Wednesday, November 23, 2011

County Board Meeting for November 22, 2011

County Board Chair Jim Johnson and Commissioners Hakes, Hall, Martinson and Sobanja were all present for the November 22 County Board Meeting.  Also present were Tim Scannell, Braidy Powers and Janet Simonen.

Public Comment
Stan Tull asked the County Board about its contractual relationship with Sirius Golf Advisors wondering if they were still under contract as a Consultant to the Board.

Pat Campanaro encouraged the County Board to seek outside funding for the Superior National Golf Course project and to hire local contractors whenever possible.

County Highway Department
The County Board approved the final payment to Edwin E. Thoreson, Inc. on project CP 10-02 Furnish Aggregate Stockpile, Class I.

Andrew Graupmann was selected from (5) applicants for the Engineering Technician vacated by Fran Johnson.  No local applications were received.

Cook County Historical Society
The County Board voted to support an application for grant funding for the Cook County Historical Society from the MN Lake Superior Coastal program for a Maritime Heritage Exhibit.  The CCHS, owned by the County, is an excellent site for this type of exhibit as it was once the lighthouse keeper's residence.

Office of Planning and Zoning
The Cook County Planning Commission held a Public Hearing on Wednesday, November 9, to take public comments on formulating recommendations for several proposed ordinance amendments.  Nobody from the public was in attendance at this Public Hearing, nor were any comments submitted before or after the Public Hearing. After much deliberation, the Planning Commission unanimously voted to forward the following recommendations.  At its November 22 regularly scheduled meeting, the County Board supported the recommendations of the Planning Commission:

Section 1.1 of the Subdivision Ordinance--Proposals for subdivision of property located within the jurisdictional limits of the City of Grand Marais (2 miles beyond Grand Marais City limits) are now exempt by Cook County from the requirements of the Cook County Subdivision Ordinance.

Section 9 of the Zoning Ordinance--The Planning Commission and the County Board felt it was too restrictive to require "Type I" septic system standards for non-conforming lots when the MN Rules Chapter 7080 allows for some more moderate design standards.  As such, the words "Type I" have been removed out of Section 9.03(A)(2) and 9.03(B)(2).  This modification will result in this one ordinance provision to be less restrictive than the state statute language.  The County Board approved this 4-1 with Jim Johnson dissenting.

Section 14 of the Zoning Ordinance--Language for Criteria for Decisions for Variances was tweaked only slightly per the recommendation of County Attorney Tim Scannell.  The changes were semantic in nature.

Potential Cook County Zoning Ordinance Amendment--A Public Hearing will be scheduled (most likely in December) and posted for proposed changes to Section 4.09(C)(1) and Section 4.17(C)(1)(c) related to Planned Unit Developments within the jurisdictional boundaries of the City of Grand Marais.

County Attorney
At the recommendation of County Attorney Tim Scannell, the County Board authorized the hiring of Attorney Jean Smith at 35 hours/week for the open Victim's Advocate/Paralegal position.  $32,000 of this position is funded by the State.

Maintenance Department
The Board accepted the resignation of Maintenance Department employee John Johnson.  A temporary replacement will be hired until a decision regarding how best to fill this position can be made.

1% Library Project
Library Director Linda Chappell and Library Board President David Quick updated the County Board on the Library Project budget line items for carpet replacement, relocation expenses and FFE (Furniture, Fixtures, Equipement).  Chappell and Quick also presented a list for FFE at a cost of $95,885.  The County Board approved these purchases up to $95,885 to be paid for with a) $50,000 allocated for FFE, b) $9,250 in a Restricted Capital Fund for carpet from the City/County, and c) Unused funds budgeted for the relocation of the Library.  It is good news that the relocation of the Library was significantly less than anticipated due to length of construction time and rents negotiated.

1% Community Center Project 
Commissioner Hakes reported that Tim Scannell, Braidy Powers, Commissioner Sobanja and she have done some preliminary exploration into potential 3rd party management for the proposed Community Center. An introductory telecon with Mark Hennessy representing the YMCA organization and Tom Wacholz of ORB Management was held to explore the possibility of working together.  A follow up meeting with YMCA personnel is being scheduled to discuss this further and to also include Diane Booth.  Other management options for the proposed new Community Center include the County and Community Education.

1% Superior National Golf Course Project
On Monday, November 14, the County Board met to discuss the Superior National Golf Course Project.  At this November 14th  meeting, the Board made a motion to allocate a total of $3.1 million of One Percent Local Sales Option Tax funding for Phase I of this Plan to improve Superior National Golf Course, contingent upon County Board review of the overall One Percent Funding plan. (Please note that Hakes and Hall voted NO on this motion.) The County Board has scheduled a meeting to discuss the overall One Percent Funding on Tuesday, December 20, from 1:30 to 4:30 pm.  As always, this meeting is open to the public.

Monday, November 21, 2011

2012 Truth in Taxation Information

Go to: for information regarding 2012 Truth in Taxation.

A Special Meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners will be held at the Courthouse on Monday, November 28, at 6 pm.  The Board will review the proposed 2012 Cook County budget and levy and the impact that they have on property taxes. This meeting is open to the public and citizens will be given an opportunity to provide input regarding the issues being discussed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

County Board Meeting for November 15, 2011

My Dad, Herb Hakes, passed away on November 15, so I was not in attendance at the November 15, 2011 County Board Meeting.  Minutes from this meeting will be published in the Cook County News Herald or may be obtained by contacting Janet Simonen at 387-3602.

My Dad died on the same date as my Mom, just four years later.  His Memorial Service was held Saturday, November 19, in Aitkin.

My Dad was one of the good guys.  He was hardworking, honest & true, loving & kind, fair & firm, fun-loving, faithful, optimistic, trustworthy, responsible, thoughtful. He was a Believer.  He was my teacher and my "go-to" guy; I trusted him implicitly. Dad always had my best interest at heart.  He was forgiving, always giving me (and others) a second chance.  He believed in wiping the slate clean and fresh starts.

I miss Dad desperately.  I find comfort in knowing that the world is a better place because of my Dad.  And, I am a better person because of my him.  I am grateful for my Dad and thank God for him.

Dad died after a courageous struggle with Parkinson's Disease and Lewy Body Dementia.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Superior National Golf Course Special Meeting

A special meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners was held this morning to discuss the business plan that Sirius Golf Course Advisors prepared for the Superior National Golf Course in Lutsen.  County Board Chair Jim Johnson and Commissioners Hakes, Hall, Martinson and Sobanja were all present.  Other County Staff in attendance were Braidy Powers and Janet Simonen.

Discussion at this meeting surrounded the Superior National Golf Course Business Plan as presented by Sirius Golf Advisors.  John Waite of Sirius Golf Advisors and Golf Course Architect Jeff Brauer gave a basic overview of the Business Plan and proposed course layout for the "Best 18".  Others present were Bob Fenwick, Mike Litfin, Jim King, George Nelson and and a few members of the Public.

For a complete copy of this plan, contact County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers.  In the meantime, read on for a very brief summary of the proposed plan as I understand it today:

The Plan proposed is basically to  create a "World Class 18-Holes" resort quality course (currently there are 27 holes at Superior National).  The current layout for this "new" course involves part of all three current nine holes, plus two holes that are routed "up the river" on land owned by the ski resort (to be negotiated).

Phase I Construction will begin with renovation of the current River nine holes, an irrigation lake, and a new bridge which will become the "back nine" for the "World Class 18-Holes" course.  While the construction for this part is going on, golfers will be playing the Mountain and Canyon 9's as an 18-hole course.  Phase II work will include partial rebuilding of 4 holes, rebuilding 2 holes in place, building 3 new holes, and driving range.

The total estimated cost for this work to renovate the existing 27 holes to this "World Class 18-Holes" resort quality course is just under $6 million.  Sirius Golf Advisors, the EDA and SNGC Management are requesting that ~$3.1 million of this be funded with One Percent Local Sales Option Tax funds.  The balance would be funded through possible grants, bonding, and revenues.  Proponents of the Plan believe the total impact to the County will be $3.3 million per year.

After a lengthy discussion, the County Board passed 3-2 a motion to allocate a total of $3.1 million of One Percent Local Sales Option Tax funding for Phase I of this Plan, contingent upon County Board review of the overall One Percent Funding plan.

Voting YES to allocate $3.1M for Phase I as described above were Jim Johnson, Bruce Martinson and Fritz Sobanja.  Voting NO were Sue Hakes and Jan Hall.

I voted against this plan for the following reasons:

1.  The Plan is too financially risky.  There is a lack of supporting evidence for the projected revenues, projected expenses and projected economic impact.  Golf is not a growing industry.

2.  The proposed Plan is an extreme deviation from what was presented to the Public at the time of the Referendum for the One Percent Tax.  Initially, there was a request to the County to pay off ~$400K in bond debt (not allowable under One Percent legislation).  At/near the time of the Referendum passing, the SNGC allocation from the County Board was $0.  Now the request is for $3.1 million.

3.  This plan does not include a commitment from any funding source other than the County.  When the County Board earmarked $1.8 million for improvements to SNGC it was based on the idea that there be a sound business plan and success in obtaining funding from other sources without incurring new debt.

I support reasonable improvements at Superior National Golf Course, but to date there is not a sound plan for moving forward.

Friday, November 11, 2011

County Board Meeting for November 8, 2011

I'm thrilled to report that Board Chair Jim Johnson was in attendance to chair our meeting.  Jim has been absent due to some health issues; it was wonderful to welcome Jim back.  Commissioners Hakes, Hall, Martinson and Sobanja, as well as Braidy Powers, Tim Scannell and Janet Simonen were also in attendance.

Public Comment
Hal Greenwood presented the County Board with a proposal for renovation of the existing City of Grand Marais swimming pool.  The County does not own this pool and recommended Mr. Greenwood present this information to the City Council.

Cook County Highway Department
County Highway Engineer David Betts presented a draft "Subordinate Governmental Service District' described as a Private Roadway Maintenance Policy for Cook County.  The purpose of the SGSD is to provide a mechanism for residents and owners of private roadways to maintain their roads and spread the costs equitably.  The County Board authorized Betts to publish the policy and to send written copies to those neighborhoods that could potentially benefit from the policy.  Betts will also arrange meetings for public comment at the appropriate time.  Click here for a copy of the draft proposal (with my scribbles).

Other Highway Department business included 1) authorization of the final payment to Edwin E. Thoresen, Inc. for the Class I Aggregate Stockpile, 2) awarding Bud's Towing & Plowing the Voyageur's Point snowplowing contract, and 3) approving the contract to renew the agreement between the MN DOT and the County for Federal Participation in Construction.

Building Maintenance
The County Board authorized replacing the furnace in the Community Center at a cost of $2816 as presented by Maintenance Director Brian Silence.

The Board authorized the execution of certain documents to allow the refinancing of the courthouse/law enforcement debt.  Documents will be prepared by the Fryberger Law Firm and reviewed by the County Attorney prior to approval at bond closing.

Outdoor Ice and Warming House
Tim Meyer, Meyer Group Architects, presented the Board with his proposal for additional services related to a warming house for the Outdoor Ice.  Meyer Group is proposing a not-to-exceed fee of $5,000 plus a reimburseable expense of $750 for conceptual design services for a warming house.  Meyer Group will consider incorporating the warming house into the existing community center, as well as a stand alone structure.  Also being considered is the incorporation of a concession stand.

Border Security Bill
The County Board discussed the proposed legislation allowing the Secretary of Homeland Security jurisdiction over all Federal Land within 100 miles of the US Border.  The County Board has concerns about the potential for negative impact to the environment.  A letter expressing this concern to Senators Klobuchar and Franken and Representative Cravaack from the Cook County Board will be drafted by Commissioner Hakes for review at the next County Board meeting. There was general agreement among the Commissioners that while maintaining national security is critical the proposed bill was "overkill".

PUBLIC HEARING on Cook County Social Host Ordinance 
A Public Hearing was held on the proposed Cook County Social Host Ordinance. The City of Grand Marais is also working to adopt this Ordinance.