Tuesday, June 25, 2013

July 25, 2013 Board Meeting: CUPs, ARMER, Public Hearing for Irish Creek SSD

Board Chair Jan Hall resumed the 2013 Cook County Board of Appeal and Equalization Meeting from last week.  Assessor Betty Schultz was present, she updated the Board about one property and the County Board passed a resolution to accept the changes in the slate of properties as recommended by Schultz.  The meeting was then closed.

County Board Meeting
Board Chair Jan Hall called the meeting to order; in attendance were Commissioners Doo-Kirk, Gamble, Martinson and Hakes.  Also present were County Attorney Tim Scannell, Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, Bev Wolke, and Board Secretary/Personnel Director Janet Simonen.

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

Land Lease for NE Services Cooperative (NESC)
Assessor/Land Commissioner Betty Schultz came before the County Board to consider the sale of a portion of the Recyclig Center property for the NESC equipment building (necessary for Broadband).  The Board agreed to support its September 18, 2012 resolution to lease this land and authorized a subcommittee of Braidy Powers, Bruce Martinson, and Betty Schultz to move forward in lease negotiation.  Input will also be solicited from IS Director Danna MacKenzie and Tim Scannell.

Information Systems, Director Danna MacKenzie
The Board authorized a significant purchase for 267 Motorola XTS2500 800MHz (ARMER) radios and (5) 6-unit rapid chargers.  This purchase is a continuation of the County's 2010 decision to covert to the state-wide 800MHz ARMER radio system.  This cost of this portion of the conversion is $642,559.  $391,200 will be paid from the FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and $251,359 will come from the 2012 Capital Equipment Note Fund as determined by the County Board on November 27, 2012.

The Board authorized purchasing a Dell Equalogic Network Storage System - PS4100E as recommended and requested by MacKenzie.  Cook County is reaching capacity for existing storage on its network.  The replacement of the existing network storage is part of a long-term management plan to ensure the stability of county data systems.

Office of Planning and Zoning  (OPZ) Requests and Temporary Worker
OPZ Director Tim Nelson and Bill Lane, Planning and Zoning Administrator came before the County Board to present (3) requests that had already been supported and recommended from the Planning Commission.  The County Board authorized all (3) requests.

1.  CUP from Randy Sjogren to expand an existing recreational business in the General Commercial zone district to include domestic animals for viewing.  The Board approved the request limiting the number of animals to up to 5 goats, 20 small birds and 7 large birds.  The animals will be cared for at another property during the winter months.

2.  The Board authorized a Conditional Use Permit for Wintertee, Inc. allowing for a 22 Unit Commercial PUD (existing), plus 3 single family residential/commercial units.

3.  The Board authorized an Interim Use Permit for Christopher Beaudoin to allow use of a recreational vehicle for habitation in the FAR-3 zone district.  This permit shall expire in 2 years.

The Board gave Tim Nelson authorization to hire a temporary worker for the Recycling Center to support the summer workload.

A Public Hearing was held to consider whether to pass a resolution to withdraw the Irish Creek Winter Maintenance Subordinate Service District (SSD) created on November 13, 2012.  Over a dozen citizens spoke at the hearing, nearly all in favor of the Irish Creek SSD.  There were also several letters received by the County Board in support.  A motion to DENY the request to withdraw the Irish Creek Winter Maintenance Subordinate Service District (SSD) was made and passed 3-2 (Gamble and Hall opposed), so the SSD will remain in place.  A second motion passed unanimously to explore the possibility of expanding the SSD.

Highway Department, County Engineer David Betts and Maintenance Supervisor Russell Klegstad
The County Board approved the proposal for wetland delineation services at Maple Hill Pit from MSA Professional Services of Duluth, MN for up to $2800. Commissioner Hakes asked why a local Wetland Delineation Company wasn't hired for this work.  It was explained that the local providers of this service are unable to provide regulatory assistance (permits) as required by the Highway Department.

The County Board approved the hiring of Nanette Arands as Account Clerk effective July 15.  Nanette will be transferring from her position as dispatcher for the Law Enforcement Center.

The Board approved a special permit for the Greater Grand Marais Chamber of Commerce sponsored Fourth of July Parade in Grand Marais.  Parade time is 8:00 to 8:20 pm.

Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority
EDA Treasurer Scott Harrison came before the Board with a proposed final Grant Agreement between Cook County/Grand Marais Joint Economic Development Authority and Cook County, MN.  This agreement lays out the terms of the $3.1M previously approved by the County Board for the upgrade to Superior National Golf Course.  The agreement was approved unanimously.

Project Funding
$3.1 million County's Local Option 1% Sales Tax**
$1.1 million new revenue bond
$4.8 million total project cost

(**Commissioner Hakes did not support Superior National Golf Course for the amount of $3.1 million of 1% Local Option Sales Tax funds; instead she supported the project in the amount of $1.1 million.  However, Hakes respects the decision of the County Board in 2012 to move forward at the $3.1 million and will now do her best to ensure success of this project.)

The Board also authorized a 60-day bridge loan in the amount of $300,000 to the EDA until $300,000 of IRRRB grant funds are received.

2014 Budget Cycle
The Board approved the 2014 Cook County Budget Calendar and 2014 Cook County Budget Guidelines as recommended by Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers.
Cook County Community YMCA
Hakes reported that construction on the Cook County Community YMCA continues to move forward; completion is still anticipated for December 2013.  Resolution for the previously existing drain tile problem under the tennis courts is still being worked.

Veteran's Transit Meeting
Commissioner Hakes reported on the Veteran's Transit Meeting she attended last week in Carlton County.  This meeting was facilitated by the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission and attended by several area County Commissioners and Staff , County Veteran Service Officers, MN Dot, MACV.  Special Attendees included:  Michael Rosecrans, VA Patient Advocate and Congressional liaison for VA Hospital, and Reggie Worlds, Deputy Commissioner for MN State Department of Veteran Affairs.  Also present were Tom Albright of Senator Franken's Office and Mark Privatsky of Representative Nolan's Office.

Both Rosecrans and Worlds agreed to be a voice for this group and to advocate for the needs of Veterans in rural areas.  Of particular benefit to Cook County Veterans would be approval of having a doctor and nurse from the Ely CBOC come to Silver Bay on a regular basis to provide routine medical care for Cook and Lake County Veterans.  Other solutions discussed included better bus scheduling, telemedicine, better scheduling at the VA for Veterans traveling a great distance, gas cards.

Senator Franken will be re-proposing a bipartisan bill he introduced last year specifically to improve access to medical care for Veterans living in rural areas. This should happen in July 2013.

MN Historical Society Grant for Bill Bally Blacksmith Shop
The Board approved an agreement required from the MN Historical Society in which the County agrees to provide continued maintenance and repair of the Bill Billy Blacksmith Shop for 20 years.  In practice, this work will be the full responsibility of the Cook County Historical Society.

Meeting Minutes
A copy of the final meeting minutes for July 25, 2013 may be obtained by contacting Janet Simonen at 218-387-3602 or by going to the County Website.  A video of this meeting may be viewed on Boreal.TV.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Visit Cook County!!

The Cook County Visitor's Bureau (CCVB) has just launched a new website and it's beautiful.  I particularly like the fact that information on all of our amazing Cook County communities--Lutsen/Tofte/Schroeder, Gunflint Trail, Grand Portage and Grand Marais--is available on a single website which makes it easier for Cook County visitors to tailor a vacation to meet their specific needs!  The interactive map is really cool, too!!

Share the Visit Cook County website with your friends, families, guests and customers!  Cook County, it's "Way North of Ordinary".

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Human Service Board, County Board and Board of Appeal and Equalization

Human Services Board
Human Services Board Chair Sue Hakes called the meeting to order.  Other Board members present were Jan Hall, Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Carla LaPointe, Jerry Lilja, and Bruce Martinson.  Also present were Public Health and Human Services Director Sue Futterer and Jan Parish, Income Maintenance and Fiscal Supervisor, and Andrea Devore.

Committee Reports
Arrowhead Health Alliance Joint Powers--Sue Hakes reported that the Region 3 Adult Mental Health Initiative is progressing with plans for a new Mental Health Facility to replace Bridge House in Duluth.  The location selected for this facility is at the end of Burning Tree Road in Hermantown.  Hakes also reported that AHA is working with the Department of Human Services to pilot and incorporate technology into diagnosing mental health patients in rural MN.  Cook County Hospital has been using Vidyo Telepresence for about 6 weeks.

Health Care Planning Committee--Bruce Martinson reported that Sawtooth Clinic has been awarded a $150,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield to be used over a period of 3 years.  He also reported that Care Partners has been awarded a transportation grant for two years in the amounts of $10,000 and $20,000 respectively.

No other committee reports were made as none of the other committees have met since the last Human Services Board meeting.

2012 Year End Financial & Client Report, Jan Parish
Jan Parish gave an overview of the 2012 PHHS financials reporting that 2012 spending was $102,998 over budget, mostly due to out-of-home placements. Budgeting for PHHS is extremely unpredictable as each year is different and services needed and provided may vary greatly.  Parish also reported that the fund balance was at $847,922 at the end of 2012.  Parish also gave an update on May 2013 financials.  2013 revenues are lagging behind expenses which is typical for this time of year.

Director's Report, Sue Futterer
Futterer shared a a recent information bulletin from MN Department of Commerce entitled, "Consumer Assistance Partner Bulletin 2013-1" which outlined the Navigator program designed to assist consumers through the elibility and enrollment process for MNSure.  Futterer also reported that 30-hours of MNChoices training will be necessary for (4) employees in PHHS.

Futterer presented a handout that highlighted the outcomes achieved through the work of the Community Health Board and partners in 2012 including programs such as smoking cessation, active living, healthy eating, breastfeeding policies, and alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention.

And lastly, Futterer reported that Region 3 Redesign for Child Support is on plan with equipment being ordered and training underway.

Items for Board Action
-  The Board approved an agreement between Cook County and the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment for providing detoxification services between June 18-December 31, 2013.  The daily rate has increased from $286/day to $350/day.

-The Board regretfully accepted the resignation of Sandra Petty, Lead Eligibility Specialist and authorized advertising to fill the position.

-  The Board authorized (4-1 with Gamble opposed) the adoption of the Merit System Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Guidelines as Cook County's Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Plan as recommended by Futterer.

The Human Services Board discussed the high turnover in this Department in the past 18 months.

County Board Meeting
Board Chair Janice Hall called the meeting to order.  Commissioners present were Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Sue Hakes and Bruce Martinson.  Also present were Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen.

Public Comment
No member of the Public came before the board.

County Attorney's Office
County Attorney Tim Scannell apologized for not notifying the County Board that he hired Attorney Vernon Swanum.  Swanum will work on a contract basis for up to $15,000 at a rate of $120/hour.  The County Board supports this hiring decision.

Cook County Community YMCA
Duluth YMCA Executive Director, Chris Francis, came before the Board to introduce Cook County Community YMCA Branch Director Emily Marshall. Marshall was eager to report the work she has been doing in the areas of marketing, programming, relationship building, budgeting, board development and planning for 2012 and 2013.  Marshall's enthusiasm is contagious!

Wade Cole (ORB Management) and Dan Miller (JLG Architects) updated the Board on the construction progress of the Cook County Community YMCA.  In addition, the Board authorized a payment of $21,600 to JLG to settle a fee dispute with Meyer Group; Meyer Group will no longer be involved in the project.  In addition, the Board authorized $48,274 for additional design services for work done to reduce square footage of the building. (4-1 with Gamble opposed on both actions.)

Subsurface Septic Treatment System (SSTS) Loan Ordinance, Tim Nelson
The Board reviewed proposed amendments to the SSTS Loan Ordinance as recommended by Tim Nelson and initiated the public hearing process to be held before the Planning Commission on Wednesday, August 14.  Basically,  the proposal is to amend the Ordinance to include system abandonments when a dwelling is approved to be connected to a municipal wastewater system.

Gypsy Moth Quarantine Proposal
Lucia Hunt and Chuck Dryke, both of the MN Department of Agriculture Plant Protection Division, came before the County Board to talk about the proposed Gypsy Moth Quarantine for Cook and Lake Counties.  Gypsy moths are ranked among America's most destructive forest pests causing millions of dollars in damage to woodlands as it advanced from New England to Wisconsin.  The goal of the proposed quarantine is to prevent the human-assisted spread of the gypsy moth. Howard Hedstrom was also present; Hedstrom acknowledged the problem as serious and talked about the challenges a quarantine as proposed could cause the timber industry.  Hedstrom will continue to work with the MDA on this issue.  More information is available on the MDA website.

Miscellaneous, Braidy Powers and Janet Simonen
The Board approved a temporary liquor license for the Schroeder Area Historical Society fundraiser to be held on September 26, 2013 at the Cross River Heritage Center.

The Board approved a Revolving Loan Fund Request as recommended by the RLF Committee in the amount of $26,500.  This request was made by the Gunflint Tavern and is part of a larger $79,500 commercial rehab project to install energy efficient windows and doors as well as some tuckpointing..

The Board authorized the purchase of one laptop computer, mouse and software up to $1500 for the new Cook County Veteran's Services Officer.

Border Crossing Fees
The County Board passed a motion to oppose Border Crossing Fees at the US/Canadian border.  A letter will be drafted and sent to Senator Klobuchar, Senator Franken, Representative Nolan, NACO and Homeland Security.  The County's position is consistent with the opposition from Arrowhead Counties Association.

AEOA Affordable Housing Project
Sue Hakes serves on the AEOA Board.  In that capacity, she acknowledged the work of AEOA Housing personnel--supported by EDA Board Member Abby Tofte and County Board liaison to the EDA, Heidi Doo-Kirk--for the proposed Affordable Housing project.  Doo-Kirk and Tofte have invited AEOA Housing personnel to come before the EDA Board next month to answer questions and clarify any misconceptions about the project and AEOA's history in Cook County.

County Administrator Hiring Process
The Board met with David Unmacht of Springsted Group over SKYPE to discuss what is needed in a County Administrator.  At the end of ~90 minutes, Unmacht had a better understanding of Cook County and its needs.  He will use the information to find candidates that are not only qualified, but will also "fit" the needs of the County.

Cook County Board of Appeal and Equalization
The County Board of Appeal and Equalization is held to provide a fair and objective forum for property owners to appeal their valuation and classification for the 2013 assessment.  No members of the Public were in attendance at this meeting.

Meeting Minutes
Official meeting minutes for June 18 will be made available at the County Website or by contacting Janet Simonen at 218-387-3602.  A video of today's Human Services and County Board meetings may be viewed by going to Boreal.TV.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

2013 Classic Car Show

2013 Recipient of the "Commissioner's Choice" Award

A couple of days ago, I was honored when Bev Wolke asked if I would be willing to to select the 2013 "Commissioner's Choice" Award at the 2013 Classic Car Show. As usual, the competition was rough and selecting my favorite was difficult, to say the least.  

After close examination of all the cars, I winnowed it down to my top 8, then to my top 3, and finally selected the awesome Z28 Camaro you see pictured above.

What a fun way to spend a few hours!

Friday, June 14, 2013

How to Help a Grieving Teen

Cook County Public Health and Human Services has provided some information--"How to Help a Grieving Teen"-- that may help the grieving and healing process of teens, their families, and their friends.

Another resource for youth experiencing grief or depression is TXT4LIFE, a free program that was developed in Northern Minnesota.  TXT4LIFE was created for youth that need to talk with somebody about what they are feeling.  If you--or someone you know--needs help, simply,

Text "LIFE" to 839863

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

County Board Meeting for June 11, 2013: CCEVB Budget Report, Highway Department, Tip of the Trail, County Administrator Hiring Process

Board Chair Janice Hall, along with Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Sue Hakes and Bruce Martinson, were all present for the June 11 County 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 come before the Board.

Cook County Visitor's Bureau (CCVB)
Sally Nankivell, CCVB Executive Director, presented the CCVB Annual Events Budget for May 1, 2013 through April 30, 2014.  Total events income for this period is $494,705 and will be spent supporting a variety of events throughout the year and throughout Cook County.  Nankivell also presented a handout that summarizes the positive impact the CCVB has made by pooling County resources and working together.  Of particular interest is the fact that Cook County lodging tax revenues have out-performed Ely and CPI (Consumer Price Index) since the CCVB organized in 2010.

Commissioners Doo-Kirk and Hakes acknowledged Nankivell's resignation, thanked her for her work and wished her luck in her new position at the Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis.  Nankivell's last day is June 14, 2013.

Information Systems
Rowan Watkins, IT Radio Support Technician, requested Board approval for the Communication Facility Use Agreement from MN DOT to locate ARMER equipment on the county-owned communications tower located in Grand Portage.  The Board approved this request.

Assessor's Office
The Board approved a request from Assessor/Land Commissioner Betty Schultz to contribute a $625 fee required by the State to allow Cook County to "go live" to the State DOR with Certificate of Real Estate Value (CRV) data submission.  This fee will be paid out of the Land Records Improvement fund.

Auditor-Treasurer, Braidy Powers, Miscellaneous
Cook County has been awarded a $130,000 grant from the MN State Historical Society for the purpose of purchasing the Bally Blacksmith Shop.  Cook County will own the facility which will be managed by the Cook County Historical Society.  (Congratulations to the Cook County Historical Society for this success.)

Powers presented a letter from the State Demographer, as required by law, showing the annual population and household estimates for MN counties, cities and townships.  The estimates provided are subject to change and are not considered final until they are released to the MN DOR in July.

The Board reviewed and authorized changes to the Board of Commissioner Per Diem and Expense Policy as recommended by a sub-committee consisting of Powers, Doo-Kirk and Hakes.  The most significant changes to this Policy included:

1.  Paying a per diem to only one primary county representative per committee unless required otherwise by the Joint Powers Entity, the bylaws of the committee, or specific direction of the County Board.

2.  Limiting the per diems paid to alternates serving on a Board to 2 meetings per year or when attending in the absence of the primary representative.

Highway Department
The Board approved a special event permit application from Adam Harju on behalf of Lifetime Fitness for the Lutsen 99er Mountain Bike Race.

The Board approved awarding two projects to the low bidders:  a) Edwin E. Thorseon for the Blended Salt/Sand Stockpile at $27.39/cu. yd., and b) Enviro Tech Services for liquid calcium chloride at $0.905 per gallon.

The Board passed a motion  4-1 (Martinson opposed) to award the summer maintenance grading and gravel contracts to the low bidder, LaBoda Grading, for Evergreen Road, Mile O' Pine and Voyageur's Point.  LaBoda Grading was the only bid received on time.  A second bid was received from Mike Rose Excavating after the bid closing date and was not opened or considered.  No bids were received for West Rosebush Lane so bids will be re-solicited.

The Board authorized hiring Rick Motz as a Maintenance Worker 2 to replace the position vacated by Gary Blomberg starting immediately.

The Board approved a project for the installation of a second driver feedback sign on CSAH 7 east of Sawtooth Elementary between 1st and 3rd Avenues East.  Installing this sign is possible due to a grant awarded through the NE MN Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) with additional funding provided by the Center for Disease Control Community Transformation Grant.  (Congratulations and thanks to Kristin DeArruda Wharton and the Safe Routes to School Team.)

Highway Engineer David Betts notified the Board that the Tofte Fireworks will be conducted on JULY 5th instead of JULY 4th as originally requested.  This change was made so that residents and visitors can enjoy fireworks in Grand Marais on July 4th and in Tofte on July 5th.

The Board authorized a request to stock 1000 cu. yd. of gravel to be purchased at less than $6/cu. yd. while the Ulland Brothers crusher is still located at the Isak Hansen pit on the west end of the county.

Highway Engineer David Betts gave the Board an update on the CSAH 7 project which started last week.  Through value engineering, Betts was able to reduce the cost of the project by $260,000.  Betts said CSAH 7 will be closed to all but local traffic between the intersections with CR45 and CR44 for about a week at the end of June.  The alternate route will run west along CR45 and then south along CR44.

The Board accepted the resignation of Assistant Mechanic Scott Corwin and authorized the Highway Department to advertise for and hire an Assistant Mechanic.  Alternatives to hiring were considered and rejected.

County Veteran's Services Officer (VSO)
The Board authorized the hiring of Patricia Strand as the new County VSO, a position currently held by Clarence Everson.  Due to a change at the State VA, the current arrangement for Grand Portage and Cook County to share a single VSO is, unfortunately, no longer an option.  Everson will continue as the Grand Portage VSO and will also help to train Strand.  (Thank you Clink for the enthusiasm and good work you brought to the County VSO position in serving our Vets!)

Tip of the Trail Property
Cook County is holding a public land sale at 10 AM on Monday, June 24 for the Tip of the Trail Property on Saganaga Lake.  In preparation for this sale, Environmental Health Officer Mitch Everson inspected and concluded that there are three known septic systems on the property, all of which are failing.  The County made a motion authorizing the proper abandonment of these failing systems with a goal of completing this work prior to the public land sale.

Cook County Community YMCA
Commissioner Hakes reported that construction is moving forward at the Y with the completion date still projected for mid-December 2013.  The exterior of the building will be sprayed and cleaned this week which should minimize or eliminate the color variation.  A potential problem with the existing drain tile under the tennis courts has been discovered; options to correct are being considered.  Branch Director, Emily Marshall, has relocated to Grand Marais and is working full-time on the Y Budget, programming, memberships, marketing and staffing.  Stay tuned for the next scheduled tour of the construction site.

Arrowhead Transit Advisory Board
Commissioner Hakes reported on the Arrowhead Transit Advisory Meeting noting that ridership for the bus is down.  Hakes noted that a one-way fare from Grand Marais to Duluth is just $10.  She also said that the bus serves all ages and is not just "the Senior bus".  A social event to raise awareness about riding the bus is being planned for this summer.

County Administrator Hiring Process
The Board made a motion approving an "Agreement for Organizational Management Consulting Services" with Springsted Incorporated subject to review by the County Attorney's Office.  Springsted is being hired to provide professional services in the hiring of a County Administrator.

County Attorney's Office
The County Board discussed the recent action taken by County Attorney Tim Scannell to enter into a contract for professional services with Vernon D. Swanum and whether or not the County Board needed to approve this contract.  The Board had no issue with hiring additional attorney services--in fact the Board supported the decision--but was concerned about the integrity of the process and the lack of communication between Scannell and the Board.  No motions were made, but Braidy Powers will investigate whether the Board is statutorily required to approve the contract.

Meeting Minutes
A copy of the official meeting minutes will be made available at the Cook County website or by calling Janet Simonen at 218/387-3602.  The meeting may also be viewed in its entirety at Boreal.TV.