Tuesday, October 25, 2011

County Board Meeting

County Chair Jim Johnson was absent from today's Board Meeting due to illness (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/bevandjimjohnson) and Vice-Chair Jan Hall was absent as she was participating in the Heart of the Continent International Congress Event.  Commissioner Fritz Sobanja chaired the meeting in their absence. Commissioners Hakes and Martison were present, as were Janet Simonen, Braidy Powers, and Tim Scannell.

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

Cook County Housing Program
Nancy Grabko, Housing Administrator and Mike Litfin, EDA Board Chair, updated the Board on the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Small Cities Development Program.  The Cook County/Grand Marais EDA and the Lake County HRA will make a fourth joint application for additional housing rehabilitation funding and Grand Marais commercial rehab funding in the upcoming application cycle.  Pre-applications are due November 17, 2011.  If invited, final applications are due January 31, 2012.

Grabko also informed the Board that the Commercial Rehab Review Committee (Hal Greenwood-Chair, Vicki Wenz, Anna Hamilton) has recommended the EDA support the following (2) projects for rehabilitation: Cook County Senior Center and The Garage.

County State Aid Highway 8
At the request of Commissioner Hakes, County Engineer David Betts provided the County Board with cost information to apply Class I gravel to CSAH 8 to alleviate the problems of flat tires and potholes.  Betts calculated this cost to be between $113,000 and $147,000.  Hakes also asked Betts about crowning the road for possible relief from the problem.  Betts said material costs for this were also cost prohibitive.  Betts said the County Highway Department will continue to grade the road when possible to make it passable.  Winter snowpack should be better for driving conditions.  Betts estimates the road will be paved in mid-June 2012.

County/Federal Land Exchange
Two County Board Work Sessions have been scheduled to discuss the County's land exchange with the Federal government:  Nov. 4 at 8:30 am and Nov. 15 2-5 pm.  These meetings are likely to be held in the Commissioner's Room.  Watch for the official posting.

Hospital Sales Tax Funds
The Cook County North Shore Hospital requested funding from their 1994 1% Sales Tax Fund to purchase a Hematology Analyzer for $44,500.  This request was approved.

Airport Grant Resolution
The Board approved a resolution for a grant agreement with MN DOT for a runway extension benefit cost analysis and runway design in the amount of $309,510.

Grant Agreement with Arrowhead Electric Cooperative 
Arrowhead Electric Cooperative (AEC) has received funding from the USDA Rural Utilities Services under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build, operate and maintain an advanced, ultra-high-speed broadband network in Cook County.  The County Board approved the Grant Agreement between Arrowhead Electric Cooperative (AEC) and Cook County in the amount of $4,000,000 to ensure AEC will deliver high-capacity internet connectivity, video, telephone services and television  services to every home business and government agency that now receives electricity from Arrowhead Electric or from the Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission. County funding for this grant is part of the One Percent Local Sales Option Tax being collected and passed by voter referendum in the Fall 2008.

EDA and Superior National Golf Course (SNGC)
EDA Bridge Loan--For the past several years, the EDA has borrowed and paid back ~$200K from the County for cash-flow during the winter months at Superior National Golf Course (SNGC).  This $200K loan for 2011 is currently in the proceses of being paid off in full and on time.  The County Board approved a new bridge loan for 2012 in the amount of $225K for 1-year at 1%.

SNGC Roof Repair and Equipment Purchase--The County Board approved a) roof replacement on the SNGC Clubhouse ($12,000), and b) the purchase of (5) Toro Mowers (~$183,000) as previously agreed to at the EDA/County Board Work Session on August 18, 2011.

SNGC Business Plan--John Waite of Sirius Golf Advisors (SGA) gave a brief summary of the September 2011 Superior National Golf Course Business Plan.  In this report, SGA feels the best option for sustained success for SNGC, and to maximize economic impact to the area would be to become a 36-hole resort quality course.  Achievement of this goal would be done in (3) phases:
         I.  Get 18 "world class" golf holes
        II.  Build a new clubhouse and cart storage facility
       III.  Renovate the remaining nine holes and add nine more holes to become a 36-hole resort facility.

At today's meeting, Waite, with the support of the EDA, recommended the County fund Phase I  to renovate/build 18 "world class" golf holes in its entirety at an estimated $3.2 Million from the One Percent Sales Tax money.  This recommendation was not received well by me for a variety of reasons. (Because I am careful to NOT speak for the other commissioners in my blog, I speak only for myself on this matter.  That is not to say that other commissioners did not also express concern about this).  I do not believe funding SNGC for $3M (or more) is what the Public had in mind when they passed the One Percent Sales Tax referendum.

Bond Resolutions 
The County Board approved (2) resolutions awarding the sale of
             I.  $1,420,000 for GO Capital Improvement Bonds resulting in ~$138,000 savings/4 years
            II.  $8,500,000 GO Obligation Sales Tax Revenue Bonds for One Percent Projects

Jim Johnson Coverage
For the next few weeks, Board Chair Jim Johnson will be unable to attend the various meetings for Committees he serves on.  While Johnson is out due to illness, other members of the County Board will attend Johnson's Committee Meetings for him.  When issues arise, constituents in Johnson's district are encouraged to contact another Commissioner while Johnson is recovering and temporarily unavailable.  We miss you, Jim!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Human Service Board and County Board Meetings for October 18!

Cook County Human Services Board
Chair Sue Hakes opened the meeting at 8:30 pm.  Board members present were Jan Hall, Bruce Martinson and Fritz Sobanja.  Jim Johnson, Diane Fitzgerald and Carla LaPointe were absent.  Also present were PHHS Director Sue Futterer,  Jan Parish, Jennifer Rue and Anna Sandstrom.

Committee Reports
No reports were given as none of the Committees met since the last Human Services Board meeting.

Adult Mental Health Case Management
Jennifer Rue gave the Board an informative presentation about her work as an Adult Mental Health Social Worker for Cook County.  The target population served by the Adult Mental Health program is adults that are diagnosed with serious and persistent mental illness.  This program is voluntary and clients come to the County most often by referral through their therapist or doctor.  Others may be referred by family members, other members of the community, or may make the decision on their own.  

The goal of the Adult Mental Health program is to assist people in learning how to manage their mental illness to lead a full life.  Rue described it as being similar to managing a physical chronic illness such as diabetes.  Her role is to connect people with services and resources that are available that they may be unaware of or have no access to.

Rue's current active caseload is approximately 20 clients ranging in age from 22 to 84.  Approximately 1/3 of her clients receive services outside of Cook County, most of these are in Duluth.  She also attends to an average of 10-15 contacts per month for people in need, but for which a case is not opened.  Examples of this might include Cook County visitors that are in crisis or residents of Cook County that need help in securing house.

This work is important and needed.  According to national studies, adults diagnosed with serious and persistent mental illnesses are dying on average 25 years earlier than the general public, mostly due to lack of access or information to medical help.  In 2010, MN began an initiative at the state level to improve life expectancy of Minnesotans diagnosed with mental illness by 10 years within 10 years.

Jennifer Rue answered several questions from the Board about her work and the Adult Mental Health Initiative.  It became quite clear that she finds her work personally rewarding.

Financial Report--Jan Parish, Income Maintenance and Fiscal Supervisor 
Jan Parish updated the Board on the budget noting that the Fund Balance is approximately $100,000 less than one year ago.  As County Tax funds and grants (PHER) are collected, the fund balance should increase.  In general, Parish is reasonably comfortable with the status of the budget expenditures and collections.

Parish complemented Jennifer Rue's presentation by explaining how the Adult Mental Health program is funded by the State of MN through grants and billing for services.

Director's Report--Sue Futterer
Sue Futterer reported that e-Docs has been selected as the vendor to supply management software for Region 3 Income Maintenance Redesign.  This decision was based after comparing e-Docs to another very qualified vendor.  Ultimately e-Docs was selected based on overall cost, compatibility, reliability, services provided, ability to expand, ease of use.

Futterer participated in the Fall MACSSA Conference held in St. Paul where she gave a presentation on the Region III work in Redesign.

Futterer reported that Public Health has been working with success to contain the spread of Pertusis (aka Whooping Cough) in Cook County.  Six cases have been reported in the County.

Futterer provided her 3rd Quarter AWS work report.  No problems were noted by either Futterer or the Board.

Items for Board Action
The Board adopted a resolution to adopt the Region III Adult Mental Health Initiative By-Laws.  The mission of the Region III Adult Mental Health Initiative is to improve the quality of life of all adults with mental illness through the development and enhancement of resources, support and services in Northeastern Minnesota.  Cook County is represented on this Board by Grace Buchard; Grand Portage is represented by Roxy Sherer.

The Board acted to accept the 2012-2013 County MFIP Biennial Service Agreement and the Vulnerable Children and Adults Act Service Plan.

County Board Meeting
County Board Chair Jim Johnson was absent from today's meeting, so Vice-Chair Jan Hall ran the meeting.  Commissioners present were Hakes, Martinson and Sobanja.  Also present for all/part of the meeting were Braidy Powers, Janet Simonen and Tim Scannell.

Vice-Chair Hall opened the meeting noting that she and Jim Johnson share their birthday today.  The County Board wished Jan a happy birthday and also sent their best birthday wishes to Jim Johnson in his absence.

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

County Sheriff Mark Falk
The County Board approved the DNR Off-Highway Vehicle Safety Grand for fiscal Year 2012 as requested by Sheriff Falk. This grant has been awarded to Cook County for $14,297.

County Highway Department--Highway Engineer David Betts
David Betts informed the Board that a bid from Winchester Higgins for snowplowing West Rosebush Lane was inadvertently missed when bids were considered and decided upon at the October 11 Board Meeting.  Betts requested that the Board amend their previous motion to award the West Rosebush Lane contract to Higgins based on his low bid.  No other changes were made to the other low bids approved.

Betts reported that County Road 8 was graded last week and that it is currently more passable.  Commissioner Hakes reported that she has still been receiving multiple complaints of flat tires on this 2.5 mile stretch of road under construction.  Hakes asked Betts if it made any sense to crown the road.  Betts said he would prepare a cost estimate for crowning the road or adding Class I gravel.

Auditor/Treasurer's Office--Braidy Powers
Braidy Powers presented the 2011 3rd Quarter County Budget for Board review.  After adjustments, the County is just slightly under budget year-to-date.

The County Board passed a resolution to support the Parks and Legacy Grant program, Regional Trail Grant program and Local Trail Connections program trail administrators and their grant applications.

One Percent Projects Overall
ORB Management provided the Board with an overview status of the One Percent Projects budgets and completion to date.

Community Center Project
ORB Management, supported by Meyer Group and JLG Architects, made a joint recommendation to the Board to locate the proposed Community Center in the NW Corner of the county-owned property at the corner of the Gunflint Trail and 4th Avenue West stating, "The team feels this is the best location considering the pros and cons related to site development cost, political issues and programming".

Discussion by the County Board ensued.  Ultimately the Board approved a motion to locate the proposed Community Center in the NW corner as recommended by the Design Team.  The Board also felt this location met the Board directive given last June to locate the building in the area that is least disruptive to existing recreation amenities.  Placing the building in the NW corner eliminates the need to relocate any of the existing amenities.

Deciding on a location for the building now allows for decision making about locating the outdoor ice, ball fields and other outdoor amenities.  The Board has expressed a will to expedite building outdoor ice for hockey, skating and broom ball in time for the 2012-2013 winter season.  A meeting with the Community Center ICE Committee, ORB and Meyer Group, and representatives from the Hockey Association and Curling will be meeting in the next week or two to discuss location of the outdoor ice and a warming facility.

Making a decision on the location of the Community Center Building does not change the "suspension" status for designing the Community Center building.  

Cook County Historical Society Application for 1% Funding
Historical Society Director Carrie McHugh, accompanied by Historical Society Board members Gene Erickson and Hal Greenwood presented their request for $350,000 of 1% funding to build an annex to the museum building located downtown Grand Marais.  The County Board expressed general support for the project, but explained that resolution of the (7) projects identified prior to the referendum vote would need to be made before additional projects could be added to the list.

A Board Worksession has been scheduled for November 15 to discuss the USFS/County Land Exchange.  The meeting will be held in the Commissioner's Room.

Legislative Priorities
The Board discussed legislative priorities to be forwarded to both Arrowhead Counties Association and MN Rural Counties Caucus.  Priorities for Cook County include Budget issues such as restoring the Market Value Homestead Credit (MVHC), ensuring Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), and State funding for all mandated programs.  Transportation funding for rural MN was also considered a high priority.