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.)