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department
Chris Steele and  Michael Valentini of the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department (GTVFD) presented the GTVFD proposal for expanding their (3) fire halls:  Poplar Lake, Gunflint and Seagull.  The proposal includes the addition of a bathroom at Gunflint, storage at Poplar Lake and creation of a Command Post at both Poplar Lake and Seagull.  The total cost for this work is estimated to be $550,000 to be paid by raising $50,000 in donations, finding $100,000 in grants and a loan from the County.  The County Board authorized a $220,000 loan for 20 years at 1% to the GTVFD to be paid back by increasing the levy in that Fire District.  Steele and Valentini said their project has the support of all Lake Associations in the District, Law Enforcement and the Forest Service.

Grand Marais-Cook County Airport Commission
The County Board voted unanimously to update and renew the Operation Service Provider Agreement (OSP), Fixed-Base Operator (FBO) Agreement, Airport Administrator Agreement, and Airport Commission By-Laws as recommended by the Airport Commission.

Highway Department
County Engineer David Betts and Maintenance Supervisor Russell Klegstad asked the County Board for approval to proceed with a surplus equipment auction.  The Board approved this request and also a request to replace a broken 3" pump.

Betts also gave a status report on the CSAH 8 road construction project.  Originally, this project was ahead of schedule, in part due to the State Shutdown and the availability of the Contractor.  Now, due to high demand for the asphalt plant after the State Shutdown, the project is being delayed.  CSAH 8 will be prepped and ready for asphalt pavement when it becomes available.  The road will have Class 5 gravel laid down.

Law Enforcement
The County Board approved a lease for the County to continue its use of the Devilfish Tower Site.  Cook County currently has one antenna on this tower and a small building on the site to house a repeater.  This lease is pre-dated to July 1, 2009 and terminates on June 30, 2019 for an annual lease fee of $500.

The County Board also approved a request from Sheriff Falk to support the submission of a $1M grant application to FEMA under the Assistance to Firefighter's Grant (AFG) to offset countywide costs for the migration to the ARMER system.

PUBLIC HEARING to consider changes to the Cook County Fee Schedule
No member of the Public spoke at this Public Hearing and the County Board approved the proposed changes to the Cook County Fee Schedule in Public Health and Human Services and Environmental Health.  Most of the changes were slight reductions.

Community Center Ice
The County Board approved a request to purchase Synthetic Ice up to $65,000 using 1% Local Option Sales Tax funds from the Community Center project, subject to a) trial and approval of a sample of this ice by the Cook County Hockey Association, and b) modification to the original Community Center 1% Local Options Sales Tax request.

The Cook County Amatuer Hockey Association and the Community Center Board of Trustees also requested the County Board commit to constructing outdoor ice beginning no later than July 1,  2012.  The County Board could not commit to this without a specific plan for the ice; concerns about identifying a location were also expressed.  Clearly, however, the County Board is supportive of expediting this process as is reasonable and requested the Hockey Association and Community Center Board of Trustees come forward with a proposal for consideration.

The County Board also reviewed a proposed Lease Agreement between the existing Community Center and the Cook County Curling Club for a period of 5 1/2 months and a fee of $13,750.  The Board agreed to the lease agreement in general principal, suggested a few minor changes, and asked County Attorney Tim Scannell to review the contract.

Recycling Center Vehicle
Brian Silence and Tim Nelson requested authorization to purchase a used vehicle for the Recycling Center.  The County Board authorized this purchase 4-1 with Commissioner Hakes voting no.  Hakes expressed the need to understand the vehicle purchasing policy and confidence that the current policy is the most cost effective.

HOME Consortium Advisory Committee
Sue Hakes asked the County Board to consider appointing Nancy Grabko to the open housing advocate seat on the HOME Consortium Advisory Committee.  The Board agreed Grabko would fit the position well and asked Hakes to get a letter of application/interest from Grabko for formal consideration.

One Percent Project Updates
The Board briefly discussed the Superior National Golf Course project noting that $1.8M of the 1% Local Option Sales Tax was set aside for this project at last week's Joint County/EDA Work Session, subject to an acceptable Business Plan.  Commissioner Hakes stated that while she appreciated the high bar that the SNGC and EDA had set for themselves to find funding to renovate the golf course and clubhouse, that she would not support any SNGC proposal that required an increase to the levy, bonding, or other new debt.  Hakes reminded the Board that the EDA has outstanding debt of ~$1.6M for the Cedar Grove Business Park that is currently the burden of the City of Grand Marais.  Overall, the Board shared the concerns expressed by Hakes.

Power It Down Day
Cook County received a friendly, informal memo from the USFS encouraging the County to join with the USFS in "Power It Down Day".  The memo asks each of us to turn off our computer, monitor, printer, coffee pot, scanner, copier, plotter and personal appliances when leaving work on Friday.  This one simple act helps to cut greenhouse gas emissions from building energy consumption and purchased electricity.

City/County Work Session on Community Center
The County Board and the City Council met to discuss possible options for the City to participate in the Cook County Community Center project.