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.