Thursday, May 30, 2013

Public Land Sale

Cook County is holding a Public Land Sale on Monday, June 24, 2013 starting at 10:00 am at the Courthouse located at 411-W. Second Street, Grand Marais, MN. The property being sold is the Tip of the Trail Property on Saganaga Lake, Cook County.

For more information go to the Cook County Website or call the Cook County Auditor-Treasurer's Office at 218/387-3640.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

County Board Meeting for May 28: Sentence to Serve, County Administrator Job Description, SSTS Ordinance Discussion

Board Chair Jan Hall, along with Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Sue Hakes and Bruce Martinson were all present for today's County Board Meeting. Also in attendance was Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen.

Public Comment
No member of the Public opted to come before the County Board at today's meeting.

Courthouse Remodeling Project
Maintenance Director, Brian Silence, came before the Board with (3) quotes for various Courthouse Remodeling projects.  There was a wide discrepency between the bids coming in at $29,029 (S&C), $14,895 (M-Con Construction), and $7,325 (Bryan Carpenter).  There was concern that the lowest bid didn't include all materials and labor because it was so low.  Of the two remaining bids, the County Board made the award to M-Con Construction as the lowest qualified bidder.

The Board also discussed State bidding laws and how they apply to Cook County bidding procedures.  Braidy Powers, Brian Silence, Tim Scannell, Commissioners Doo-Kirk and Gamble will explore this issue and draft a Cook County policy. Commissioner Hakes suggested the policy mirror State bidding laws and not add layers of unnecessary and costly administration to the process.

Colvill Town Hall 
Brian Silence presented (2) bids for the removal and replacement of the concrete stairs installed by Hall Masonry at the Colvill Town Hall:  $6,170 (Concrete Design and Landscaping) and $1,980 (S&C Masonry).  The Board authorized hiring S&C as the low bidder.  Hall Masonry is no longer in business and therefore unable to do this remedial work.

Sentence to Serve Program (STS)
Victor Moen, Grand Rapids District STS Supervisor, and Gary Jorgenson, Cook County STS Supervisor came before the County Board to review the 2013 State of Minnesota Income Contract and answer questions about the STS Program.  Moen and Jorgenson talked about the benefits of the STS partnership between Cook County and the State Department of Corrections.

Overall, the STS program saves the County money by avoiding costs for out of county incarceration for sentences over 72 hours.  In addition, the program provides an opportunity for rehabilitation, building self-worth, training and mentorship.  Lastly, the STS program focuses on getting work done that would not otherwise get done.

Moen and Jorgenson also explained the steps taken to ensure that the work performed by offenders in the STS Program does not result in the displacement of current employees or seasonal workers.

The County Board authorized the 2013 Sentence to Serve Contract with the State Department of Corrections.

Claims for payment were approved as presented by Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers.

The Board authorized by resolution a request submitted by the Gunflint Lake Property Owners Association for a raffle at their annual festivities at Gunflint Lodge on July 17, 2013.

Powers reminded the Board that on December 18, 2012, the County Board approved the County levy and the EDA levy, ultimately funding the EDA's total request of $209,144 by setting the levy at $150,000 and using fund balance to supply the additional $59,144 to the City of Grand Marais for Cedar Grove Business Development Park bond payments.  The December 2012 minutes reflect an EDA levy of $209,144.  Based on Powers' recommendation, the Board took the following corrective action:

1.  December 18, 2012 motion was rescinded.
2.  A Resolution for the County Budget and Levy was approved showing the correction and,
3.  EDA Levy was approved at $150,000 and payment of $59,144 was approved to come from the County Fund Balance toward the payment of the City's Cedar Grove Business Development Park bond payment.  This approval was made contingent upon getting written agreement with the City of Grand Marais regarding current and future bond payments and income from lot sales and wetland credits.

The Board authorized Commissioners Martinson and Hakes, along with Braidy Powers, to negotiate this agreement with the City of Grand Marais.

Cook County Community YMCA project
Commissioner Hakes reported that the suggestion for ISD166 to pay for the Locker Room/Security Door renovation in exchange for the One Percent project paying for additional bleachers was not going to move forward.  In a conversation with Superintendent Beth Schwarz, Hakes learned that there was no plan for ISD166 to purchase bleachers.

Hakes also reported that the exterior walls of the Cook County Community YMCA were going up.  Some members of the Board expressed concern about the difference in color for the exterior panels; Hakes said she had already asked Wade Cole to look into the difference in color and report back.

County Administrator Hiring Process
The Board was presented with a proposed County Administrator Job Description as prepared by Commissioners Bruce Martinson and Garry Gamble.  Following a discussion of this job description, the Board moved to solicit input on the job description from Personnel Director Janet Simonen, County Attorney Tim Scannell, and Department Heads.  The Board also moved  (4-1 with Gamble opposed) to negotiate a contract with Springsted to assist and consult the County in the hiring of a County Administrator.  Braidy Powers and Janet Simonen, along with Commissioners Gamble and Martinson, will contact Springsted to outline a possible statement of work and schedule a meeting with the County Board.

Pharmaceutical Drop Off Boxes
The Board authorized Tim Nelson to purchase (2) pharmaceutical drop off boxes to be installed at the Cook County Law Enforcement Center and in Grand Portage.  For some general information on medicinal disposal, go to the WLSSD web page.

Cook County Septic Ordinance Discussion Number 58
Office of Planning & Zoning Director, Tim Nelson, along with Environmental Health & Septic Officer, Mitch Everson, led the County Board through the 2nd half of the most recent draft of the Cook County Septic Ordinance Number 58 discussion.  Also present were licensed installers Dean Berneking and Dave Tuttle.  Nelson advised that the next steps in this process would be to incorporate suggested changes and re-route for review.  After that review, a public hearing will be set, most likely for August 2013.  There were issues identified in today's discussion that the Board is eager to hear from the public on.

(Board Chair Jan Hall was absent from the  afternoon session discussing Pharmaceutical Drop Off Boxes and Septic Ordinance Draft.)

Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes will be made available on the County Website or by calling Janet Simonen at 218-387-3602.  A video of this meeting in its entirety is available by going to Boreal.TV.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cook County Human Service and County Board Meetings for May 21, 2013: Staffing, Conditional Use Permits, Septic Ordinance Workshop

Cook County Human Services Board
Human Services Board Chair Sue Hakes, along with Board Members Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Jan Hall, Carla LaPointe, Jerry Lilja, and Bruce Martinson were all present for today's Human Services Board Meeting.  Also present were Sue Futterer, Jan Parish, Grace Buchard, and Alison McIntyre.

Committee Reports
Committee Reports were given for Arrowhead Regional Corrections (Jan Hall, Garry Gamble), Community Health Board (Jan Hall), Public Health & Human Services Advisory Committee (Jerry Lilja and Carla LaPointe), North Shore Collaborative (Sue Futterer).  For more information on any of these meetings, please feel free to contact Sue Hakes or the reporting Board Member.

Director's Report - Sue Futterer
Most of today's meeting was spent understanding the workload and responsibility changes coming in the PHHS Department as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010.  Enrollment for the ACA begins this Fall; MN applicants will use MNSure, the State's new online health insurance marketplace to determine eligibility.

All of this means increased caseloads for the County and a request from Futterer to add (1) financial worker to the PHHS staff.   Fortunately, the Federal Government has enhanced its federal match from 50% to 75% for County financial eligibility workers.  The County is also eligible for reimbursement based on the number of clients enrolled in MN Health Care programs.  It is anticipated that these matching and reimbursement funds will offset the projected ~$51,644 annual cost of the added financial worker.  

The Board approved the addition of (1) full-time financial worker for two years.  It is anticipated that management of the Affordable Care Act will be challenging at the upstart, but will create more efficiencies in the long run. 

The goal of the Affordable Care Act is to expand access to quality health care to lower-income Americans with the hope that greater access to health care will create healthier communities. 

The Board also approved Futterer's request to add 2 hours to a Social Services Case Aid position and 2 hours to a Social Worker position at a total estimated cost of ~$5,000/year.

2012 Year End Financial & Client Report - Jan Parish, Income Maintenance & Fiscal Supervisor
Due to a lack of time, the Board moved Jan Parish's presentation of the 2012 Year End Financial & Client Report to next month's Human Services Meeting.

Cook County Board Meeting
Board Chair Janice Hall, along with Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Sue Hakes and Bruce Martinson were all present for today's meeting.  Also present was Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen.

Public Comment
Two members of the Public came before the County Board to respectfully state their concerns about the establishment of a portable hot mix asphalt plant and a mobile aggregate wash plant at a gravel pit adjacent to the Meridian Road north of County Road 6.  

Russ Viton is concerned about the health risks from breathing asphalt fumes.  He requested that if the County approves the plant, that hours of operation be spread differently and that the County find a way to monitor and mitigate the dust created and speed of hauling trucks.

Carolyn Sevareid submitted her concerns in writing, but also spoke to the County Board.  She also expressed health concerns from emissions and dust stating she will have to move from her home on the days the asphalt plant operates.

Clearwater and Leo Lake Landing Maintenance
The Board approved a contract with Gloria Johnson for cleaning and maintenance services at Clearwater and Leo Lake landings.

Special Events Permits
The Board authorized Special Event Permits for the Tofte Fourth of July Parade & Fireworks and the Grand Marais Arts Festival.

Conditional Use Permits
The County Board approved a Conditional Use Permit for James Elverhoy--as recommended by the Planning Commission--to establish a home business in the Single Family Residential (R-1) zone district in Tofte, MN.  Elverhoy intends to produce vegetables, as well as produce rock and stone products.

The County Board approved a Conditional Use Permit--as recommended by the Planning Commission--for Stan Bautch to allow the establishment of a portable hot mix asphalt plant and a mobile aggregate wash plant at a gravel pit adjacent to the Meridian Road.  The Planning Commission had several conditions including no more than 12 days of hot-mix asphalt production and limiting hours of operation to 7:00 am 7:00 pm Monday through Saturday.  The County Board added an additional condition that the contractors contact the concerned neighbors 1-3 days prior to hot mix asphalt plant operations.  Highway Engineer David Betts agreed to talk with the contractors about holding their speed on the gravel roads. (See Public Comment above.)

Miscellaneous - Braidy Powers
The Board approved claims for payment.

Powers clarified that on March 19th, the Board approved paying $6000 for a security door to allow for access to a second locker room near the Elementary School gymnasium.  That vote was four ayes and one nay (Gamble).  Because the Board did not make a motion to rescind the March 19th vote, the decision stands as approved on March 19.

The Board asked Commissioner Hakes to talk with Beth Schwarz and Jeanne Anderson regarding the possibility of funding the locker room and security door with school funds, in exchange for the County funding bleachers the school is considering buying.  Hakes will contact Schwarz and Anderson to discuss this idea and find a fair and equitable arrangement.

Powers presented the renewal contract for the Sentence to Serve program for July 2013 through June 2015.  The Board asked Powers to invite Dan Traun from the State of MN to a future board meeting to discuss this program and answer questions prior to approving the contract.

Policy Review regarding Same-Sex Marriage Legislation
Commissioner Hakes requested all Department Heads review their internal policies and update where necessary to reflect the recently passed MN State Legislation passing same-sex marriage.  Personnel Director Janet Simonen reported that she has already proactively contacted Blue Cross Blue Shield and is working on any necessary document changes.  Powers reported that all Department Heads will be making changes where necessary.

Public Comment at County Board Meetings
Commissioner Gamble proposed several new guidelines to the Public Comment period at the beginning of County Board Meetings.  The Commissioners discussed Gamble's proposal, but no motion was made to modify the existing guidelines.

County Administrator Hiring Process
Commissioners Doo-Kirk and Hakes expressed concern over the length of time it is taking to hire a County Administrator with Doo-Kirk asking if the Board would be ready to move forward next Tuesday.  Hakes reiterated concerns she expressed last week over the lengthy and cumbersome process and said it is time for action. The Board will discuss this again next Tuesday.  Reminder:  There is a public meeting Wednesday May 22 at 7:00 pm in the Community Center to solicit public input.

Affordable Housing
The EDA authorized the AEOA to move forward in exploring the feasibility of a 16-24 Unit Affordable Housing project.

Veteran's Services Officer
Janet Simonen reported that several applications were received for the open County Veteran's Services Officer position and asked for (2) commissioners to be on the interview team.  Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioner Sue Hakes both volunteered.

Cook County Septic Ordinance Work Session
Office of Planning and Zoning Director, Tim Nelson, and Environmental Health and Septic Officer, Mitch Everson, led the County Board through a review of the current draft of the Cook County Septic Ordinance Number 58.  Also in attendance at this meeting were private SSTS contractors Dean Berneking, Dave Tuttle, and Doug Finn.  After 2.5 hours, the group had only covered about 1/2 of the draft ordinance.  A plan was made to complete the review next Tuesday at 1:00.

Meeting Minutes
A copy of the official meeting minutes will be posted on the Cook County website.  You may also request a copy from Board Secretary Janet Simonen by calling 218/387-3602.  A video of this meeting in its entirety may be viewed at Boreal.TV.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 14 County Board Meeting: School Trust Land, Highway Department Facility, Gunflint Trail signs, Cook County Community YMCA

Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Sue Hakes and Bruce Martinson were all present for today's County Board Meeting.  Also present were Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Personnel Secretary/Board Secretary Janet Simonen.

Public Comment
No member of the Public came before the County Board.

Highway Department, David Betts, Russell Klegstad, Sam Muntean
The Board authorized the Highway Department to advertise for bids for Calcium Chloride, Winter Sand, and SGSD Summer Maintenance.

The County Board authorized the Highway Department to submit a request for Federal Surplus Equipment that is available for an administrative fee between 5 and 10 percent of the original purchase price.  Cook County will be requesting a roller compactor, 2004 Polaris Ranger UTV, 2004 Kuboto RTV 900 UTV, 2008 Kawasaki Prairie 360 ATV, Terex RL-4000 Generator Light Sets for a total cost of $9425 plus shipping.  This equipment will eliminate the need to rent this equipment.  There is no guarantee that Cook County will be selected to purchase this equipment.

County Engineer, David Betts, walked the County Board through the Highway Department's 2013-2017 Transportation Improvement Plan.  The 2013-2017 Plan consists of (8) projects for a total estimated constuction cost of $11,261,000.  District 3 Projects include:

1) Bituminous replacement on 5.9 miles of CSAH 7 between Highway 61 and CSAH 6, as well as replacement of several culverts.  The project cost is estimated at $2,800,000 plus engineering costs and will be paid for with CSAH funds.  Completion is expected in August 2013.

2)  Bituminous replacement on 2.5 miles of CSAH 7 from CSAH 6 to CSAH 15. Culverts need repair, drainage improvements are necessary.  Additionally, 0.6 miles of this roadway is in an urban section where catch basins need to be repaired, and damaged curb and gutter sections need to be replaced.  This work is planned for 2017.

3)  Chevron Signs at Curves and Intersection Lighting is planned for 2015 on CSAH 7 for 2015.  Informational meetings seeking public input on lighting will be planned with serious weight given to public opinion on the lighting.

A copy of the Transportation Improvement Plan is available from the Highway Department or by contacting Sue Hakes directly.

Jeff Oertel of Oertel Architects, Ltd, presented their "Cook County Highway Department: Condition Assessment and Needs Report" resulting from 18 months of assessment and study.  Oertel identified some significant problems in the existing facility including exhaust in work areas and storage.  The Report provided (4) Options ranging from ~$5M to $7,653,500.  Also in need of replacement and upgrading are the Hovland and Tofte Satellite Shops with estimated replacement costs of $569,200 and $544,200 respectively.  Commissioner Hakes asked about working with the City of Grand Marais on a joint facility to reduce expenses to both County and City taxpayers.  The Board agreed to discuss this further at the next Quarterly Highway Department meeting.

Exchange/Purchase of School Trust Fund Land in the BWCAW
Elizabeth Schleif, US Forest Service Realty Specialist, and Aaron VandeLinde, MN DNR School Trust Land Administrator, came before the County Board to give an update on the Exchange/Purchase of School Trust Lands in the BWCAW in Cook, Lake and St. Louis Counties.  Schlief and VandeLinde informed the Board that the Forest Service and the State of MN are working collaboratively to prepare a feasibility analysis of a formal proposal for an exchange of approximately 30,000 acres based on the recommendation of a working group established by the State Legislature.  This group was comprised of representatives from the US Forest Service, the State of MN, and interested stakeholders from environmental groups, timber industry, mining interest and local government units.  In addition, the Forest Service is actively seeking funds and opportunities to partner on the purchase of the portion of School Trust Lands that are not part of the State Land Exchange proposal.  State Legislation passed in 2012 authorizes the transfer of School Trust Lands in the BWCAW to the Federal Government for national forest system lands outside of the Wilderness through both purchase and exchange.

Commissioners Martinson and Hakes expressed frustration at not always being included in the NE MN Meetings with USFS, MN DNR, and other local government officials on this matter. The role of Cook County may be small, but it is important to Cook County and we are a stakeholder.  Both Schlief and VandeLinde agreed to include Cook County in future meetings.

Assessor/Land Commissioner
The Board approved an abatement application from Great River Energy as recommended by Assessor/Land Commissioner Betty Schultz.

Office of Planning and Zoning (OPZ)
OPZ Director Tim Nelson presented the two bids received for performing septic inspections on McFarland, Greenwood and Tom Lakes.  Both bidders are qualified. The Board approved a motion to accept the low bid from Jeff Crosby and Tom Rouinsky of Lakehead Trucking in Duluth.  Crosby has worked for Cook County in this capacity in the past.  The work will be done this summer.

Cook County Community YMCA
Wade Cole of ORB Management, came before the County Board for to get formal approval for (3) project change orders:  lift, miscellaneous metals package, gyp board for the roof system.  The Board approved all (3) change orders.  The Board also approved the award for the low painting bid to Northern Paint & Drywall and $67,763 for the State Building Permit and Plan Review.

Shannon's, Inc., of Hibbing, is the HVAC Contractor; Shannon's proposed engineering changes were reviewed and approved by the Design Group, Inc., also of Hibbing.  As a redsult, The Design Group, Inc. will be the HVAC engineer of record instead of Dunham. The Board approved this change based on the recommendation by ORB Management, JLG Architects and Shannon's Inc.

The floor plan that was agreed to by ISD166 for the new Community Center included (2) renovated locker rooms in the new facility.  When the floor plan changed to reduce costs, the plan was changed to repaint and refurbish the old Girl's Locker Room and NOT divide it into two separate locker rooms.  The 2nd Locker Room will be adjacent to the Elementary Gym.  The School Board passed a motion agreeing to this, but included the installation of a $6000 security door to be paid for by the County in the motion.

The renovation of the Elementary Gym locker room and the Security Door may not be paid for with 1% sales tax funds because they are not a part of the new facility and will be paid from the Building Fund. The County Board previously approved paying for the locker room (~$10K) but today voted 4-1 against paying for the Security Door. Commissioner Hakes was the sole vote in support.  Hakes explained that she supported financing the door as part of the redesign of the floor plan resulting in a savings of ~$80K and to maintain a positive working relationship with the School Board.  (UPDATE:  Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers called Commissioner Hakes after the meeting to inform her that upon investigation it was confirmed that the County Board had already passed a motion to pay for the Security Door from the Building Fund on March 19 and that the March 19 motion still stands.)

Commissioner Hakes reported that the Community Center Steering Committee recommended a name change from Cook County Family YMCA to Cook County Community YMCA. The Steering Committee recommended this change to reflect the entire Cook County Community.  The Board approved this change.  Hakes also reported that a Facebook Page for the Cook County Community YMCA will be  "owned" by the YMCA and managed by Emily Marshall, Branch Executive Director.  And, the County Board approved Commissioner Hakes to be the the County's representative on the Local Board for the Cook County Community YMCA.  Hakes said she was happy to fill this role, or step aside if another Board member wanted the position. The local Y Board will have a representative from the County, City and ISD166, as well as members of the Public.  Marshall is working on a Board Development Plan now.

Electric Easement and Power Relocation
Mike Roth, Grand Marais City Administrator, came before the Board to request an easement for relocating and going underground with the electrical service near the existing Community Center and tennis courts.  The current above ground lines are difficult to access.  The City, County, and Arrowhead Electric will share the cost with the County's portion being $2425.

Jim Wiinanen, Emergency Management Director 
The Board approved Jim Wiinanen's request to apply for a Hazard Mitigation Assistance Planning Grant.

Miscellaneous, Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers
-  The Board approved the Letter from the Office of the State Auditor outlining the procedures, scope, objectives and management responsibilities for the 2012 audit to be performed by the State.

-  The Board approved (2) resolutions for Snowmobile Trails Assistance and Ski Trails Assistance in which the County agrees to act at the legal sponsor and fiscal agent.

-  The Board approved a contract with Voyageur Canoe Outfitters to provide maintenance, monitoring and permitting services at Sag Lake Parking Lots for the 2013 season.  The contract includes an increase in cost from $230/week to $250/week.

-  The Board approved a Revolving Loan Fund in the amount of $75,000 for Todd Miller for an addition to his rental property on 4th Avenue West in Grand Marais.

-  Cook County has agreed to share in the cost for critically needed capital improvements at the Northeast Regional Corrections Center (NERCC).  Financial responsibility is prorated between Carlton, Cook, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis Counties.  Cook County's usage of NERCC represents 1.36%.

Cook County Administrator Hiring Process
Commissioners Garry Gamble and Bruce Martinson have taken the lead on the process to hire a County Administrator by gathering input from County Department Heads.  They have also scheduled a Public Information/Public Input meeting on May 22 at 7:00 pm at the Community Center.  Mark your calenders!

Historical Gunflint Trail Signage 
The Gunflint Historical Society, lead by John Schloot, has been working to restore the historical Gunflint Trail Signage located at the original entrance to the Trail. Cost to paint and repair the signs and concrete is estimated at $7500.  The Gunflint Historical Society has pledged $3500 while the Cook County Historical Society, City of Grand Marais and Cook County have all pledged $1500 for a total of $8000.  The work will be done this summer.

Cook County Board of Commissioner's Public Comment Period Review
Commissioner Gamble asked the Board to review the Pubic Comment Period Guidelines.  This issue will be added to the 5/21/2013 Board Meeting agenda for discussion.

Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes may be obtained by calling Janet Simonen at 218/387-3602 or by going to the Cook County website.  A video of this meeting in its entirety may be viewed by going to Boreal.TV.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Welcome Emily Marshall!

As reported in the April 20 Edition of the Cook County News Herald, Emily Marshall has been named Branch Executive Director for the new Cook County Family YMCA.  Emily brings a wealth of experience to her new position.  More importantly, she brings enthusiasm and passion to the job she will officially begin on May 13.

Emily is eager to meet Cook County residents! For starters, she will be organizing several tours of the new facility for the public.  Please join the Boards and Staff of Cook County, the City of Grand Marais and ISD166 for the first of these tours on Friday, May 10, at 8:30 AM.  Meet at the Eagle Doors of ISD166.  If you can't make it this week, no worries, there will be more tours as the project evolves!

Please join me in welcoming Emily Marshall to Cook County.  Please join me in wishing her every success in her new position!  I know she's going to do a great job!