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.