Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Human Services Board, County Board Meeting and Biomass Work Session

Cook County Human Services Board Meeting
All members of the Cook County Human Services Board were present for today's meeting:  Chair Sue Hakes, Jan Hall, Jim Johnson, Bruce Martinson, Fritz Sobanja, Diane Fitzgerald and Carla LaPointe.  County staff present was Sue Futterer, Jan Parish, Anna Sandstrom and Janet Simonen.  Ric Schaefer, Arrowhead Health Alliance Director, was also present.

Committee Reports 
Board members reported on the various committees held this past month.  The common thread for all is the challenge of doing more (or at least the same) with less funding.  Commissioner Hall reported that Arrowhead Regional Corrections has labored to cut nearly $1M from its budget, a portion of which will benefit Cook County.  Hall also reported that ARC has received a 2-year grant from the US Department of Justice in the amount of $590,000.  Sue Hakes reported that the North Shore Collaborative heard a presentation from the Two Harbors Area Community Fund about the coming grant cycle.  The Two Harbors Area Community Fund has funded the LOTS reading program in the past.  And Jim Johnson noted with regrets that Darryl Smith is retiring and will really be missed.

Financial Report--Jan Parish, Income Maintenance and Fiscal Supervisor
Jan Parish gave the monthly PHHS financial report; the budget is on track for 2011.  Jan also wrote and shared an interesting (and quite entertaining) anecdote about the changes she has observed and participated in during her 30 years of service in the Cook County Public Health and Human Services Department.

Director's Report--Sue Futterer
Sue Futterer reported that the fiscal case analysis for the Region 3 Redesign Income Maintenance Project is complete and currently being studied by the Human Service Directors in the Region.  They are also evaluating the responses from the (2) potential vendors for the Redesign Software to understand the benefits and trade offs of each system.

Futterer shared a Minnesota Department of Health publication entitled "The Human and Economic Cost of Alcohol Use in Minnesota" dated March 2011.  Highlighted in that report is the fact that the economic costs of alcohol use in Minnesota are an estimated 17 times greater than the $296 million in tax revenues collected from alcohol sales.

Futterer reported that the School Community Action Team  is focusing on the development of a "Social Host Ordinance".  A Social Host Ordinance is different from State laws that prohibit adults from providing alcohol to minors.  Instead, it makes it unlawful to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place.

The Vulnerable Children and Adults Act is undergoing some legislative changes.  Funding for these service is declining and all indications are that it will continue to decline.

Lastly, Futterer reported that Hilja Iverson has been working on pre-evacuation planning in case it is needed for the Pagami Creek and/or other fires in Cook County.

Arrowhead Health Alliance (AHA) Report--Ric Schaefer, Director 
The Board welcomed Ric Schaefer to its meeting.  Ric was present to give an overview of the Arrowhead Health Alliance.  AHA is a multi-county health and human services joint powers entity between (4) counties:  Cook, Lake, Carlton, Koochiching.  The vision of AHA is to serve all of NE Minnesota with integrated pubic health care and human services that are efficient, accessible and affordable.  Since its inception AHA has successfully obtained funding for and delivered several programs including a $375,000 HRSA grant for Universal Home Visiting for pregnant or postpartum women and their families.  AHA is working to expand its programs to provide services to a greater population base.

Board Actions
The Board formalized (and welcomed) the appointment of Patty Nordahl to the PHHS Advisory Committee to complete the three-year term ending 12/31/12 of the previous Birch Grove Foundation Director. 

County Board Meeting
Chair Jim Johnson and all members of the County Board--Hakes, Hall, Martinson, Sobanja--were present for today's meeting.  County Staff present included Braidy Powers and Janet Simonen.

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

Pagami Creek Fire Update
Members of the Northern Rockies Type I National Incident Team gave the County Board an update on the Pagami Creek Fire burning in Lake County.  Approximately 23% of the fire has been contained; it has not crossed into Cook County.  It is anticipated that the fire will be under control by Monday, September 26, weather pending.  To date $3.3 million has been spent on this fire and two firefighters have been injured.

Maintenance Department--Brian Silence, Director
Representing the Colvill Community Hall Committee, Sharon Bloomquist joined Brian Silence in a request for new tables and chairs for the Colvill Community Hall.  The County Board authorized up to $4000 for this purchase.  Bloomquist and Silence agreed to comparison shop and reduce the costs if possible.  Funding will come from the unorganized township budget.

The County Board authorized Brian Silence to have the walkway on the North side of the Courthouse repaired.

County Assessor--Mary Black
Mary Black gave the Commissioners an overview of the current Cook County Taxation Abatement Policy.  Jim Johnson will work with Black to determine whether or not changes are warranted or recommended.

County Engineer--David Betts
Dave Betts notified the Board that Fran Johnson will be retiring effective November 1, 2011.  The Board accepted Johnson's resignation with regret and appreciation for his service.  The Board authorized Betts to begin the process of filling the position that will be vacated.

The County Board authorized Betts to advertise for snow plowing bids on the Evergreen Road, Voyageur's point, Mile-O-Pine Road, and West Rosebush Lane.

The County Board authorized the Highway Department to enter into a contract for geotechnical borings and evaluations as part of the Highway Department facilities Study and Master Plan.  The estimated cost is $3500.

Law Enforcement--County Sheriff Mark Falk
Communications leases between the County and the US Forest Service have been updated for both Gunflint Trail and Mid-trail.  Facilities include under these leases include radio communications towers and equipment shelters.  Both leases will expire one minute after midnight on 12/31/2030.

Auditor-Treasurer--Braidy Powers
28 annual renewal applications for Liquor Licenses were approved by the County Board.  All are subject to applicable approvals from the County Attorney, Sheriff, Town Board, liquor liability and worker's compensation compliance, state and local ordinances, etc.

The Board approved amendments to the Travel Policy as recommended by Braidy Powers to ensure consistency within the Policy as it relates to advances and reimbursements for travel expenses.

The Public Meeting on the 2012 County Budget and Levy (formerly known as Truth in Taxation Meeting) has been set for Monday, November 28.  This meeting must  be held after 6 pm.

One Percent Projects
ORB Management provided an update to the Master Schedule for all 1% Projects.  This schedule has been determined by the County Board and is used as a tool for program tracking and prioritization of projects.  ORB updates this schedule regularly and reports to the County Board the 3rd Tueday of each month.

ORB reported on the Library project.  Nearly 40% of the total project costs have been paid out on the project.  The project is on schedule and budget.  Bi-weekly site visits have been scheduled beginning tomorrow, September 21.  Sue Hakes will be in attendace at that walk-thru.

ORB also reported on the Birch Grove Community Center.  Phase I of this project was completed in mid-August and under budget.  Meyer Group was selected by the Tofte Town Board to develop the master plan for this project and to work with ORB to complete the planning a design of the warming house and skating rink.  As of September, 8% of the 1% funds allocated to this project have been spent.  ORB will continue to work with Tofte to prioritize the proposed projects for the Community Center to stay within the budget.

2012 Budget
The County Board supported a request from Commissioner Hakes to continue meeting on the 2012 budget to decrease spending, lower costs, and  increase revenues.  The next budget meeting has been set for 9:30 am on Friday October 7 in the Commissioner's Room at the Courthouse. 

Biomass Work Session
Representatives from the Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP), Dovetail Partners, the University of Minnesota and Local Project Coordinator Gary Atwood met with the County Board to present their report, "Forest Biomass Heating and Electricity in Cook County, MN".  This report presents the results of the first phase of a two-phase study that explores the options, opportunities and implications of using forest biomass as an energy source for the heating of homes, business and public buildings in Cook County.

Phase I of the study focuses on (3) things:  1) the availability of biomass for energy production; 2) the technologies and system configurations which may be suited to the range of potential applications around Cook County; and 3) a financial evaluation of these systems relative to fossil fuel alternatives.  Phase II of this study will provide the basis for determining which options presented in the report, if any, are a good idea for Cook County.  Public input and Community involvement will be a part of this evaluation.

A copy of this report will be posted on both the CCLEP and Dovetail Partners websites as early as September 21.