Thursday, March 14, 2013

March 12 County Board Meeting: Blacksmith Shop, Courthouse Security, Staffing

Board Chair Jan Hall was absent due to illness so Vice-Chair Bruce Martinson called the meeting to order.  Also present were Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble and Sue Hakes, Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, Personnel Director Janet Simonen and Assistant County Attorney Molly Hicken.

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

Cook County Historical Society
The County Board voted 4-0 to work with the Cook County Historical Society  to purchase Bill Bally's Blacksmith Shop, an historical landmark in Grand Marais.  The Board approved a purchase agreement offer for $130,000 hopefully to be paid with grant funds from the MN Historical Society.  In an effort to minimize any liability from environmental contamination on this site, the County had a Phase I  Environmental Site Assessment done per MPCA protocol.  As a result of this test, the Seller has agreed to remove all known outside tanks on the property and seal & cap the existing well.  Both Tim Nelson, Director of the Office of Planning and Zoning, and Tim Scannell, County Attorney, provided a written summary for the County Board in which they stated that they "remain confident that the County would be adequately protected in the future should we determine to accept the Phase I report and continue with the property acquisition in partnership with the Historical Society without requiring a Phase II assessment".  It is the County's intention to transfer ownership of this property to the Historical Society in 5 years.

Law Enforcement, Sheriff Mark Falk
The Board voted to accept the 2013 State of MN Annual County Boat and Water Safety Grant Agreement in the amount of $12,944.  These funds will be used for personnel costs, supplies and equipment related to boat and water safety and patrol.

The Board approved the purchase of (5) squad cars at a cost of $154,539 plus ~$10-15,000 per squad for equipment and upfit.  This purchase is consistent with the Law Enforcement policy to trade cars with over 85,000 miles and will be paid for from the Sheriff's car reserve fund.  This purchasing policy has been in place for several years, allowing for consistent budgeting and ensuring that equipment meets necessary performance standards for Law Enforcement.

The Board approved the purchase of 12 Tactical Shields to enhance officer safety in tactical responses including situations with active shooters, barricaded suspects and high risk entry.  The cost for the shields is $34,200 and is in the 2013 budget.

The Board authorized Law Enforcement to use the Cook County Courthouse April 5-7 (after regular work hours) for active shooter training with the US Border Patrol.  Friday evening would include classroom instruction and April 6-7 would be hands on training with simunitions.  Special notice will be given to all employees of this event, the building will be locked and notices will be posted on entrance doors.

Sheriff Falk and IT Director Danna MacKenzie gave the Board an update on the progress of implementing ARMER in Cook County.

Cook County Courthouse Security
A Courthouse Security Committee was formed after the December 2011 shooting in the County Attorney's office.  Many recommendations from the Courthouse Security Committee were implemented in 2012 including:  enhanced security in the County Attorney office, enhanced security in the Courtroom and access hallways and conference rooms, limiting entrance to the Courthouse to one door, signage disallowing weapons, employee safety training and drills, adjustments to the floorplan, lockers in Probation, etc.

In addition, Steve Swenson of the Center for Executive Judicial Security (CJES), was contracted to do a Safety Assessment for the Cook County Courthouse.  Based on many hours of discussion and deliberation on the CJES recomendations, the Security Committee recommended again on 3/12 the following security enhancements for the Courthouse:  X-ray Metal Detector at the Courthouse entrance, duress buttons and security cameras, county-wide paging system, keycard access control system.  In addition the Committee recommended duress buttons and security cameras at the Community Center and the Highway Department.

The County Board discussed these recommendations and authorized Brian Silence to proceed on all recommendations with the exception of the X-ray Metal Detector at the Courthouse entrance.  Installation of an X-ray Metal Detector will be discussed at an April 9 Work Session of the County Board.  Installation of an X-ray Metal Detector was the #1 recommendation from Steve Swenson of CJES, but it is also the most expensive because it requires the attendance of additional law enforcement personnel.  However, it was also noted that the December 2011 shooting incident was very costly to the County in a multitude of ways; any future incidents would be very expensive as well.

PUBLIC HEARING:  Schroeder Property Survey
A public hearing was held for all interested parties to appear and be heard regarding the assessment of resurvey costs in Sections 7, 8, 9 17 and 18 all in Township 58 North, Range 5 West.  After the hearing, the Board moved to establish the costs at $600 for 10-20-30 acre lots and $17.6556/acre for landowners with 40 combined acres of more.

Firewise Committee
Based on the recommendation of the Firewise Committee, the Board approved George Carlson as a vendor to install water-front and non-water front sprinkler systems under the FEMA grant for this work.

Irish Creek Winter Maintenance Subordinate Service District
The Cook County Board of Commissioners will hold a Public Hearing to consider a resolution to withdraw the Irish Creek Winter Maintenance Subordinate Service District and to discontinue the snowplowing service provided within the service district.  The Public Hearing will be held on June 25, 2013 at 10:30 am in the County Commissioner's Room at the Courthouse.  Notice of this Hearing has been published and sent to each property owner paying a share of the costs.

Cook County Local Energy (CCLEP) Project
George Wilkes and Paul Nelson of CCLEP, along with Mark Spurr of FVB Energy came before the Board to ask the County Board to do two things:  1) release funding for the Step 2 Study for Biomass District Heating in Grand Marais, and 2) provide a letter of intent that expresses the County Board's non-binding interest in becoming an Initial Customer of the prospective district heating system for the following County buildings:  Courthouse, existing Community Center, new YMCA facility, County Garages 1 & 2, and the Law Enforcement Center.  After an overview and discussion of the Step 1 Study results, the Board approved 3-1 (Gamble opposed) the release of $243,000 of One Percent Sales Tax Funds that had been reserved for the Step 2 Study.  It should be noted that this decision was NOT to approve or disapprove of a Biomass District Heat Plant in Grand Marais. That decision will ultimately be made by the City of Grand Marais PUC as they are currently slated to build and manage the facility should it prove viable.

Maple Hill Gravel Pit Operations
Highway Engineer David Betts and Maintenance Supervisor Russell Klegstad presented their report regarding the operations and environmental impacts of the Maple Hill Gravel Pit.  This pit consists of upper and lower pits that are joined by a steep and dangerous roadway.  Current access to both pits is from the north on CR54, just past the Maple Hill Church. The Maple Hill Pit is an important clay mining operation for Cook County and has been in operation since circa 1980. Betts and Klegstad are recommending the County purchase a ~10 acre parcel of land to build a road that will provide safer and shorter access to the lower Maple Hill Pit.  The current plan has been presented to the MPCA and verbal go-ahead given.

Vice-Chair Bruce Martinson opened the discussion up to several members of the Public for comment:  William Kloster, Rob Nelson, Mike Gilquist, George Humphrey and Steve Benson. Most of the public comment expressed was concern about erosion, potential contamination of the water table, runoff into the feeder creeks for the Little Devil Track River, and costs.

CLOSED SESSION:  Land Purchase Agreement
The County Board held a closed session to discuss the potential purchase of ~10 acre parcel from Hedstrom Lumber Company for building a new access road to the Maple Hill Pit.

After the closed session a motion was moved forward by a 3-1 vote (Doo-Kirk opposed) to approve a purchase agreement for the purchase of ~10 acres from Hedstrom Lumber Company for $45,000 subject to the Seller providing a survey at the Seller's cost, an acceptable appraisal, marketable title, and review by the County Attorney.  A second motion was passed 4-0 to hire Forsythe Appraisals to do the appraisal of this property.

Rocksteady Running Fall and Spring Trail Races
The County Board approved special event permits for both the Spring and Fall Rocksteady Running Trail Races.  These events will be held May 18-19 and September 6-7, all in 2013.

Cook County Water Plan Advisory Committee
The Board approved the citizen appointment of Chuck Futterer to the Water Plan Advisory Committee as recommended by the Committee.

County Assessor's Staffing
The County Board authorized a new 35-hour week Assessor's Technical Clerk position subject to a job description review.  The vote passed 3-1 (Doo-Kirk opposed).  The MN Department of Revenue has requested a 5-year plan that demonstrates how Cook County will come into compliance with the assessing requirements of the Department of Revenue.  The mandate for doing an on-site review of each property every 5 years is not being met in Cook County, a situation that needs to be corrected to ensure fair and equitable assessments of private property and avoid possible intervention by the Department of Revenue. This new position was approved for 5-years with the potential to add a 6th year based on a 5-year review.

The Board also passed a motion to assess the overall staffing of the County and will use counties with similar demographics as one comparison tool in this assessment.

Courthouse Office Space
The County Board created a Space Subcommittee several months ago to recommend a Courthouse Floorplan that would accomodate two major goals:  1) Safety enhancements, and 2) Creating a space for the IT Department.  The County Board approved the Space Committee's recommended Courthouse Floorplan and authorized Maintenance Director Brian Silence to get quotes and begin the work.  In an effort to minimize the disruption to the business of the County, these changes may take several months to complete.

Cook County Family YMCA Project
The Board voted to accept ORB's recommendation to engage in a contract with Fabcon Precast.  Fabcon Precast was the only company to submit a proposal for the Precast rebid.  This contract will be reviewed by the County Attorney.

Meeting Minutes
A complete copy of the official meeting minutes is available on the Cook County website or by calling Janet Simonen at 218/387-3602.  A video of this entire meeting may be viewed by going to Boreal.TV.