Tuesday, July 24, 2012

County Board Meeting on July 24, 2012

Board Chair Jan Hall, along with Commissioners Sue Hakes, Jim Johnson, Bruce Martinson and Fritz Sobanja were all present for today's County Board meeting.  Also present were Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen.

Public Comment
Biz Clark, Poplar Lake resident and member of the Water Advisory Board, spoke in favor of the Septic Loan Ordinance requesting that funds be disbursed based on need to replace septic systems and not on homestead or permanent year-round residency status.

Sub-Surface Treatment System (SSTS) Loan Ordinance
The County Board voted unanimously to approve the Cook County SSTS Loan Ordinance Number 60, as well as a Resolution entitled Agricultural Best Management Practices Loan Program.  The purpose and intent of these actions are to create a public loan program that assists Cook County property owners with the financing, site evaluation, design, installation, repair and replacement of failing Sub-Surface Treatment Systems and the sealing and replacement of failing wells on private property.  New construction or upgrading conforming systems is not allowed under this program.

The Resolution allows Cook County to act as a Local Lender and allow participants to repay loans as an assessment to their property through the property tax system.  Loan limits are $25,000 for a single-connection system and $50,000 for a multi-connection system. The interest rate is 3% and maximum length of loan 10 years.

The major benefits of this program are water quality improvement/protection and reasonable financing terms to Cook County taxpayers needing to replace their failed septic or well .

Interim Use Permit on Tom Lake
The County Board supported a recommendation from the Planning Commission to approve an Interim Use Permit (IUP) for Larry Spry to keep a recreational vehicle on his property at Tom Lake.  The IUP is subject to 1) a new variance from the Board of Adjustment allowing the trailer to be within the shoreline setback of Tom Lake, 2) Conformance to MN Rule 7080 including the proper abandonment of the outhouse currently on the property, and 3) expiration of the IUP on October 1, 2013.

Geotechnical Evaluation on CSAH 12 near Seagull Lake
The Board authorized County Engineer David Betts to approve $9,038 to Braun Intertec to perform a geotechnial evaluation to determine the cause of settlement and potential solutions at MM 54 on the Gunflint Trail.

Sawtooth Challenge Mountain Bike Race
At the request of David Betts, the Board authorized a Special Event Permit Application from the Superior Cycling Association for the September 2, 2012, Sawtooth Challenge Mountain Bike Race.  The Board also discussed Mr. Kennedy's request for waiving the $100 Permit Fee, but no motion was made to support that request.

2012 Six Month Budget Review
Braidy Powers reviewed the January thru June 2012 Budget noting that overall, 47.4% of the 2012 is spent at the mid-year point.  Powers pointed out specific accounts that were over/under significantly including Court Administration which is 131% spent mostly due to a significant increase Child Protection Service Cases.

The Board authorized liquor and tobacco licenses for the Chicago Bay Marketplace subject to applicable reviews and approvals by governing bodies and authorities.  These licenses are currently in place; new licensing is required for the new owners.

As recommended by the Revolving Loan Fund Committee, loans were approved for Jeff Lynch of Sawtooth Outfitters ($75,000) for renovation and expansion of his outfitter building, and Paul Sporn ($46,667) for the purchase of Clyde's Car Wash.

Braidy Powers asked the Board to consider increasing Election Judge pay from $10/hour to $12/hour noting there has not been an increase for approximately 16 years.  Powers also noted that it would be reasonable to wait for the Voter ID Amendment decision this Fall; passage of this amendment will have a significant impact on the Cook County Election budget.

One Percent Projects
Wade Cole, ORB Management, presented the Board with a current overview of the One Percent Sales Tax Budget.  Cole also reviewed the budget estimates for the current schematic design of the Cook County Family YMCA facility planned for attachment to ISD166.  ORB Management and the Steering Committee are working with the Architectural Team of JLG and Meyer Group to design within the $9.5M budget.

The County Board authorized an invitation to solicit sealed bids for the Cook County Family YMCA Project to begin construction of the outdoor ice rink and some site demolition (silo, block building).  Wade Cole presented the details of the bid process.  Bid documents will be available for public inspection on or after August 6, 2012, prospective bidders are invited to a pre-bid meeting at the job site at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, August 14, and sealed bids are due at 3:00 pm on Monday, August 27, 2012.

The County Board solicited and reviewed (2) proposals received for appraising the west end of ISD166 and the additional land needed to build the Cook County Family YMCA.  After a discussion and comparison of the bids, the Board selected Cole Appraisal and Consulting to do this work.  The appraisal will be used in the determination of fair value for the school owned property.

Diane Booth reviewed the delineation and mitigation process, options and estimates for the area designated for a new ball field (NW Corner).  Booth recommended she work with the Steering Committee to get a recommended location for the ball field and report back to the Board

Bruce Martinson reported that progress is being made on the Birch Grove Community Center project.

Cook County Assessor/Land Commissioner Position
Janet Simonen reported that she has begun the search process for a new County Assessor/Land Commissioner to fill the vacancy created by Mary Black's resignation.

Salary Negotiations
The County Board voted to give a 1.8% COLA increase to the (5) non-union, non-exempt employees.  Because their work is similar in many ways to the work of the Courthouse Administrative workforce, the increase granted is the same as negotiated with the Cook County Employees Association.  This is the final employee group to be negotiated.

The County Board passed a motion made by Commissioner Hakes for the Commissioners to contribute monthly to their Single and Family Health Insurance.  The Commissioners are not getting any salary increase; they will contribute $10/monthly.

Commissioner Sue Hakes has been invited by the Association of MN Counties (AMC) and authorized by the County Board to be a member of the AMC Futures Task Force.  FUTURES is an advanced leadership academy that also serves as the R&D arm of AMC.  (I am very exited to be a part of this work!!)

Bruce Martinson has been appointed to the MN Tourism Board, a role fully supported by the Cook County Board.

Highway Department
David Betts and Russell Klegstad gave the County Board a tour of the Tofte Highway Department garage and grounds.

Meeting Minutes
Official Meeting Minutes for the July 24 County Board Meeting may be obtained after they are drafted and approved by going to the Cook County Website or by calling Janet Simonen at 218/387-3602.  For a video of the meeting, go to Boreal.TV.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Human Services and Cook County Board Meetings for July 17, 2012

Human Services Board Meeting
Human Services Board Chair, Sue Hakes, along with board members Jim Johnson, Carla LaPointe, Jerry Lilja, Bruce Martinson and Fritz Sobanja were all present for today's Human Services Board meeting. Commissioner Jan Hall was absent.

Committee Reports Recap
Arrowhead Health Alliance--Sue Hakes was happy to report that St. Louis County has joined Cook, Lake, Carlton, and Koochiching counties as a member of the Arrowhead Health Alliance (AHA).  The mission of AHA is to integrate public health and human services between counties to improve services and efficiencies.  In addition to Hakes, Sue Futterer attends AHA meetings.

Public Health and Human Services Advisory Board--Jerry Lilja and Carla LaPointe gave a thorough overview of the most recent PHHS Advisory Board noting that Cook County has been a leader in the State Health Improvement Program (SHIP); funding has been extended for an additional 3 years.  The Human Development Center (HDC) has added a therapist to assist within our schools and also to aid in home visits for children at risk.  The Living With a Chronic Disease course was a success, and a second session is planned.  The Violence Prevention Center is working to identify gaps in their services.

Out of Home Placement of Children
Social Services Supervisor, Grace Bushard, presented the Board with a short assessment regarding Cook County's out of home placement of children.  Even when it is in the best interest of the child, being removed from one's home is traumatic.  In Cook County, concern about the number and nature of out of home placements has provided an opportunity to reassess services.  

Unfortunately, there are high financial and high emotional costs to families and the community for out of home placements.  Over the past 4 years, 34 Cook County children were in out of home placement at a total county cost of $1,132,381, therefore, Cook County Human Services is exploring ways to prevent out of home placement and to reunify families as soon as is safely possible.

Bushard reported that overall, in 70% of the families where children were removed from the home, alcohol or drug abuse was either the primary or secondary factor. And in families where children were at risk and did not enter out of home placement, she noted that extended, supportive families to provide safety for children, and parents being able to bring children with them to CD treatment were extremely beneficial.

Financial Report
Fiscal Supervisor, Jan Parish, augmented Grace Bushard's presentation with specific sources of revenues and overall costs to the county for Out of Home Placements in Cook County.  Parish also presented the Board with her monthly department financial report.  Overall, expenditures and collections are hovering around 46% year-to-date, which is according to plan.

Director's Report
PHHS Director, Sue Futterer, reported that St. Louis County is fully on board for the next Region 3 Redesign effort in the area of Child Support.

Futterer distributed copies of the Guiding Principles for Senior Housing Options, a draft document created to aid seniors, county workers, families, and others in support of creating Senior Housing Options that best meet the needs of seniors in Cook County.  A committee has been working together for several months to address the issues of Senior Housing in Cook County.

Futterer gave the Board a 1-page summary of the PHHS 2013 Budget.  A need for increased services and costs, combined with a reduction in State reimbursements is indicating a need for an increase in the PHHS levy request.  Futterer, along with Parish and other staff, will be working with each other and the County Board to reduce their budget where possible without neglecting mandates or critical services.

Items for Board Action
The Board approved an amended Joint Powers Agreement between Carlton-Cook-Lake-St. Louis Counties for the Community Health Board.

Cook County Board Meeting
County Board Vice-Chair, Bruce Martinson, along with Commissioners Sue Hakes, Jim Johnson and Fritz Sobanja were all present for today's County Board Meeting.  Board Chair Jan Hall was absent.  Also present were Auditor-Treasurer, Braidy Powers, and Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen.

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

MN Department of Transportation (MN DOT)
Todd Campbell, MN DOT Engineer, gave the Board an overview of current District 1 Highway construction projects and Highway 61 maintenance projects underway in Cook and Lake counties.  In addition, Campbell shared MN DOT Tech Memo No 11-02-T-02 on Rumble Strips and Rumble StripEs on Rural Trunk Highways.  This policy applies only to projects on Rural Trunk Highways where the posted speed limit is 55 mph or higher.

Highway Department
The Board authorized a special event permit request from the Grand Marais Lions Club for the 83rd Annual Fisherman's Picnic.  The Board also approved the Lions Club request to use the county parking lot west of Fifth Avenue for overflow parking by vendors during Fisherman's Picnic

The Board authorized selling Ulland Brothers 3000 yards of gravel to be crushed as Class 5 gravel for the County Road 8 project.

Courthouse Maintenance
Courthouse Maintenance Director, Brian Silence, requested approval to make necessary repairs to the elevator at a cost of $7358.  The Board approved this request.

The County Board accepted the resignation of Mary Black, County Assessor, and wished her well in her new ventures.  The Board also authorized Personnel Director, Janet Simonen, to begin recruitment of a new County Assessor.

BWCA Land Exchange
Mary Black provided the Board with an update on the County/Forest Service Land Exchange reporting that the feasibility analysis for the exchange is currently being reviewed by the Forest Service in Duluth and will ultimately be forwarded to Milwaukee.  The exchange is moving through the process.

Vegetation Management
Mary Black provided the Board with information from DOW AgroSciences regarding vegetation management that will be occurring in Cook County, including on County owned property.  Black does not anticipate problem areas.

Miscellaneous Requests
The Board approved the purchase of vehicle insurance for the Off-Site pickup used at the Cook County Airport.

The Board approved by resolution the permit application for lawful gambling activity for the Mid-Trail Property Owners Association to conduct a raffle with a prize value of less than $1500 on August 18 at the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department.

Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) for Matt Geretschlaeger
Matt Geretschlaeger came before the County Board requsting a Letter of Committment for a $250,000 loan as part of a $929,300 project to build and operate a Zip Line business on the Old Ski Hill property off the Gunflint Trail just north of Grand Marais.

Geretschlaeger's business development plan for this project includes the Zip Line Equipment ($350,000), a Building ($220,000), Road/Water/Private Sewer Infrastructure ($250,000) and the land recently purchased from the City of Grand Marais for $75,000.

In addition to the $250,000 request from the County RLF, Geretschlaeger is applying for a $329,300 loan from Security State Bank, and a $250,000 grant from the Iron Range Resources Board (IRRB).

Geretschlaeger's Cook County Revolving Loan Fund request for $250,000 was approved by the RLF Committee last week based on the approximately $600,000 collateral in real estate owned by Geretschlaeger as security for the proposed financing. This collateral includes Geretschlaeger's home. This request was also approved by the County Board by a 3-1 vote with Commissioner Sue Hakes opposed. Hakes voted against approving this loan mainly based on the financial risk to the County associated with the collateral, lack of working capital, and lack of justification for the revenue stream.

New Community Center
Diane Booth will be coming to the Board July 24 with a request for wetland delineation needed for the outdoor recreation area.  Sue Hakes will be contacting a commercial appraiser to get a bid for the west end of the School building and property to be used for the Cook County Family YMCA.  And, the Board approved paying lodging and mileage for YMCA Chris Francis to travel to Grand Marais when requested by the County Board.

2012-2013 Department Head Salaries
The County Board approved a salary increase for the Department Heads (including 4 elected officials Scannell, Powers, Falk, Nelms).  The increase is for 2.5% COLA, Step 10 increase from 2.3% to 3%.  In addition, each Department Head will contribute $25/month for Single/Family Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Insurance.

Hovland Highway Department Garage
The County Board traveled to Hovland to examine the condition and understand the issues surrounding the Hovland Highway Department Garage.  The building is in significant disrepair.

Meeting Minutes
County Board meeting minutes will be available after approval by going to the County Website or by contacting Janet Simonen at 218-387-3687.  You may also watch a video of today's County Board meeting by going to Boreal.TV..

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cook County Recycling Center

I spent an interesting morning last week touring the central facility of the Cook County Recycling Center.  The Recycling Center is part of the County's Planning and Zoning Department under Director Tim Nelson.

Recycling Center Supervisor Jeff Sylvester was kind enough to give me a tour of the operation from the Store to the loading dock and more.  Cook County's Recycling program includes a central drop-off and processing facility in Grand Marais and six rural drop-off centers located in Tofte, Lutsen, Grand Portage and (3) on the Gunflint Trail.  The Grand Marais site is also home to the "Budget Shop" which sells used clothing and household goods at prices typically from $.25 up to $1.00.  

Sylvester explained that the Center has recently met its goal to reach a 35% recycling rate in Cook County.  This means that 1/3 of waste in Cook County is recycled.  He was careful to point out, however, that recycled materials is not garbage.  It is a marketable product.  Currently, Cook County works with Recycle America to sell its recycled products.

Jeff Sylvester began at the Cook County Recycling Center when it was basically a 1 or 2 person operation and has played a vital role in the growth of the program in Cook County.  The Center now has 4 employees.

Sylvester finds his job rewarding because he believes in the program and encourages the public to take advantage of the valuable services provided by the Cook County Recycling Center.  Click HERE for hours and information about the Recycling Center.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Make a Pledge!

About the YMCA
Because of the developing partnership between Cook County, ISD166 and the Duluth Area Family YMCA, there is growing interest in learning more about the Y! For starters, let me share some basic information straight out of the YMCA Program and Services Guide!

The Duluth YMCA is dedicated to putting the principles of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all!

The YMCA is a cause-driven organization that is for youth development, for healthy living and for social responsibility. That's because a strong community can only be achieved when we invest in our kids, our health and our neighbors.
Nurturing the potential of every child and teen.

Improving the nation's health and well-being.

Giving back and providing support to our neighbors.

Go to http://www.duluthymca.org/ for more information about the Duluth Area Family YMCA.  The information at this site is similar to what is currently being planned for the Cook County Family YMCA.  However, there will be differences to meet the specific needs of Cook County residents and members.  A local board will be formed to direct and serve the Cook County Family YMCA.

Interested in learning more about the YMCA and the Cook County Community Center?  
Tomorrow (July 12) from 2pm-5pm at the Courthouse, the ISD 166 School Board, Cook County Board and City of Grand Marais will be participating in a joint meeting to discuss further planning of the Cook County Family YMCA. The Public is encouraged to attend.

In addition, there will be a Public Input Meeting tomorrow evening (July 12) from 6pm-8pm in the Jane Mianiowski Room at the school. Here you will get a look at the proposed architectural and programming plans for the remodel/addition to the West Wing of the school.  Come, give us your feedback and input about what you'd like for the programming and floor plan!

Interested in making a Pledge?
Pledges are being taken now for memberships to the Cook County Family YMCA. Show your support for the project by completing a non-binding 2013 Membership Pledge Form. It's easy!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

County Board Meeting on July 10, 2012

Board Chair Jan Hall, along with Commissioners Hakes, Johnson, Martinson and Sobanja were all present for today's regularly scheduled County Board Meeting.  Also present were County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen, and County Attorney Tim Scannell.

Public Comment Protocol Discussion
As agreed last week, the County Board discussed guidelines for the Public Comment period at the beginning of County Board meetings and ultimately agreed upon Guidelines for Cook County Board of Commissioners Public Comment Period  with a 4-1 vote (Sobanja abstained).  Copies of these guidelines will be available at County Board meetings.

Members of the Public are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to come before the County Board with questions, ideas, comments, and concerns about any County business.  There is a lot of power in showing up in person.

Public Comment Period
Two members of the public offered comments regarding the protocol for the Public Comment Protocol, Jane Howard and Lance Johnson.

Information Systems, Danna MacKenzie
The County Board approved a request to purchase a large format plotter at a cost of $4600 to be paid from the Emergency Management fund ($1500) and the Recorder's unallocated Land Records Improvement funds ($3100).  The current GIS map printer is 11 years old and no longer able to handle the size and volume of maps that are being produced for daily and emergency applications.

Danna MacKenzie, member of the Governor Dayton's Broadband Task Force, reported that she is the recently appointed leader of the Coordination Across Government Levels subgroup and will be reporting to Governor Dayton this Fall.

MacKenzie also reported that her participation in the Policy Fellows Program at the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota is completed. The Policy Fellows program offers practical training in public affairs leadership for emerging leaders seeking new experiences and skills. The nine-month leadership and professional development experience equips participants with core leadership competencies to inspire, organize, and work effectively with others to advance the public good.

Power for Tower on Tower Road  
The issue of bringing power to the new 180' communications tower at the west end of the Tower Road in Hovland has been on-going for several years.  This tower is an integral part of the ARMER (Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response) 800 MHZ public safety radio system being standardized in Minnesota.  The ARMER system will greatly improve Law Enforcement and Emergency Services communications and response times. The State of Minnesota will pay Arrowhead Electric Cooperative to install this power; alternatively, if power is not installed via the electrical grid, the State will install propane generator service as they have for other rural sites.

Sheriff Mark Falk, HVFD Fire Chief Charlie LaBoda, other members of the HVFD, and several property owners that use or own property along the Tower Road were present for this discussion. Law Enforcement, the Hovland Volunteer Fire Department, and most of the affected property owners prefer buried electrical service as opposed to propane generator service. However, with the installation of buried electric, there is concern among the property owners regarding the location of the road in relation to their properties, condition and maintenance of the road, clearing of trees, and easement language. Several property owners respectfully and reasonably stated their concerns to the Board.

After a fairly lengthy discussion, the County Board passed a motion authorizing $12,434 for Surveyor Wayne Hensche to survey the Tower Road and set 18 corners near the utility and at certain lot corners. Knowing the location of the road in relation to property parcels is the first step. The County Board also passed a motion to work with property owners to gain consent for installation of a power line.

Also during the discussion, the County Board expressed a willingness to repair any damage that occurs to the Tower Road during installation of power. The County also verbally agreed to make reasonable improvements to the road to aid in access and maintenance after the installation of power from the grid.

Joe Butweiler, of Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, was present for this discussion. He agreed that AEC would mark the location for the power easement for Wayne Hensche. He also agreed that AEC would consider modifying the easement language between AEC and property owners to more accurately reflect the single phase power to be installed. AEC will also install an electric box at properties along the Tower Road; they did not agree to free access to power. Butweiler also stated that owners can do their own clearing, as opposed to having AEC do the clearing, to ensure the least negative impact to the aesthetics and character of the woods.

At the end of this discussion, it seemed that all parties were reasonably satisfied that their concerns were being addressed.

Coroner's Service Agreement
The Board approved a Coroner's Services Agreement authorizing Dr. Sandra Stover to perform the duties of Coroner as outlined in MN Statute 390; Dr. Stover may also appoint one or more Assistant Coroners to act on her behalf when she is absent or unable to act.

A Public Hearing was held to consider making changes to the Cook County Fee Schedule.  No member of the public opted to speak and all recommended changes were approved by the Board.

2012 Small City Development Grant Award 
Nancy Grabko, Cook County Housing Administrator, asked the Board to authorize the EDA to proceed with the execution of (2) contracts to enable the work of the 2012 Small City Development Grant Award.  The Cook County EDA, led by Grabko and supported by the County, was successful in obtaining a grant for $291,000 for both single family and commercial rehabilitation.  Grabko will report quarterly to the Board on progress.

Cook County Local Energy Plan
The County Board adopted the Cook County and Grand Marais Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Plan, a voluntary plan for the County and the City to better prepare our community for the challenges, and opportunities, of a rapidly changing energy environment.  CCLEP was also designated as an Advisory Board to the County Board with Commissioner Jim Johnson named to that Advisory Board and Commissioner Fritz Sobanja as alternate.  Arrowhead Electric reviewed the plan with CCLEP and suggested some minor modifications to the plan which were accepted.

Active Living Steering Committee
Commissioner Jim Johnson was renamed as the County Board representative to the Active Living Steering Committee with Commissioner Sobanja as the alternate.

Capital Improvement Plan
Braidy Powers compiled a list of possible capital improvement and repair projects to be prioritized by the Board.  Powers will spread the projects over time and bring to the Board for further discussion.

Old Settler's Cemetery Board
The Board appointed Leslie H. Nelson to the Old Settlers Cemetery Board.

MN Department of Revenue Property Classification
County Assessor Mary Black is continuing to work with the Department of Revenue to determine the correct classifications for hotels and motels in Cook County. Black will report back to the County Board.

2012-2013 Department Heads Salary Negotiations
Salary negotiations between the County and the Department Heads have been on-going for several months and a proposal was forwarded to the County Board for consideration.

New Community Center Meetings
A Public Meeting to solicit input on the programming and floor plan for the Community Center is being held Thursday, July 12 from 6-8:00 pm at the JMCC at ISD166.

Meeting Minutes
Formal meeting minutes of this meeting may be obtained (after they are written and approved) by going to the Cook County website or by calling Janet Simonen at 387-3602. A video of this meeting will also be available by going to Boreal.TV.