Thursday, May 24, 2012

WTIP Series "Looking at Other Community Centers"

From WTIP Community Radio:

As planning for a new Cook County Community Center continues, we're taking a closer look at schools around the state that have attached community centers, to find out how that’s working and what they’ve learned.

Part I: Redwood Area Community Center

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

County Board Meeting for May 22, 2012

Board Chair Jan Hall, along with Commissioners Hakes, Johnson, Martinson and Sobanja were all present for the May 22 Board Meeting.  Also present were Janet Simonen and Braidy Powers.

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

Office of Planning and Zoning (OPZ)
OPZ Director Tim Nelson presented the unanimous recommendation of the Planning Commission to adopt the Subdivision Ordinance Amendment as requested with the modification to change the 90-day time frame for recordation to six months.  The Planning Commission also recommended establishing a small committee to review the Subdivision Ordinance and make recommendations to the Board of Commissioners regarding improvements for the process. The County Board approved both recommendations.

The County Board passed a motion to re-adopt the Junk Vehicle Ordinance Number 35 with one modification as recommended by the Planning Commission to include recreation vehicles.

Nelson reminded the Board that the Solid Waste Management Plan update is overdue, but that a Regional Plan for the area with addendum specific to each County is being developed.

Office of Planning and Zoning (OPZ) Permits
The County Board approved a Conditional Use Permit to establish a home business in a Single Family Residential (R-1) zone district in Colvill.  The home business to be operated is advertised as WindCradle, a meditative and spiritual retreat center.

On May 21, a special meeting of the Planning Commission was held to consider an Interim Use Permit (IUP) request from Ulland Brothers to allow the stockpiling and crushing of approximately 23,000 cubic yards of material at the old airport for inclusion in the County Road 8 road improvement project. The site requested for this work was as close as 210 feet from a residence and less than 1/4 mile from several homes, Devil Track Resort and the Landing Restaurant.  During the Special Meeting an alternate site east of the proposed processing site was suggested and ultimately approved by the Planning Commision for recommendation to the County Board. Other conditions were also applied to the IUP including limitation of the hours of operation, number of work days allowed for processing and requirements for noise and dust suppression.  The County Board voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of the Planning Commission.

Highway Department
Acting on the Highway Department's recommendation, the County Board authorized hiring Ulland Brothers to assist the Highway Department in excavating five culverts along the first mile west of the Gunflint Trail on CSAH 8.  The Highway Department proposes to excavate the culverts, backfill and patch the heaved roadway.

A Special Permit was approved for the Greater Grand Marais Chamber of Commerce Annual Classic Car Show to be held on Saturday, June 9, on Wisconsin Street downtown Grand Marais.

The County Board authorized  the Highway Department to advertise for bids to furnish and blend 2000 cubic yards of winter sand.

Liquor Licenses
Liquor licenses were approved for the Tofte General Store and the North Shore Bottle Company, subject to local and state approvals and ordinances.

Loan Request from Superior National Golf Course (SNGC)
SNGC General Manager Bob Fenwick, and EDA Chairman Mark Sandbo requested a $75,000 loan to cover early season expenditures at SNGC including Sirius Golf Advisors consulting contract, PGA Merchandise conference, new Point of Sale system, new Range Ball dispenser, marketing, and improving the Mountain Nine in preparation for closures during course renovation.  Originally these expenses were planned to be covered by the restructuring of the long term debt, but that restructuring has not occurred to date.  The request for this loan was approved by the County Board 4-1 (Hakes opposed).  Commissioner Hakes was opposed to the financing of any renovation without an approved financial committment plan for the renovation of 18 holes.

Arrowhead Regional Corrections
Comissioner Sobanja reported that ~$750,000 was approved in the State Bonding bill for renovations to Northeast Regional Corrections Center (NERCC); an additional $750,000 county match is required.  The Cook County match is $10-11,000 which was approved by the County Board.  Sobanja reported that an additional $1,000,000 in renovations to NERCC is also highly recommended, but no State Funding is allocated for this.  Cook County's share of these additional needs would be ~$15,000.

Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Plan
A copy of the Cook County and Grand Marais Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Plan, dated May 15, 2012, was provided to each Commissioner.

BWCAW School Trust Lands
Forest Service District Ranger Dennis Neitzke presented the USFS plan to submit a pre-proposal for a partial purchase of school trust lands combined with a partial land exchange between the United States and the State of Minnesota. 

Meeting Minutes
Copies of all County Board Meeting minutes will be available on the Cook County Website or by calling Janet Simonen at 387-3602.  A video of County Board Meetings will be posted on boreal.TV within a day or two after the meetings.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Human Services and County Board Meetings for May 15, 2012

Cook County Human Services Board Meeting
Human Services Board Chair Sue Hakes and Board Members Carla LaPointe, Jerry Lilja, Jan Hall, Bruce Martinson, and Fritz Sobanja were all present for yesterday's meeting.  Also present were PHHS Director Sue Futterer and Janet Simonen.

Committee Reports
Committee reports were given for recent meetings of the Arrowhead Health Alliance, Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and North Shore Collaborative.

2011 Year End Financial and Client Report
Jan Parish, Income Maintenance and Fiscal Supervisor, gave the Board a fairly detailed overview of the 2011 Financials which included the (3) major areas of Public Health and Human Services business:  Income Maintenance, Social Services, Public Health Nursing.  In summary, Parish noted that in spite of  some unusual circumstances last year, the budget remained reasonably stable overall.  It is important to recognize the difficulty of budgeting for Public Health and Human Services because of the unpredictable nature of a) the level of services required, and b) the level of State and Federal funding available.

Director's Report
Sue Futterer reported that the Region 3 Redesign effort for the delivery of Child Support Services is moving forward.  Last week the County Board passed a resolution authorizing Cook County PHHS to join with six other counties in Region 3 to explore options for collaboration and sharing of resources in the Child Support Program area. Futterer reported that 5 of 6 counties have passed similar resolutions with St. Louis County anticipated to follow shortly.

Futterer also gave an update on the TXT4Life Suicide Prevention Project for NE Minnesota. Suicide is a leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24 in Minnesota and particularly high in NE Minnesota.  Cook County High School gave a well-received presentation to students at ISD166.  To date, over 11,000 students have been given TXT4Life information.  If you, or someone you know needs help,  please go to the TXT4Life website for more information.

Another meeting of the Seniors Housing Services project is scheduled for next week.  Futterer and Commissioner Bruce Martinson represent the County in that work to identify and ultimately implement ways to keep seniors safely in their homes for as long as possible.

Grace Buchard and Sue Futterer informed the Board that Bridge House, a mental health crisis facility in Duluth, is being closed due to lack of State funding.  Cook County Human Services is working with area Human Service departments and health care alliances to provide crisis stabilization for those in need to fill the gap left by the closing of Bridge House.

Board Action
Upon the recommendation of  the Human Services Advisory Committee, the Human Services Board moved to appoint Frances Jarchow to the Cook County Public Health and Human Services Advisoy Committee to fill a vacancy for a one year term.  Welcome Frances!

Cook County Board of Commissioners Meeting
Board Chair Jan Hall called the meeting to order.  In attendance were Commissioners Hakes, Martinson and Sobanja with Commissioner Johnson absent.  Also in attendance was Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Personnel Director Janet Simonen.  County Attorney Tim Scannell was also present for portions of the meeting.

Public Comment
Garry Gamble addressed the County Board regarding his personal concerns about the Community Center Project.

North Shore Visitation Center
Wendy Hansen, Annie DeBevec, Jodi Yuhasey and Grace Buchard gave the Board an overview of the North Shore Visitation Center and its current lack of funding.  The North Shore Visitation Center enables supervised visitation and exchanges for children and is a valuable tool to maintain family relationships and reduce repeated crimes against children and partners and spouses of abusive people.  Annual budget projections for this program is $34,200; the Cook County Board voted 3-1 (Martinson opposed) to contribute $5000 annually for 5 years as a separate budget line item.  Additional funding is being requested from Lake County, Lloyd K. Johnson foundation, DSACF Community Opportunity Fund and Cliffs Foundation.

Highway Department
On the recommendation of Highway Engineer David Betts, contracts were awarded for 1) aggregate stockpile for 20,000 yards at $121,450, 2) summer maintenance for Evergreen Road, Mile O'Pine Road, Voyageur's Point, and West Rosebush Lane to lowest bidders, and 3)   liquid calcium chloride.  (2) identical bids were received so a flip of the coin was made.

Assessor/Land Commissioner
The Board aproved an abatement for the Human Development Center for $7664 as requested and recommended by Assessor Mary Black.  HDC is also exempt from property taxes in St. Louis County and Carlton County.

The Board approved a Right of Entry Authorization for Watercraft Inspections for the DNR to examine water-related equipment to determine whether aquatic invasive species, aquatic macrophytes, or water is present.

Cook County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA)
Biz Clark, COLA Chair, and Ilena Berg, Water Plan Coordinator, gave an overview of the Citizen Lake Monitoring Program.  The Coalition and County cooperate to recruit and support volunteers who sample water and gather data used to track lake health.  (26) lakes in Cook County are currently monitored.  Clark also talked about healthy lakes having higher property values and education opportunities planned for local real estate agents.

Courthouse Security
Steve Swenson, of CJES, introduced himself to the Board; Swenson is in Cook County conducting his Security Audit of the Courthouse.  Swenson will also be submitting a proposal to conduct an audit at the County Highway Department, Community Center, ISD166 and the Hospital/Clinic/Care Center.

Cook County Community Center
Tom Wacholz, ORB President, and Community Center Director Diane Booth, presented the County Board with a Draft Concept Plan for the Community Center and a Scope/Cost Estimate for the Draft Concept Plan.  This Plan was developed by the Community Center Steering Committee with support from ORB Management and the YMCA.  Highlights of the current draft include a) the Community Center will be physically connected to ISD166,  b)  approximately 20,000 SF of ISD166 will be remodeled for the project, c)  approximately 12,000 SF of new construction will be necessary (mostly for the pool), d) programming space will include Aquatics, multi-purpose gymnasium with walking track,  multi-purpose rooms for youth/meetings/classrooms/dance/other, e) estimated cost of the facility is $8.5 million, f) estimated cost of outdoor amenities is $990,000 and includes ice, soccer field restoration, warming house in existing Community Center, new ballfield, parking, lighting, landscaping, etc.

The County Board moved unanimously to authorize ORB Management to proceed with the design and development phase of the project as proposed in the Draft Concept and existing Contracts at a cost not-to-exceed $9,500,000.

Birch Grove Community Project
D.C. Olson, representing the One Percent Birch Grove Community Project, with support from ORB President Tom Wacholz, came before the Board to request additional funds for the project.  The additional funds were requested to include a Picnic Shelter, re-location of a Outdoor Classroom, and paving that weren't originally included in the project but would enhance it greatly.  The Board authorized an additional $270,000 for the Birch Grove Project bringing it to a total of $970,000.

2012 General Fund Financial Review
Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers provided the Board with a General Fund Cash Status report outlining 1) outstanding loans granted by the County to Fire Departments, Lutsen Trailbreakers, Council on Aging and the EDA, b)  approved loans to be granted by the County to Fire Departments, c) potential purchases for ARMER, Security upgrades, Highway Department upgrades, Airport runway match, and d) Restrictions made for Compensated Absences.

Superior National Golf Course
The County Board meeting was suspended at approximately 1:15 pm and resumed at approximately 2:00 pm at Arrowhead Electric Cooperative and the Superior National Golf Course.  Commissioners in attendance for this portion of the meeting were Hakes, Martinson and Sobanja.  Jan Hall and Jim Johnson were absent.  The County Board and Braidy Powers were given an overview of the proposed physical upgrades to SNGC, the business plan as it stands today, and a tour of the actual course itself.  The tour was given by Bob Fenwick, other staff at SNGC, the EDA Golf Course Committee, John Waite (Sirius Golf Course Advisors) and Jeff Brauer (golf course architect).

Meeting Minutes
Copies of the County Board meeting minutes from May 15, 2012 will be available on the Cook County website or by contacting Janet Simonen at 218-387-3602 after they are drafted and approved.  A video of this may meeting may also be viewed by going to Boreal.TV.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Know Your County Government"

I was honored to speak at the Business Network Luncheon on April 25 on the topic "Know Your County Government".  My purpose for the talk was to give folks general information about how Cook County government works and ways people can get involved to make a difference. recorded the session. 

Business Network Luncheons are sponsored in part by Cook County Higher Education.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

County Board Meeting for May 8, 2012

Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioners Hakes, Johnson, Martinson and Sobanja were all present for today's County Board Meeting.  Also present for all or part of the meeting were Janet Simonen, Braidy Powers, and Tim Scannell.

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

Highway Department
At the request of David Betts, County Engineer, the Board authorized allowing Ulland Brothers to crush approximately 4000 cubic yards of bituminous aggregate in the Airport Pit for $1.50/cubic yard.

The Board authorized two capital purchases:  1) Miller Tig Welder for $9098 and 2) Hollow Ram Piston Cylinder for $1095.  Both purchases were under budget and planned for in 2012.

With regrets and appreciation for her dedicated service, the Board accept the resignation of Anne Zellner.  The Board also approved the staffing proposal made to fill the position both temporarily and permanently.

Office of Planning & Zoning (OPZ)
Tim Nelson, Director of OPZ, shared that Governor Dayton signed the Environment Omnibus Bill. Of particular benefit to Cook County is the Subsurface Sewage Treatment System (SSTS) language which will allow counties flexibility and options that they can tailor to their local areas when adopting new SSTS ordinances.  Nelson and staff will redraft previous SSTS language for potential County Board adoption in the Fall of 2012.

Fire Department Loans
The Board authorized a zero interest loan to the Colvill Fire Department in the amount of $67,500 for 15 years.  Colvill Fire Department Assistant Chief and Board Chair, Paul McFarlane, explained how C.F.D. will be able to repay this loan without increasing their levy.   This money will be used for a 24' x 42' building addition on the west side of the existing fire hall, well and septic system.

The Board authorized a 1% interest loan to the Lutsen Fire Department in the amount of $350,000 for 20 years.  Lutsen Fire Chief Paul Goettl explained the L.F.D. will be able to make its payments by using their annual $10,000 building fund monies and by the relief they will have in 2015 when their truck loan     payment ends.

Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers said the County's cash balances are able to absorb these loans.

Birch Grove Foundation
A permit application for the Birch Grove Foundation to conduct BINGO on July 4th at the Tofte Town Park was approved.

Cook County Purchasing Policy
As recommended by Braidy Powers and requested by Tim Scannell, a change was made the Cook County Purchasing Policy.  This change excludes the County Attorney and County Sheriff from getting prior approval for Forfeitures.

Travel Documentation Policy
Braidy Powers led a discussion to clarify the recently revised Travel Documentation Policy which states, "Every travel voucher shall be accompanied by documentation of the event including the purpose, time, date and location of the event.  If the event does not have an agenda, a copy of the email, letter or other written communication that addresses or captures the required information is acceptable."

Redesign Collaboration
The Board passed a resolution authorizing Cook County Public Health & Human Services to join with six other counties in Region 3 in exploring options for collaboration and sharing resources in the Child Support Program area.

Cook County Lockdown Procedure 
As a member of the Safety Committee, Janet Simonen presented the proposed Lockdown Procedure to the Board.  This procedure will be reviewed in further detail at a future Board meeting.

One Percent Project Updates
The Community Center Steering Committee met May 7 to develop an overall concept for the programming and building design of attaching the Community Center to the I.S.D.166 School Building.  Commissioners Hakes, Martinson and Sobanja were in attendance at the May 7 meeting.  Tom Wacholz, ORB Management, will present the preliminary concept and budget to the County Board at their May 15 Board Meeting.

The bids for the Birch Grove Community Center came in over budget.  The Birch Grove team is working to bring the project to within budget, but may be requesting an increase in funds.

The County Board will be getting a tour of the Superior National Golf Course next Tuesday, May 15.

The Board held a Closed Session to discuss potential litigation with Burbach Aquatics.

After the Closed Session the meeting was reopened to the Public and the Board passed two motions.  The first motion stated the County Board's need for City participation in the Community Center project to offset future Operating & Maintenance costs.  The second motion stated the County Board's support of the City of Grand Marais' Declaratory Judgement Action against Burbach Aquatics by negotiating the offset of future Operating & Maintenance costs of the Cook County Community Center.

Meeting Minutes
A copy of the May 8 County Board meeting minutes will be made available on the Cook County website after they are written and approved.   Alternatively, you may obtain a copy by calling Janet Simonen at 387-3602.  This meeting is also available for viewing at

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Masters in Advocacy and Political Leadership

Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon
gives the Keynote address.
I was proud of my youngest brother, John Hakes, as he received his Masters of Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL) from the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

Today's graduation celebration of Cohort 13 was attended by families, friends, mentors and past MAPL students in support of the new graduates.  Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon congratulated and inspired the class with her heartfelt Keynote Speech.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in learning more about political leadership, you may want to consider this course of study.