Tuesday, June 26, 2012

County Board Meeting on June 26, 2012

Board Chair Janice Hall, along with Commissioners Hakes, Johnson, Martinson and Sobanja were all present for today's Board Meeting.  Also present was Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen.

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

Highway Department
Special Event permits were authorized for both the Grand Marais Arts Festival and the North Shore Dragon Boat Festival.

The Board authorized awarding Edwin E. Thoreson the bid for furnishing and blending 2,000 cubic yards of sand for the winter stockpile.  Edwin E. Thoreson was the low bidder.

Capital Purchase Request, Sheriff Mark Falk
At the request of Sheriff Falk, the Board authorized the approval to purchase a new chair for the Law Enforcement Dispatchers.  This chair is specifically designed for people who spend hours in a chair.  Dispatch chairs are used 24/7/365.  The $626 cost of this chair will be paid for from the E 9-1-1 Fund.

Interim Use Permits
The Board approved an Interim Use Permit for Lyle and Carol Blair to allow the extended use of a Recreational Vehicle (RV) for habitation on their property adjacent to the Powers Lake Road for a period of  3 years.  The property owners intend to use their trailer as a place to stay while they carry out the goals for their property as stated in the Woodland Stewardship Plan.

The Board approved an Interim Use Permit for Mark Linne to allow the extended use of a Recreational Vehicle (RV) for habitation on property adjacent to Seagull Lake for a period of 3 years.  The property owner lost his cabin in the 2007 Ham Lake fire; his intention is to replace the building that was lost in the fire.

The Board approved an Interim Use Permit to allow Ulland Brothers and Cook County to use a Portable Hot Mix Asphalt Plant in the Cook County gravel pit adjacent to the Ball Club Lake Road. Hours of operation shall be limited from 07:00 to 21:00 and shall expire on August 24, 2012.

All (3) Interim Use Permits were recommended for approval by the Planning Commission.

Veteran's Service Officer Contract
Per State Statute, counties are required to provide for a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) to assist veterans and/or their families in obtaining various services and benefits.  Currently, Cook County contracts with the State of MN for 16 hours per week at a cost to the County of $23,500/year.  To meet the terms of this contract, the State assigned Tribal VSO Clarence Everson to work 16 hours per week for Cook County  This arrangement has worked very well.  Just recently, however, the State has informed us that the State is not interested in continuing this contract service on a long-term basis and will only extend the existing contract for one additional year beginning July 1, 2012.  The County Board authorized this extension and will spend the next year working to determine how best to service Cook County veterans after July 1, 2013.

Trail Grants and Liquor License
The Board accepted (2) Trail Grants for a) MN DNR for the Local Trail Connections Program from the Banadad Trail Association for purchase of easement and trail re locations, and b) MN DNR for the Federal Recreation Trail Program from the Boundary Waters Advisory Committee for BWCAW wilderness trail maintenance.

The Board approved on-sale wine and on/off-sale beer licenses for Nor'wester Lodge subject to applicable approvals, insurance, and license compliances.

Financials and  Budget
The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) created new classes of reserve funds for counties.  Braidy Powers and John Peterson made the appropriate changes and reviewed them with our local audit team.  The Board approved the classification changes by resolution as required.

Guidelines for Department Heads to prepare their 2013 budgets were approved and a memo will be issued.

The Board approved disbursement of One Percent Funds to the Town of Tofte for payment of expenses on the Birch Grove 1% Improvement Project.

Public Comment Guidelines
The County Board agreed to provide some guidelines for the Public Comment period of the Board Meeting.  Janet Simonen collected and provided some examples used by other governmental boards which were discussed.  Commissioner Hakes will prepare draft guidelines for Cook County for review at the next County Board meeting.

Local Contractors
Board Chair Jan Hall expressed concern about the low percentage of local contractors being used on the Lutsen Fire Hall construction project.  Commissioner Martinson disagreed vehemently and applauded the project for awarding a significant portion of the project to local contractors.  The Board agreed unanimously on the importance of using local contractors whenever possible.

One Percent Projects
The County Board authorized a new design agreement for the Community Center project with JLG Architects as the Architect of Record and Meyer Group as the Associate Architect.  This agreement has been reviewed and recommended for approval by Tim Scannell, Braidy Powers and ORB Management.

The County Board passed a resolution in response to a request from the ISD166 School Board regarding the attachment of the Community Center to the west end of ISD166.  The resolution, accompanied by a letter from the County Board, assures the School Board that the County Board is in agreement with and support of the School Board Resolution.

Hakes shared that the Community Center Steering Committee passed a motion making Outdoor Ice a priority to ensure it will be ready for the 2012-2013 winter season.

Commissioner Sobanja gave the Board an overview of the advantages that might be gained if the Search and Rescue Building is moved to a different location and used for storage for the zamboni, hockey, softball, and other outdoor recreation activities.  Sobanja will take this information to the Community Center Steering Committee for study and a recommendation.

Commissioner Hakes reported that Arrowhead Electric Cooperative has received notification from Rural Utility Services (RUS) that all conditions have been met and funding advances are forthcomirng for the Arrowhead Electric Cooperative Broadband Project!  This is great news!

Meeting Minutes
Minutes for this meeting will be posted on the Cook County website after they are approved.  For a written copy, contact Janet Simonen at 387-3602.  A video of this meeting will be available on Boreal.TV within a day or two.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Visit Cook County!

Cook County is open for business!

Cook County is grateful to report that we were relatively unscathed in the recent flooding over parts of Northeastern Minnesota.  Come visit!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Human Services and County Board Meetings followed by Building Fund Work Session

The County Board, in its varying capacities, met from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm today.  Read about it here...

Cook County Human Services Board
Human Services Board Chair Sue Hakes, along with board members Carla LaPointe, Jerry Lilja, Jim Johnson, Bruce Martinson and  Fritz Sobanja were all present for the June Human Services Board Meeting.  Also present were Sue Futterer and Jan Parish.  Jan Hall was absent.

Committee Reports
Fritz Sobanja reported on the most recent Arrowhead Regional Corrections (ARC) meeting noting that ARC's month-to-month budget is extremely tight.  He also commented that the Juvenile Center is increasing its awareness about cultural differences among inmates and has recently built a sweat lodge.  Last, Sobanja said St. Louis County is working on the bonding for $750,000 authorized by the State Legislature.  Cook County will contribute a prorated amount.

Jim Johnson reported on the Health Care Planning Committee meeting noting that Hospital and Care Center Administrator Kimber Wraalstad said the Hospital is currently conducting a Facilities Assessment.  There was also discussion about the new Suicide Prevention service Text4Life and the consequences of the recent closing of Bridge House Mental Health Services in Duluth.  In other news, Lucy Perpich has joined the staff at the Violence Prevention Center and a full time Mental Health Professional will be working at ISD166 and Great Expectations Schools.

Income Maintenance Financial Management Tutorial, Sandy Petty
Sandy Petty, Financial Worker/Account Tech, gave the Board an overview of an important part of her work in Human Services.  Petty spends about 5% of her time working on the Social Trust Fund Program where she manages the Social Trust Fund as the representative payee.  Petty explained that the Social Trust Fund account is a checking account of consolidated funds for 24 individual clients.  She does this for those that are physically or mentally incapable of handing their financial affairs and there is no family member or companion able or willing to help the client.  Petty collects their income from one or all of the following:  Social Security,  Supplemental Security Income, Veteran's Administration, MN Supplemental Assistance, and/or Employment.  With the client's income, she pays their monthly bills for room and board or rent, utilities, personal needs cash, medical and transportation.

Petty has worked in Human Services for 22 years, witnessing many changes.  Managing the Social Trust Fund account, however, is the only aspect of her job that has not changed.  And, on a personal note, Petty shared that this is her favorite part of her job stating that the work itself is easy, but mostly it feels good to help people who need it in this way.  Petty's natural love of numbers makes her well-suited for this work.

Financial Report - Jan Parish, Income Maintenance and Fiscal Supervisor
Jan Parish gave the Board her monthly budget update noting that the cash balance is ~$144,000 lower than a year ago, but that overall the finances of Public Health and Human Services look as projected for this time of year.  One serious concern, however, is the increase in the cost for children's out-of-home placements.  The number of clients needing this service is difficult to project.

Director's Report, Sue Futterer  
Sue Futterer shared a short video entitled, "The New Normal" by David Gillette about the aging of Minnesota and the impact it has on Government Services and costs.  It's an entertaining (and short) video, so check it out!

Futterer updated the Board on the on-going Region 3 Redesign efforts for CHIPS (Children in Need of Protection) Service Delivery.

Futterer provided the Board with a copy of the 2012 Legislative Session:  Summary of Laws as collected by the MN Association of County Social Service Administrators (MACSSA).

In preparation for the coming 2013 Budget Planning, Futterer presented the Board with the PHHS Department Budget goals.  These goals will be used in prioritizing funding.

Futterer gave the Board an update on the Security measures PHHS has implemented in their department.  More changes are anticipated after the Security Assessment from CJES is received at the end of June.  The entire PHHS Department has been proactive in recommending and implementing Security changes since the December 2011 shooting.

Board Actions
A Purchase of Service Agreement was approved between Cook County and Parental Home Study Provider for March 20-June 1, 2012.

The Board authorized a temporary employee to fill in during a Parenting Leave anticipated this Fall.

A Purchase Agreement between Cook County and eDocument Resources for Electronic Document Management with Appointments Management was approved as part of the larger eDocuments plan.

Cook County Board of Commissioners Meeting
County Board Vice Chair Bruce Martinson opened the meeting in Board Chair Jan Hall's absence.  Commissioners Sue Hakes, Jim Johnson and Fritz Sobanja were present.  In addition, County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Personnel Director/County Board Secretary Janet Simonen were also present.

Public Comment 
Molly Hoffman expressed concern over her verbal exchange with County Commissioners Bruce Martinson and Fritz Sobanja at the June 12, 2012 County Board meeting.

FEMA Wildlife Sprinkler Program
Michael Valentini and George Carlson came before the County Board to request a refund of the deposits they made in lieu of a performance bond for the sprinkler installations they made under the FEMA Wildlife Sprinkler Program.  Cook County withheld $10,000 from both Valentini and Carlson to ensure proper installation and function for the one-year warranty period.  The Board approved their request.

GO Cook County!
Randy Lasky, President of Northspan Group, and Jim Boyd came before the Board to a) give an overview of the GO Cook County economic development strategic action plan, and b) request funding for the GO Cook County project.  GO Cook County is a multi-stakeholder steering committee of approximately 20 public, private and non-profit members that has formed over the past two months to lead a county-wide project aimed at developing a strategic economic development plan for Cook County.  Led by Northspan Group, GO Cook County will be a 6-month collaborative process that will involve the business owners, non-profit organizations, the public and local governments. In addition to Northspan Group, the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC) will take a lead role in the project and have committed $11,500 as in-kind professional services to the project.  The City of Grand Marais, Cook County EDA, and Arrowhead Electric Cooperative have all committed $3,000 respectively to this work.  The County Board authorized $6,000 for the project and will act as the fiscal agent.

Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP) Biomass Committee
CCLEP Biomass Committee Chair Paul Nelson, along with Committee members Gary Atwood, Tim Kennedy and George Wilkes came before the County Board to give an update on the status of the district heating plant study.  In addition, they requested the Board set aside 1% sales tax dollars for a project to be fleshed out in the next few weeks.  In general, their project will include a) market assessment, technical concept and draft business plan, b) schematic design/layout of the facility and final business plan, and c) financial support for conversions to biomass heat.  The current concept shows the Grand Marais PUC in a lead role for this business.  CCLEP recognizes that funding would be phased and contingent upon the results of the first feasibility assessments.  The Board asked the group to submit an application to the 1% Sales Tax Committee for consideration and review.

MN Counties Information Systems (MCIS) Upgrade, Mary Black
The Board supported a request from County Assessor Mary Black to allocate $50,835 to be paid over 3 years for the modernization of the property tax system, CAMA and payroll systems developed by MCIS.

CSAH 8 Reconstruction
Old property irons along CSAH 8 were destroyed during the road reconstruction clearing and grading operations.  The Board authorized David Betts to contract with Brett Land Surveyors for the replacement of the property irons at a cost of $310 per iron for a total estimated cost of $7,130.

Taylor Lane Road Ownership
The ownership of the first 1100 feet of Taylor Lane Road east of Grand Marais isn't clear.  Records are incomplete and conflicting.  However, County Attorney Tim Scannell ultimately determined it to be a public road siting findings of fact and MN Stat. Sec. 160.05 Sub. 1 as the basis for his legal opinion.  The Board supported Scannell's opinion declaring it a public road and authorized the Highway Department to repair it to County standards.  Lawfully vacating this road may be considered at a future date.

Courthouse Security
The County Board authorized moving forward in making security modifications to the County Attorney's office.  The project will be supervised by ORB management and the work conducted by local carpenters and electricians.  The project cost is guaranteed and fixed at $36,495.  ORB Management will not be collecting a management fee for this work; they wish to donate this work to Cook County.

Miscellaneous Fees
A Public Hearing on Miscellaneous Fees has been scheduled during the July 10 County Board Meeting.

Community Center Project
The County Board authorized hiring legal counsel for specific portions of the Community Center project.  Bob Toftey will assist the County in the negotiations and agreement drafting for the management agreement between the County and the YMCA.  Baiers Hereen will assist in the negotiations and agreement drafting for the real estate transactions required to secure and/or occupy the part of the school building and the land beneath it on which the community center will be built.

Sue Hakes reported that she attended the Duluth Family YMCA's Annual Meeting last week in Duluth and was impressed by the enthusiasm and sincerity of the Board, Staff, Members and Volunteers.  Several inspirational stories from members and volunteers were shared as a highlight of the evening.  The state of the Duluth Family YMCA appears to be healthy on a multitude of levels including a fast growing membership and reports of academic improvements for children in the YMCA mentor program.

US Forest Service Travel Management Project in the Superior National Forest
Commissioner Sobanja mentioned the recent decision of US District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson to allow the US Forest Service to modify the plans for roads and trails in the Superior National Forest.  Details of this decision were outlined in an April 17, 2012 press release.

Work Session to discuss Cook County Building Fund
The County Board, led by Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, held a lengthy discussion regarding the building fund and current/future wants and needs for improvements to existing County facilities.  Also present for the discussion was Maintenance Supervisor Brian Silence, PHHS Director Sue Futterer, Highway Department Engineer David Betts, Highway Department Supervisor Russell Klegstad and Sheriff Mark Falk.   The list of wants and needs is lengthy and includes: Courthouse Security Changes/Additions, Highway Department Workshops and salt storage in Hovland and Tofte, Highway Department Office/Garage/Salt Storage/Vehicle Wash, Client Meeting Rooms in PHHS, Maintenance Storage, unified office space for County IT operations including Radio Tech, Air Conditioning for LEC Server Room, additional space for LEC, routine maintenance of all buildings, furniture, audio improvements.  The Board will continue to work with Powers and the Department Heads to refine and prioritize this list.

Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes of the Cook County Board of Commissioners will be available on the County's website after they are written and approved.  You may also obtain a copy by contacting Janet Simonen at 387-3602.  For a video record of the County Board meetings, go to Boreal.TV.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

County Board Meeting for June 12, 2012

Board Chair Jan Hall, Commissioners Sue Hakes, Bruce Martinson and Fritz Sobanja, along with Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, Personnel Director Janet Simonen and Assistant County Attorney Molly Hicken were all present for the June 6 Meeting.  Commissioner Jim Johnson was absent for health reasons.

Public Comment
Molly Hoffman expressed concerns about the feasibility studies done for the proposed new Community Center.

Courthouse Lighting 
Brian Silence requested authorization for additional exterior lighting on the west side of the Courthouse.  Silence and the Commissioners agreed that this decision would not be made until after the CJES Security Audit on the Courthouse was complete.

Subsurface Septic Treatment System Loan Ordinance Proposal
Office of Planning and Zoning Director Tim Nelson and Ilena Berg of the Soil and Water Conservation District, presented a proposed ordinance and set of policies and procedures for a Subsurface Septic Treatment System Loan Ordinance Proposal. If adopted, this Ordinance authorizes Cook County to administer a low interest public loan program that assists private landowners to finance replacement of failed Subsurface Sewage Treatment Systems. A Public Hearing for has been set for 7 pm on Wednesday July 11 before the Planning Commission in the Commissioner's Room.

Highway Department
Special permits were approved for a) the Tofte Fourth of July Parade and Fireworks, and b) the Grand Marais Fourth of July Parade.

Contracts for geotechnical borings and evaluations were awarded to a) American Engineering Testing for $7400 on the CSAH 7 pavement rehabilitation project, and b) Braun Intertec for $13,000 on the CSAH 12 reconstruction project.

Cook County Energy Plan
George Wilkes, Virginia Danfelt-Martin, and Don Grant, all of the Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP), presented the "Cook County and Grand Marais Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Plan" to the County Board.   In 2010, CCLEP  partnered with the City of Grand Marais and Cook County to develop an Energy Plan for both the City and the County in an effort to better prepare our community for the challenges and opportunities in a rapidly changing energy environment.  Also present for this discussion was Joe Buttweiler of Arrowhead Electric Cooperative (AEC).  AEC has been working with CCLEP on portions of this project.  Through the discussion at yesterday's meeting, both AEC and CCLEP agreed to continue working together and re-present the plan to the County Board.  The City of Grand Marais has adopted the plan.

Lake Superior Poplar River Water District (LSPR Water District) 
The Board approved a resolution approving the LSPR Water District which will be certified and sent to the Secretary of State.  The Board also appointed the directors for the Water District meeting the requirements of the recently passed State Legislation and as recommended by Skinner:  Mark Sandbo, Bob Fenwick, Charles Skinner, Tom Rider, Bob Ryan.

Veteran's Servce Officer
Clarence Everson came before the County Board to request funding to transport Veterans to the VA Hospital 320 miles away.  These rides were previously funded through a State of MN Enhancement Grant which the State did not approve for the Year 2013.  Everson noted that the number of Vets needing this important service is growing due to the new troops coming home and the older Veterans needing more medical attention.  The County Board authorized Everson's $6000 request for the remainder of 2012 and encouraged him to ask for additional funding during the 2013 budget process.  Grand Portage also authorized $15,000.

Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers
At the recommendation/request  of Braidy Powers the County Board approved a) the 2011 County audit letter,  b) the 2013 County Budget Calendar, c) a County Board work session on June 19 from 1:30-4:30 pm to discuss the Building Fund Budget, and d) authorization to reimburse homeowners 75% of the sprinkler installation cost under the Sprinkler Grand Policy.

EDA Funding Request for Superior National Golf Course (SNGC)
Mark Sandbo, EDA Chairman and Bob Fenwick, Superior National Golf Course Manager, requested authorization to pay invoices totalling $21,924.58 for design, development associated with the SNGC Renovation Project.  After a significant discussion, the request was approved.

Commissioner Hakes expressed serious concern about continuing to spend money on this project without a written agreement with the EDA and a detailed plan showing financial commitment for the project.  Braidy Powers agreed and re-distributed a 1-page document with 10 key points to be used as a basis for an agreement between the County and the EDA.  (Powers has presented this document previously.)    Hakes made a motion that the County Board write a letter to the EDA stating the need for an Agreement to be put in place using this 10 point document as a basis for the County/EDA Agreement.  The motion passed.

Personnel Committee 
Personnel Director Janet Simonen presented (6) recommendations from the Personnel Committee which were accepted unanimously.

Courthouse Security
A proposal was received from Steve Swenson of CJES to conduct security assessments at the Highway Department, Community Center, Recycle Center, Middle School, High School, Hospital and Care Center.  This proposal will be discussed at the June 19 Work Session of the County Board.

Meeting Minutes
Written meeting minutes of this meeting will be made available on the Cook County website after they are approved or by contacting Janet Simonen at 387-3602.  For a video of this meeting, go to Boreal.TV

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New Cook County Community Center Meetings

Two meetings regarding the Community Center were held today.  Here are the HANDOUTS for those of you unable to attend.

The first meeting was a Joint Meeting of the Cook County Board, ISD166 School Board, Grand Marais City Council, and the Community Center Steering Committee.  A review of the conceptual plan and budget was done.  Concerns and questions were discussed and overall the group moved forward.  This meeting will be available for viewing in its entirety at Boreal.TV.
Today's second meeting was held this evening in the JMCC at ISD166.  I didn't count the attendees, but I suspect there were more than 30.  Community Center Steering Committee Chair Paul Sporn chaired the meeting.  He was supported by Beth Schwarz (School Superintendent), Wade Cole (ORB), and Chris Francis (YMCA).  A lot of good questions were asked and addressed.  Feedback regarding the specifics of the concept presented were noted and will be discussed at tomorrow morning's meeting of the Community Center Steering Committee.

New Cook County Community Center Meetings

There are (2) meetings being held today regarding the New Cook County Community Center.  Both are open to the Public.

1:00 to 4:00 pm in the Commissioner's Room
The County Board, ISD166 School Board, City Council and New Community Center Steering Committee are meeting to discuss and coordinate plans for the new Community Center.

6:00 to 8:00 pm in the JMCC at ISD166
The Public is invited to hear an overview of the most recent plans for the Community Center, and give feedback on the conceptual design, programming, and overall project.