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!