Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year Wishes

I read this today and thought it was nice...

New Year Wishes
I wish you Health...
So you may enjoy each day in comfort.

I wish you the Love of friends and family...
And Peace within your heart.

I wish you the Beauty of nature...
That you may enjoy the work of God.

I wish you Wisdom to choose priorities...
For those things that really matter in life.

I wish you Generosity so you may share...
All good things that come to you.

I wish you Happiness and Joy...
And Blessings for the New Year.

I wish you the best of everything...
That you so well deserve.

Author Unknown

Friday, December 23, 2011

Employee Meeting, County Board Meeting and the Human Service Board Meeting

Cook County Employee Assistance Meeting re:  12/15/11 Courthouse Shooting
An all-employee group meeting was held in the Commissioner's Room from 8 am to just about 9 am.  Facilitated by the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Counselors, this meeting was well attended by county employees.  Information regarding the 12/15/11 shooting at the Courthouse was presented by Sheriff Mark Falk.  Information regarding Traumatic Stress and counseling services available was presented by EAP counselors and staff.  Information on additional mental health services was provided by Janet Simonen.

Around 9 am, employees broke into small groups facilitated by EAP counselors to talk about the incident, as well as give and receive support to/from co-workers.  While attendance and  participation was encouraged, these meetings were completely voluntary.

Employees (and community members) are encouraged to a) talk about the incident and share their feelings, and b) exercise.  Talking and exercising will aid the healing process.

For more information about the 12/15/11 incident, go to WTIP and listen to interviews with Sheriff Mark Falk and County Board Chair Jim Johnson.  

County Board Meeting
County Board Chair Jim Johnson and Commissioners Hakes, Hall, Martinson and Sobanja were all present for the December 20 County Board Meeting.  Also present were Janet Simonen and Braidy Powers.

Public Comment 
Jim Hall requested the County Board work with the Sheriff and the State to ensure the safety of jurors and others working in the judicial process.

Land Commissioner, Mary Black

As recommended by Mary Black, the County Board approved an abatement request from Property Owner Grant Merritt for the removal of value for land underneath Lost Lake.

Agreement to Initiate Superior National Forest and Cook County Land Exchange (Case #4552)
County Board approved the draft Agreement to Initiate the land exchange with the Forest Service for the county land within the BWCAW.  The draft is approved subject to review by Molly Hicken (or other attorney, i.e., Lake County attorney, as recommended by Molly Hicken).

Highway Department
Final payment to Edwin E. Thoreson, Inc. for CR 62 West (storm work in Creechville) was approved for $17,005.51 bringing the final cost of the project to $69,149.15.

Board Per Diem and Salary
The County Board set Cook County Commissioner per diems and salary for 2012 at the same rate as 2011; no increase.

Emergency Management Performance Grant
Cook County has been awarded an emergency management performance grant in the amount of $15,499; the board approved this grant as recommended by Jim Wiinanen

Fund Balances
At the request of the County Board, Braidy Powers provided a comparison of fund balances for all 87 counties in MN for 2008 and 2009.  Cook County is in the top 25% of all counties in unreserved fund balance as a percent of total current expenditures.

Safety Committee
Janet Simonen informed the Board that the Safety Committee will be providing a list of all activities in the year 2011.  The Board also approved a capital purchase request for an additional Lifepak 500, bio-certified AED defibrillator as budgeted.

The County Board also discussed the need to work with Law Enforcement, Emergency Services, the State and other entities to review the County's security equipment, procedures and policies.

One Percent Projects
A Worksession to discuss One Percent projects was cancelled for 12/20 and rescheduled for 10:30 to 12:30 on January 24 during the regular County Board meeting.

Cook County Emergency Operations Plan
The County Emergency Operations Plan was reviewed and approved by the County Board as presented by Jim Wiinanen.

Cook County Human Services Board Meeting
The Human Services Board Meeting was called to order by Chair Sue Hakes at 1:00 pm.  Others Board Members in attendance were Jan Hall, Jim Johnson, Bruce Martinson, Carla LaPointe, Fritz Sobanja.  Diane Fitzgerald was absent.

Committee Reports
Committee reports were given for meetings that occurred the past month.  Sue Futterer announced that Carla LaPointe will be the new chair for the Public Health & Human Services Advisory Committee.

Adults and Children with Disabilities
Social Worker, Linda Waterhouse, gave the Board a presentation on her work as the Case Manager for the Developmental Disabilities Program.  The target population served by this program is adults and children with a diagnosis of Mental Retardation or a related condition such as Autism, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy.

Waterhouse provided some background information noting that the US Congress passed the first Development Disabilities (DD) Act in 1974.  Minnesota followed this landmark legislation by committing to case management for persons with mental retardation or related conditions in 1977.  As case manager, Waterhouse works with the person and his/her family to identify their unique needs.  The case manager assists the person and his/her family with locating resources to meet their service and support needs and assures continuity of quality services and supports.

Currently there are 25 cases in Cook County ranging in age of persons from 4 to 83.  The focus is on Consumer Directed Community Support which enables the recipient to stay in the community and costs less to support.

Waterhouse was open about the work she finds rewarding, answered questions and was off to an appointment.

Financial Report
Income Maintenance and Fiscal Supervisor Jan Parish presented the November 30, 2011 Finance Report.  And as a complement to the presentation from Linda Waterhouse, Parish explained the basics of waivered services for families developing Consumer Directed Community Support Program for Adults and Children with Developmental Disabilities.

Director's Report, Sue Futterer
Director Sue Futterer reported the following;
a) A Region 3 Redesign Meeting will be held on January 31 at IRRB in Eveleth, MN; the agenda is forthcoming.
b)  A purchase of service agreement between Cook County and Gregory A. Barnier & Associates is being completed.
c)  HDC has hired a mental health counselor, Dr. Webb, who will begin January 2, 2012.
d)  Cook and Carlton Counties will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the Text4Life program for suicide prevention,

Purchase of Service Agreements
Several Purchase of Service Agreements for Cook County were approved by the Board including agreements with NS Hospital and Care Center, AEOA and the Women's Health Center of Duluth.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

County Board Meeting for December 13, 2011

County Board Chair Jim Johnson was absent.  Vice-Chair Jan Hall ran the meeting with Commissioners Hakes, Martinson and Sobonja all present.  Also present were Braidy Powers and Janet Simonen.  County Attorney Tim Scannell was in Court.

Public Comment
(3) members of the Public addressed the County Board during the Public Comment period.  Judy Motschenbacher expressed concern about the Hospital Tax and who she might talk with about this concern. (Note:  The County Board does not have authority over the Hospital Tax.  Motschenbacher was encouraged to seek out members of the Hospital Board.)  Lloyd Speck expressed concerns about the County Budget including projected expenses at the Airport, hiring in the County Attorney's office, the need for a Communications Specialist, and the Road & Bridge fund.  Steve Carlson expressed his concern about taxes increasing to a point that he believes will prevent people from moving here and buying real estate.  Carlson proposed no increase to property taxes.

Broadband Commission
The County Board unanimously approved the appointment of Bob Pranis to the Broadband Commission as recommended and presented by Terry Meath on behalf of the Broadband Commission.

Highway Department
The County Board authorized the purchase of (1) AutoCAD Civil 3D license and (1) replacement Blackberry Mobile Phone.  And, the Board unanimously voted to support the passage of HR 2947 regarding the CSAH 8 right-of-way acquisition.

County Assessor/Land Commissioner
The County Board approved Assessor Mary Black's request to hire the County Examiner of Titles to prepare  a title insurance commitment on the County Lands within the Boundary Waters at an estimated cost of $50-60/parcel totaling $3000-3500.  The Board discussed with Black whether it was a requirement for the Examiner of Titles to conduct this work and whether or not any of the work might be done in-house as a way to reduce costs.  Ultimately, it was determined to move forward with the Examiner of Titles due to workload in the County Attorney's office and the short deadline to complete the work.

On behalf of the owners of the Best Western Motel downtown Grand Marais, County Assessor Mary Black requested Board action to change the property classification of the Best Western Motel from Commercial to Seasonal Resort for the 2011 assessment, taxes payable in 2012.   The estimated difference in taxes owed is $56,000 less for Seasonal Resort than it is for Commercial.  MN Statute 273.13 Classification of Property defines multiple requirements for a property to be classified as 4c including "real and personal property devoted to commercial temporary and seasonal residential occupancy for recreation purposes for not more than 250 days in the year preceding the year of assessment.  For purposes of this clause, property is devoted to a commercial purpose on a specific day if any portion of the property is used for residential occupancy and a fee is charged for residential occupancy."  The County Board voted 3-1 to approve this abatement with Hakes voting against.  Commissioner Hakes supported her NO vote by saying she saw no evidence that the the Best Western Motel was used for residential occupancy less than 250 days/year.

Cook County Soil & Water Conservation District
The Board voted unanimously to accept the Natural Resources Block Grant for the time period from 9/1/2011 to 6/30/2013 as presented by District Manager Kerrie Fabius.  The amount of this grant is $14,832.  There is an additional $5,000 allocation from the Wetland Conservations Act.

Water Plan Coordinator, Ilena Berg, informed the County Board of the Soil & Water Conservation District's concern regarding water quality impacts of the proposed project at Superior National Golf Course.  These concerns will also be shared with the Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the Office of Planning & Zoning (OPZ).  

Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) Program
Although Jim Boyd is active in multiple public/government sponsored organizations, he was representing himself when he presented a Business Retention & Expansion Program developed at UMD.  Boyd and John Bennett, MN Extension Service, see the BR&E Program as a way to enable local businesses to expand and succeed.  Explaining that the BR&E Program is not a study, Boyd explained that such an endeavor would involve our community in a 12-18 month effort to demonstrate local support for local businesses and help solve immediate business concerns.  In the longer term, objectives would include building our own capacity to sustain business growth, and establish and implement a strategic plan for economic development.  Boyd believes the EDA needs to be involved, but that community involvement and a business leadership team outside of the EDA is necessary for success.

The County Board authorized payment of $68,647.91 to the City of Grand Marais for funding the Grand Marais swimming pool deficit for 2010.  The County Board has budgeted for 1/3 of the pool deficit up to a maximum of $75,000.

The County Board approved a motion made by Commissioner Hakes to reduce the proposed 2.75% increase in the levy by $59,847 and approve this as the final budget and levy.  This will reduce the levy increase to ~1.75% with the final percentage to be calculated by Braidy Powers.

One Percent Project Updates 
The Library Project is complete.  The project was completed under budget and on schedule.

The County Board has a Work Session scheduled to discuss One Percent Project on Tuesday, December 20.  (Note that due to the closing of the Courthouse on Friday 12/16 and Monday 12/19 this meeting is cancelled and will be rescheduled at a later date.)

Service of Prayer for Healing and Peace

As noted on the Boreal Community Calendar, Cook County Ministerium will host a Service of Prayer for Healing and Peace at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 18 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Grand Marais.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Notice of Meeting Changes at Courthouse

The Courthouse will be re-opened for business at 10 AM Tuesday, December 20. Below is a schedule of Tuesday meetings with some changes noted:

10:00 am          County Board Meeting in Commissioner's Room (no change)
 1:30  pm          Human Services Board Meeting  in Commissioner's Room
                        (note time change from 8:30 am)                                                                            

The County Board Work Session on One Percent Projects previously scheduled for 1:30 on December 20 is CANCELLED and will be rescheduled in 2012.

A meeting for all County Employees will be held in the Commissioner's Room at 8:00 am on Tuesday, December 20.  Representatives from Law Enforcement and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) will be present to provide support & assistance, information and answer questions.  

For general information in understanding traumatic stress that you or someone you care about may be experiencing, see Handout from the Human Development Center (HDC).  For more information about the Human Development Center go to the HDC Website.

As Sheriff Mark Falk stated in yesterday's press conference, "We are a resilient community, a strong community, with lots of good people and we will make it through this."  The Sheriff also asked us to keep our thoughts and prayers with the victims and their families.  

All for now. Peace.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Courthouse Shooting Information

A press conference was held today regarding yesterday's tragic shooting at the Cook County Courthouse.  Click HERE to listen to the report as posted on the WTIP website.

Click HERE for today's news releases from the Office of Communications, a Division of the Minnesota Department of Safety.

Periodic updates will also be provided on the Cook County website.