Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September 25 County Board Meeting and County/School Negotiations

 County Board Chair Jan Hall, along with Commissioners Hakes, Johnson, Martinson and Sobanja were all present for the September 25 Board Meeting. 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.

Law Enforcement, Sheriff Mark Falk
At the request of Sheriff Falk, the Board passed a motion to approve the State of MN Communications Use Agreement with Cook County for use of antenna space on the Hovland Tower.  The State of MN wants to use the Hovland Tower as an ARMER site which will improve ARMER coverage as well as overall communications coverage in Hovland.  This improved communication is critically important to the Hovland Volunteer Fire Department and First Responders.  Mn/DOT will pay to install electric power from the Arrowhead Trail to the tower.  The County is working with Arrowhead Electric and property owners along the Tower Road to get easement agreements in place.

At the 10/9 County Board Meeting Sheriff Falk will present the annual report on ATV use as requested by the County Board per Cook County Ordinance #54 Class 1 ATV Use on County Roads.  Included in the report will be input from the Highway Department and the DNR. The Board will also discuss extension of the ordinance.

The Board approved the purchase of a Horn/Strobe with a blue lens for the Law Enforcement Center; this device will be tripped from the existing Duress system. The Board also approved the purchase and installation of a 3-ton air conditioning system for the server room at the Law Enforcement Center. Maintenance Director Brian Silence is working on these purchase and installations.

Highway Department
The FCC requires narrowband compliant radio communication effective January 1, 2013.  The Board authorized $103,658 plus tax and installation for the purchase of the required radios and base station units for the Highway Department.  State bid pricing shows Motorola to be the most competitively priced.

The Board approved a work order for the Highway Department to provide winter maintenance on the Rollins Creek Road for a lump sum of $3,000 to be paid by Mn/DOT.

The Board approved the hiring recommendation from Highway Engineer David Betts to fill the open Highway Department Clerk position.

Interim Use Permit
The Board approved an Interim Use Permit for Ulland Brothers as recommended by the Planning Commission allowing the stockpiling and crushing of gravel on property adjacent to Cook County Road 5, subject to restrictions on volume, crushing times and dates, noise and dust supression. Ulland Brothers was the successful bidder on completion of a 1.6 mile portion of the DNR Gitchi Gammi Trail Project connecting Cook County Road 34 and the Ski Hill Road.

Legacy Trails Grant Application for Mountain Bike Trail System
The Board passed a resolution in support of the grant application made to the MN DNR for the Parks and Trails Legacy Grant Program to complete the construction of a single-track mountain bike trail system in the Pincushion Rec Area and at the Britton Peak Trailhead.

Cook County Family YMCA
The County Board approved the name Cook County Family YMCA as the name of the Community Center to be built with 1 % Sales Tax Funding.

Wade Cole, ORB Management, provided the Board with the Project Payment Status of each of the 1% Sales Tax projects.  The Board discussed the funds spent to date, funds allocated and authorizations to be determined.

Commissioner Hakes updated the Board on the September 18 negotiations between representatives for the County (Hakes and F. Sobanja) and ISD166 (Leonard Sobanja, Jeanne Anderson, Beth Schwarz). The Board authorized $160,000 for the purchase of the west end of the ISD166 School Building including lease of the land.  The west end will be renovated for the Cook County Family YMCA.  The next negotiation is scheduled for later in the day September 25.

The Board approved the concrete bid for the Community Center skating rink in the amount of $117,590 to K. Johnson Construction.  This brings the total hard construction cost for Bid Package 1 (demolition of silo, concrete building, tunnel and construction of skating rink with lights) to $346,031.39, including the Value Engineering reduction from Becker Arena Products for $30,053.61. The Community Center Steering Committee and ORB Management worked with the Hockey Association to ensure the needs of hockey players and skaters are being met.

The Board approved applying for (2) grants being worked on by Jim Wiinanen in Emergency Services, Diane Booth Community Center, and Wade Cole of ORB Management.  Grants will be submitted for assistance in demolition of the extreme west end of the School and for building a safe room as part of the Cook County Family YMCA.

Wade Cole introduced Mark Kragenbring of ORB Management.  Kragenbring will be the Project Manager for the construction of the YMCA and explained the process for moving through the construction phase.  Weekly meetings will be held with a small team of representatives from the County, City of Grand Marais, ISD166, and the YMCA.  A process is being established to deal with the day-to-day business of construction as well as any problems that may arise.

The Board gave its approval to bid Phase II of the Cook County Family YMCA which will include demolition, some interior demolition and foundation work.  No construction awards will be granted until formal agreements are in place between the County and the YMCA, City of Grand Marais, and ISD166.

The County voted to support Dorie Carlson's Middle School class with $400 for a field trip to see homes affected by the Ham Lake fire, and learn about ways to reduce the risk of wildfires.  This was supported by the Firewise Program.

The Board approved Quit Claim Deeds to complete the survey work clearing up a small discrepancy along property owned by the County near the Hovland Dock.

The Board authorized Janet Simonen to extend an offer of employment to fill the County Assessor's position vacated by Mary Black.

Cook County and ISD166 Property Negotiations
In a meeting separate from the County Board meeting, Commissioners Fritz Sobanja and Sue Hakes met with School Board Members Leonard Sobanja and Jeanne Anderson and Superintendent Beth Schwarz.  Diane Booth, Community Center Director, was also in attendance on behalf of the County.  This team of negotiators reached consensus for the purchase of the west end of ISD166 and lease of the land underneath and to the southwesterly.  The terms of this agreement will need to be approved by both the School Board and the County Board.  The agreement made is as follows:

1.  Sale Price of building is $160,000.
2.  99-year land lease for $1/year.

These values are consistent with the appraisal done by Cole Appraisal for the County and John Vigen's review of that appraisal on behalf of the School Board.

3. Revenues from the DNR lease with ISD166 will be paid to the School until the DNR moves out of the building, even if ownership has transferred to the County.

4. The School will be responsible for heating and cleaning the DNR rented space throughout the length of the lease, even if ownership has transferred to the County.

5.  The School will use Health and Safety funds to remove asbestos flooring from the gymnasium.

Meeting Minutes
Complete meeting minutes of the County Board meeting are available by calling Janet Simonen at 387-3602 or by going to the Cook County website.  Video of the County Board meeting is also available on Boreal.TV.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Human Services, County Board and City/County Negotiation Meetings on September 18, 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 HS Board Meeting.  Also present were Sue Futterer, Jan Parish, Grace Bushard, Anna Sandstrom and Janet Simonen.  Jan Hall joined the meeting 9:50.

Committee Reports
Report updates were provided by those serving on Arrowhead Health Alliance, Arrowhead Regional  Corrections, Community Health Board, Public Health & Human Services Advisory Committee and North Shore Collaborative.

Forensic Interviewing-Child Protection
Grace Bushard, Social Service Supervisor, gave the Board an overview on Forensic Interviewing of children.  Forensic interviews are used in situations where there is a child abuse report that is also criminal in nature.  This includes physical abuse where marks are left, reports resulting in egregious harm or reports of sexual abuse.  This type of interview is used very infrequently, but the interview technique is important in the protection of children.  Cook County has a multi-disciplinary team specially trained in this area to gather information that is non-leading  and does not cause harm to children.

Director's Report
Director Sue Futterer reported that PHHS will soon be short staffed due to (2) resignations and a planned leave.  Both open positions have been posted; the planned leave opening will be filled with a temporary employee.  The Human Services Board also voted to recommend advertising to fill an additional case aid worker position which the County Board ultimately approved.

Futterer reported that the Leadership Training she attended last week was excellent and very applicable to changes forthcoming in Human Service, such as the Affordable Care Act.  Futterer said the Board will be hearing more about what she learned as she begins to apply it.

Board Actions
The Board approved an agreement between Cook County PHHS and the Region III Adult Mental Health Initiative to begin a pilot program to provide Virtual Collaborative Consultation to the North Shore Hospital to stabilize patients with mental health needs if they come to ERs outside of regular weekday business hours.  Funding has been secured for this initiative.

Cook County Board of Commissioners Meeting
Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioners Hakes, Johnson, Martinson and 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
No members of the public opted to come before the Board.

Highway Department
Highway Engineer David Betts reported a gravel purchase was made for $18,300.  The Board also approved the purchase of an AutoCAD Civil 3D license for the new assistant engineer.

Information Systems
Information Systems Director Danna MacKenzie introduced the newly hired IT/Radio Support Technician Rowan Watkins.  Watkins is working closely with Duane Ege and will ultimately replace him.  Welcome Rowan!

The Board approved the purchase of a Dell Precision T1650 workstation for the new Assistant Highway Engineer.  They also approved the purchase of 2 Toshiba Copiers.

The Board approved an IT Policy to standardize on copiers to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

The Board authorized MacKenzie to review and consider the request from Buell/Verizon to work with Cook County to build a new tower at the location of the WDIO tower. The Board appointed Sue Hakes to work with MacKenzie in this effort.

Miscellaneous Actions
At the request of Kerrie Fabius, SWCD District Manager, the Board approved and accepted the Natural Resources Block Grant for County SWCD programs.

The Board authorized $25,000 cost-share for the Legacy Trails Grant application for Cook County Mountain Bike Trail System.

The Truth in Taxation Meeting was set for Wednesday, December 12, at 6:00 p.m.

The County Board set the preliminary EDA Levy at $148,566 and not the $200,000+ requested.  The County Board will schedule a meeting with the EDA, City Council and County Board to hear the EDA's business plan and direction for 2013 as it relates to their budget request.

Power to the Tower
Cook County and the State of MN are working to bring power to the tower on the Tower Road in Hovland.  The easement needed for trenching the power has been surveyed and written easements have been drafted by Arrowhead Electric.  Property owners have been contacted and a sincere attempt has been made to address their concerns.  It is anticipated that easements will be granted and power will be installed this year.  Power to this tower is a critical piece of the ARMER system and will improve public safety.  Bringing power to this tower is also critical for Hovland Volunteer Fire Department communications and the HVFD is strongly advocating that it be done now.

Meeting of Cook County Board of Commissioners and Grand Marais City Council
The County Board and City Council met to negotiate a financial partnership for supporting the Cook County Family YMCA.  The discussion was positive and productive.  After 90 minutes of discussion, the parties came to the following agreement:

-  The City will share in any operating loss on a percentage split of 50%.  The City's participation will be capped at $100,000/year and excludes the cost of the existing community center and grounds operations.

-  An agreement similar to the existing Library agreement between the City and County will be negotiated to address future growth of the cap.

- The County will continue its committed level of support to the existing pool operating loss until the pool is closed or the community center opens.  The County pays 1/3 of the existing pool's operating loss up to $75,000/year.

- The County will pay 1/2 of the City's settlement costs with Burbach Aquatics and 1/2 of the demolition costs for the existing pool.

-  The City will pay 1/2 of the Cook County Family YMCA's personnel costs for the 6 months PRIOR to opening the facility.

-  The County and the City will each contribute $10,000/year to the facility's capital fund.

Meeting Minutes
Official meeting minutes will be made available on the Cook County website or by calling Janet Simonen at 218/387-3602.  A video of this meeting is available on Boreal.TV.

Monday, September 17, 2012

County Board Meeting for September 11, 2012

Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioners Hakes, Johnson, and Sobanja were all present for the Board Meeting.  Bruce Martinson was absent as he was participating in a State Tourism meeting.  Also present were Braidy Powers and Janet Simonen.

Public Comment
No member of the public opted to come before the Board.

Clean Water Fund
The County Board approved a request from Ilena Berg, Water Plan Coordinator, and Tim Nelson, Office of Planning and Zoning Director, to apply for a Clean Water Fund Grant to inspect lake shore property septic systems on Tom, Greenwood and McFarland Lakes.  Commissioner Hakes expressed concern about not testing septic systems on Lake Superior;  Berg and Nelson said planning for testing on Lake Superior is underway.

Firewise Proposal
The Board approved an application submitted by the Cook County Firewise Committee for USDA Forest Service Secure Rural Schools funding to improve USFS 311 for evacuation, emergency access, etc.

Highway Department
County Highway Engineer David Betts, disagrees with the recent MN DOT review that found the Gunflint Trail to be culturally significant, precluding it from being changed using Federal funds.  Betts' concern is over safety.  Betts will present his recommendation for how best to proceed.

The Highway Department presented its 2011 Annual Report to the County Board.

The Board authorized the solicitation of proposals for winter maintenance for Subordinate Government Service Districts.

The Board also approved a contract for $16,458 with Environmental Troubleshooters for assisting and cleanup of a previously-identified petroleum leak on CSAH 5.  This cost to the County will be reimbursed by the MPCA Petrofund program and Lutsen Mountain Corporation.

The Board approved the hiring of an Assistant County Engineer to begin work on October 1, 2012.

Stonegarden Grant
At the request of Sheriff Mark Falk, the Board approved the 2011 Operation Stonegarden Grant with the State of MN for $87,983.  This grant funding is used to provide funding for local counties to assist the federal government in protecting our international borders. 50% of this funding must be used for overtime; the grant also allows funding of equipment that would otherwise be cost prohibitive.

The Board authorized the purchase of a Dell Power Edge server that will provide updated server capacity for the Law Enforcement CAD system.  This $4000 expenditure will be paid through the 9-1-1 Fund.

Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department (GTVFD)
Chris Steele and Michael Valentini of the GTVFD requested a loan of $200,000 to be paid back over 20 years at 1%.  The Board formally approved this request as tentatively approved in 2011.  Funding will be used to complete the Gunflint Trail Fire Hall expansion.

Cook County Biomass District Heating System
Paul Nelson, George Wilkes and Gary Atwood presented an application form for requesting funds from 1% county sales tax for a Cook County Biomass District Heating System project.  The project is divided into two stages.  Stage 1 ($112,000) is the development of a complete business feasibility study concurrent with informed and serious marketing efforts.  Stage 2 ($243,000) would include recommendations for implementation.  The Board approved Stage 1 and put in a placeholder for Stage 2, subject to the results of Stage 1.  The Board also discussed the potential need to reduce 1% funding from other projects to support this request.

Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers 
Braidy Powers brought several issues before the Board:
a.  The Board authorized a revision to the local sales tax agreement made by the Department of Revenue.
b.  A public hearing was scheduled for 10/16 at 10:30 am for changing fees regarding E911 signs.
c.  Congress just passed the one year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act (SRSCA). The County Board passed the required resolutions for electing how to receive these payments.
d.  The Board reviewed the EDA Levy History from 1989 through 2012.
e.  The County Board passed a resolution authorizing MN Dot to administer the grant for airport improvement.  The Board also approved the Grant Agreement with the FAA for $1,799,491 in federal funds.
f.  The County Board set the Preliminary Budget and Levy at 5.76%.  The Final Levy, set in December 2012, cannot exceed this amount.  The Board will continue to work to reduce the levy further.

EDA Business Park Bond Payments
City Administrator Mike Roth and City Councilors Tim Kennedy and Bill Lenz came before the Board to say that the City of Grand Marais will be levying taxes to make the business park bond payment due and payable in 2013 for $118,287.50.  The City requested the County share in this burden 50/50.  The Board agreed, recognizing that the EDA is a joint effort between the City and the County.

Hotel/Resort Classification
On August 15th and 16th, County Assessor, Mary Black, and Larry Austin, Cook County's MN Department of Revenue Property Tax Compliance Officer reviewed lodging facilities in the county receiving (or wishing to receive) the preferred tax classification of 4(c).  The definition of 4(c) Resorts includes language that a property must offer recreational activities as listed in MN Statute 273.13 Subd. 25.M  Upon the audit and review of the properties, Mr. Austin and the Department of Revenue's recommendation is to change several properties classifications to commercial for the 2013 assessment, taxes payable 2014.

Tip of the Trail Property 
The Board authorized hiring John Vigen to do a real estate appraisal on the former Tip of the Trail property on Saganaga Lake.  As part of the appraisal, Vigen will help determine the property's highest and best use.

Public Health and Human Services
The Board accepted, with regrets, the resignations of Social Worker Kristine Swanson and Finance Worker Molly Wickwire.  The Board authorized advertising to fill these vacancies.

The County Board endorsed a letter written from the Lake County Board providing history and rationale as to why the Thye-Blatnik law found it an absolute necessity to partially compensate Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties for the permanent loss of tax base and our lost future economic viability all for the good of our entire nation.  The letter was sent to Ranking Member Raul Grijalva, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands, Committee on Natural Resources.

Meeting Minutes 
Final meeting minutes will be made available on the Cook County website or by calling Janet Simonen at 387-3602.  Video of this meeting is available on Boreal.TV.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

August 28 County Board and Budget Meeting

Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioners Sue Hakes, Jim Johnson, Bruce Martinson and Fritz Sobanja were all present for the August 28, 2012 Board Meeting.  Also present was County Auditor Braidy Powers.

Public Comment
No member of the public addressed the County Board.

County Soil and Water Conservation (SWC)
Kerrie Fabius, SWC Director for Cook County, requested approval to apply for a Clean Water Fund Grant to construct two rain gardens on County property in the City of Grand Marais.  These rain gardens would capture rainfall runoff using natural-looking landscape features and avoid direct discharge of the polluted runoff into Lake Superior.

The location of the proposed rain gardens are at the tennis court and near the new community center.  Fabius is working collaboratively with Diane Booth, Cook County Extension, ORB Management, and the new Community Center Steering Committee to coordinate this effort.  Success in obtaining this grant funding is very helpful to the new Community Center project and much appreciated.

The Board passed this motion with the understanding that the gardens would not be built until completion of the hockey rink and parking near the tennis courts.

Airport Contract for Runway Repairn
Rod Roy, Grand Marais/Cook County Airport Agent, and John Barton gave the board an update on the progress for both the runway extension and runway rehabilitation projects.

Cook County Visitor's Bureau (CCVB)
Sally Nankivell, Executive Director of the CCVB, presented a summary financial report for Fiscal Year 2011-2012 that included events income and expense details.  She also presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2012-13 events budget for the CCVB.  The County Board approved the events budget.    Commissioner Hakes provided Nankivell with feedback Hakes has received to give more advertising support to outfitting and snowmobiling. The CCVB is funded through the lodging tax and some grants.

Sale of Tax Forfeited Land
At the County Board's request, Mary Black came before the Board to discuss the potential sale of tax forfeit land, including the Tip of the Trail property on Saganaga Lake.  The Board authorized Black to solicit proposals for an appraisal of the Tip of the Trail property which is currently zoned Lake Shore Residential (LSR), but to also request an opinion on the property's highest and best use.  The county currently has this property valued at $539,000.  In addition, Black is compiling a list of other tax forfeit land that could be sold.

New Community Center Project
Wade Cole, ORB Management, requested the Board approve an additional Statement of Work for engineering work.  After the initial engineering review, it seems worthy that the School and the Cook County Family YMCA will be able share some electrical and mechanical systems at a potentially significant cost savings. The Board approved the additional work not-to-exceed $21,000.

The school boilers are relatively new and have the capacity to serve the Cook Family YMCA in addition to the school.  Usage between the two buildings can be metered.  In addition, the ability to retrofit to a Biomass Heating system is also possible.

The Board also approved the low bids in Bid Package 1 for dasher boards (Becker Arena Products)  and excavation/site demolition (Crawford Excavating).  Just one bid was received for concrete and will be rebid.

Birch Grove Community Center
Bruce Martinson reported that the grade for the hockey rink at Birch Grove was not done properly and will need to be fixed.  Otherwise, the project is going well.

100th Anniversary of the Cook County Courthouse
Carrie McHugh, Cook County Historical Society Director, shared the plans for celebrating the Cook County Courthouse's 100th year on September 21.  At McHugh's request, the Board authorized $1500 for the celebration!  Mark your calendars for this community celebration to be held at the Courthouse!

Capital Equipment Request
The Board authorized $17,688 for Danna MacKenzie, IT Director, to purchase a new network copier/printer/scanner to replace the machines at the Highway Department.  This purchase is in the 2012 budget.

Thye Blatnik Funding
Commissioner Hakes brought forward a memo she received via email from Raul Grijalva, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Public Lands, and Forests, House Comittee on Natural Resources. In the memo, Congressman Grijalva is asking for information on Thye Blatnik funds received in Cook County and how they are spent.  There is concern among the County Board this funding could be reduced.

Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties all receive critical Thye Blatnik funding; Cook County received just over $2M in 2012.  Thye Blatnik funding provides revenue to counties to compensate for lost tax base in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Receipt of this funding is critical to Cook County.  Commissioners Martinson and Sobanja will work with Braidy Powers and St. Louis and Lake County commissioners to respond to Grijalva's request and explain the fairness and critical nature of this funding. This is important action to take.

County Employee Recognition Day
County employees were recognized for their  contributions in improving life in Cook County.  To celebrate, the commissioner's bought and served ice cream to all!  It was a nice break from the  routine and a great way for the County Board to thank employees for their work.

2013 Budget
The County Board held another discussion of the 2013 budget. Ways to cut spending and fund ARMER were key components of the discussion.  Commissioner Hakes offered several ideas for consideration to cut spending and increase revenue, but no decisions were made.

Also discussed was the EDA budget request for an additional ~$50,000, most of which would go to support the Housing Program work of Community Funding Solutions (CFS) owned and operated by Nancy Grabko.  To date, the County Board has been very supportive of the Housing Program.  However, the County Board is likely not going to fund the request for the increase in levy most significantly due to the lack of any kind of management plan or direction of the EDA.  The Board also expressed concern over an additional $2000/month being paid to CFS for a loosely defined purpose.

Meeting Minutes
Final meeting minutes of all County Board meetings are available by going to the County website or  by calling Janet Simonen at 218-387-3602.  You may also see the complete video of this meeting on Boreal.TV.