Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 23 Cook County Board Meeting: Interim Use Permits, Wheelage Tax, Revolving Loan Fund

Today's County Board Meeting started a few minutes late due to a Fire Drill just before 8:30 am.

Board Chair Janice 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 were Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, County Attorney Tim Scannell, Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen and Bev Wolke.  (Board Chair Jan Hall was not present for the Emergency Management portion of this meeting.)

Public Comment
No member of the Public opted to come before the Board today.

Public Health and Human Services (PHHS)
Sue Futterer, PHHS Director, reported on the Eligibility Worker Hiring process; currently there are (2) openings.  The Board approved hiring Jennifer Friest (apologies for not being certain of the spelling) to replace Sandy Petty.  An offer was extended to a second candidate but was rejected as this person accepted a job in Lake County for ~$3/hour more than the Cook County wage offered.  Futterer promised to report back to the Board after reconsidering the options for filling this position.

Office of Planning and Zoning
Planning and Zoning Administrator, Bill Lane, came before the Board with (1) Rezoning Request and (3) Interim Use Permit (IUP) Requests:

a)  The Board authorized a request to rezone 6.16 acres near Hedstrom Lumber Mill from Light Industrial to Forest Agricultural/Residential.
b)  The Board authorized an IUP to allow the continued use of a recreational vehicle for habitation on property adjacent to the Camp 20 Road for two years.
c)  The Board authorized an IUP to allow the continued use of a recreational vehicle for habitation on property adjacent to Lake Superior, but only after reducing the Planning Commission's recommendation of 4 years to 2 years.  The vote was 4-1 with Doo-Kirk opposed.
d)  The Board authorized an IUP to allow the continued use of a recreational vehicle for habitation on property adjacent to County Road #8, after reducing the Planning Commission's recommendation of 3 years to 2 years.

Both the County Board and the Planning Commission have directed OPZ Director Tim Nelson to update Cook County's Land Use Guide from 1997.  Nelson is supportive of this request and has identified specific issues that need to be addressed including:  sled-dog kennels, long-term recreational vehicle use and vacation rentals.  The Board established a small steering committee to review the existing plan and evaluate possible methods for proceeding with this update. Commissioners Hall and Doo-Kirk will participate on this committee as the liaison to the OPZ and Board representative on the Planning Commission, respectively.   The process for updating the Land Use Plan must provide an open and inclusive venue for the Public to provide input.

The Board authorized hiring Wenck Associates to update the Cook County Solid Waste Management Plan in the amount of $22,300.  This Plan is overdue and as a result, $111,900 in SCORE Grant Funds are being withheld.  Once the updated Plan is submitted, these funds will be released in total.

Highway Department
The County Board authorized hiring Westley Higgins as an Assistant Mechanic to replace the position vacated by Scott Corwin.  Higgins will begin work on August 5.

The Board approved a special event permit application from the Superior Cycling Association for the Sawtooth Challenge Mountain Bike Race to be held on September 8, 2013.

The Board approved an extension to the USFS GLRI grant to combat invasive species in Cook County.  The original grant was approved in March 2011 and extended in February 2012.  This modification will expand the agreement from $100,000 to $172,501.  There is a 20% match and a December 31, 2014 deadline for spending these funds.

Proposed Wheelage Tax
The 2013 MN State Legislature amended MS 163.051 to allow for Counties to levy a wheelage tax on each motor vehicle kept in Cook County.  This annual wheelage tax per motor vehicle is limited to $10 until the end of 2017 when it may be increased to $20 per motor vehicle.

The Board passed a motion to NOT implement the wheelage tax requested by County Engineer David Betts, which was estimated to benefit Cook County in the amount of $52,780 to be used for "highway purposes".

Auditor-Treasurer, Braidy Powers
Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers brought several issues before the County Board for consideration:
A.  Claims for payment were approved.
B.  The Board approved a resolution accepting a State Grant for Airport Maintenance and Operation in the amount of $24,653.00.  This is the standard grant amount received by Cook County for over 20 years for basic operations at the airport.
C.  The Board voted 4-1 (Hakes opposed) to approve a $250,000 loan as recommended by the Cook County Revolving Loan Fund to Matt Geretschlaeger to fund Geretschlaeger's ZIP Line project at 689 Gunflint Trail just north of Grand Marais.  The City of Grand Marais has received an IRRRB Grant for $191,000 to bring Public Utilities to the site.  Geretschlaeger has also been approved for a $260,000 Small Business Administration Loan.  Hakes expressed concern that the Business Plan Financials do not justify the business venture as proposed.  Hakes also expressed her concern that the real estate collateral offered is not enough to make the risk to the County tolerable.
D.  The Board authorized purchasing a Fujitsu document scanner to replace the Recorder's Office scanner damaged during the last power outage at the Courthouse.  The cost of $5431 will be paid for using the Recorder's Equipment Fund.
E.  The Board approved an agreement to renew its election equipment maintenance agreement.
F-G.  The Board made a motion to approve the final Grant Agreement with the Cook County/Grand Marais Joint Economic Development Authority in Connection with the Superior National Golf Course Project.  The County has committed $3.1 million of One Percent Funds toward the renovation of the Superior National Golf Course.  The LTTA will provide $50,000 annually from 2013 through 2022 for Golf Course Marketing.  The balance of the project will be funded by bonding for $1.7 million.
H.  On June 25th, the EDA requested a 60 day loan of $300,000 for funding the Lake Superior water pipeline and golf course architectural services with the understanding that the IRRRB would reimburse the County within 60 days.  IRRRB reimbursement will not likely occur until late October so the Promissory Note was extended to a payment date of October 25, 2013.
I.  The Board authorized an amendment to its contract with JLG Architects to convert basing the design fees on 7.5% of the Cost of the Work to a fixed lump sum.  This amendment will streamline the accounting process and will limit the County's payment to JLG if existing project costs increase.
J.  The Board authorized a 120 day loan in the amount of $10,000 to the Superior Timber Wolves Sportman's Club in Tofte to pay for a bridge replacement on the Leveaux Trail just west of the Springdale Road in Tofte.

One Percent Projects
Braidy Powers reviewed the One Percent Funds by Project, showing the budget, $$ spent to date, and balances.

Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department
The Board appointed John Bottger and Fred Smith as Fire Relief Association Board members.

Emergency Management
The Board passed a motion to to proceed with cross border discussions leading to a Memorandum of Understanding between Cook County, Grand Portage, Neebing ON and Thunder Bay ON.

The Board passed a resolution to allocate SRS Title III money for specific uses including All Hazard Mitigation Plan duties and potentially establishing a Firewise Coordinator Position.

Meeting Minutes
Meeting Minutes will be made available by contacting Janet Simonen at 387-3687 or by going to the Cook County Website.  A video of this meeting in its entirety will be made available on Boreal.TV

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July 16 Human Services and County Board Meetings: Staffing, NE MN Small Business Consultant, Tennis Courts, Event Permits

Cook County Human Services Board Meeting
Human Services Board Chair Sue Hakes and Board Members Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Carla LaPointe, Jerry Lilja and Bruce Martinson were all present for today's Human Services Board Meeting.  Also present were Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) Director Sue Futterer, Fiscal Supervisor Jan Parish, Personnel Director Janet Simonen and Case Aide/Office Support Andrea DeBoer. Jan Hall was absent.

Committee Reports
Several Human Services Board members reported on the various committee meetings they have attended in the past month including:  Arrowhead Health Alliance Joint Powers (Sue Hakes), Arrowhead Regional Corrections (Garry Gamble), Public Health & Human Services (Jerry Lilja), North Shore Collaborative (Sue Hakes).  (For further information on any of these committee meetings, please contact me or the board member that attends.)

Child and Family Safety Review 
Social Services Supervisor, Grace Bushard, reported on the Cook and Lake Counties Minnesota Child Family Safety Review (CFSR).  The CFSR is a process to help achieve positive outcomes for children and families by monitoring state child welfare services.  The Cook County review period is from June 2012 to July 2013. The last review in Cook County was in 2007.  Bushard is extremely familiar with the process having been a peer reviewer in the past.

June Financial Report
Income Maintenance and Fiscal Supervisor, Jan Parish, reported on the PHHS Budget for June 2013 noting that the costs for Out Of Home Placements continue to be of concern for the budget.  Parish also said that PHHS Director and Staff will be using the 2013 Budget to prepare their 2014 Budget.

Director's Report
PHHS Director, Sue Futterer, Reported on several items:
-  Cook County Human Services was found to be in compliance after its 2013 Blue Plus Audit.  The audit produced some minor findings, but no recommendations or mandatory improvements were made or are required.  Futterer and Staff will work to improve based on the findings.
-  Cook County Wilderness Outpatient Program received a Facility Site Audit Review score of 98% and a Treatment Record Review score of 87% from OPTUM. OPTUM's Lead Quality Improvement Specialist congratulated Cook County for providing quality care and a safe environment for OPTUM members and families.
- All County Human Services Administrators throughout the State received a Memo from Chuck Johnson, Department of Health Deputy Commissioner, regarding implementation of a new county performance management system.  This transition time is difficult for Counties due to the many unknowns.
-  The TXT4LIFE Annual Progress Report for its first year, 2012, is packed full of information regarding TXT4LIFE, a program that originated in Carlton County and is intended to be in use across all MN Counties by 2015.  If you, or somebody you know, needs to talk, Text LIFE to 839863.
-  Staffing continues to be a challenge in the PHHS Department due to resignations, changes in processes from the State, and unknowns that are resulting from the Affodable Health Care Act.  Futterer and Staff continue to work to fill the gaps by shifting responsibilities and also replacement hires.
-  Director Futterer and Staff continue working diligently on their 2014 Budget.
-  Futterer gave the Board an update on Region 3 Redesign.

Items for Board Actions
-  The Board authorized hiring a Temporary Eligibility Specialist during the transition and training of new staff at a cost estimated between $3-5,000 total and maximum of 6 months.
-  The Board authorized continuing the employment of Temporary Support Staff during the Financial Assistance Transition and EDMS Implementation.
-  The Board authorized Futterer to continue working with Carlton County for mentoring of new Cook County Eligibility workers.

Cook County Board of Commissioners
Vice-Chair Bruce Martinson, along with Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, and Sue Hakes were all present for the July 16 County Board Meeting. Board Chair Janice Hall was absent.  Also present were Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen and Bev Wolke.

Public Comment
Pat Campanaro came before the County Board to let them know she has just been hired as a MN Small Business Development Center Consultant for Cook County through Cook County Higher Education and the UMD Center for Economic Development.  Campanaro will provide professional business consulting in Cook County for 15 hours/week at no cost to the small business owner.  Campanaro brings a wealth of business experience and enthusiasm to this position and is already working with several local businesses.  If you have questions about starting a new business or operating your existing business, do not hesitate to call Pat Campanaro for support.  You may reach her at: 218-387-3411 or pcampanaro@gmail.com.

Highway Department
The Board authorized (2) Event Permits:  a)  The 84th Annual Fisherman's Picnic Parade, and b)  The North Shore Dragon Boat Festival Parade.

Highway Engineer, David Betts, reported that he interviewed 3 candidates for the open Assistant Mechanic position.

Auditor-Treasurer, Braidy Powers, Miscellaneous
-  Braidy Powers presented the Second Quarter 2013 Budget for Board review.  Expenditures are exactly 50% of the 2013 budget.
-  The Board approved a permit to hold a raffle at the Gunflint Firehouse #1 Community Center on August 8, 2013.
-  The County received $32,701.97 of Title III funds that may be used to carry out Firewise activities, reimburse the County for Search and Rescue and other emergency services performed on Federal Lands, and develop Community Wildfire Protection Plans.  The Firewise Committee has a recommendation for the use of these funds which will be presented for approval by Cook County Emergency Manager Jim Wiinanen at next week's Board Meeting.
-  The Board authorized the purchase of (2) Dell Gigabet Ethernet switches for $3900.  This purchase for network upgrades to support incoming fiber connections and new network storage units was planned for and included in the 2013 IT capital budget.
-  The Board approved contracting with Boreal.TV for $6000 to video all regularly scheduled County Board Meetings taking place in the Courthouse for the next year. This is the same rate as last year.

Grand Marais Tennis Courts
Wade Cole of ORB Management, presented site plans for drainage and accessibility on the east side of the county-owned tennis courts.  The estimated cost for this work is $15-25,000 and is not part of the One Percent Project.  Both ORB and JLG Architects are working on this project at no charge.  The Board authorized Cole to obtain quotes from local contractors for this work on/before August 5 for Board consideration.

Cook County Administrator Position Profile
The Board approved the final draft of the Cook County Administrator Position profile and authorized David Unmacht at Springsted to move forward with advertising for this position.

County Road 7 Construction Project
County Engineer David Betts reported that test strips for the new pavement on County Road 7 are being done near Highway 61 this week.  Pavement on County Road 7 will be done sometime next week, weather pending.  Betts reported that calcium chloride is down to minimize dust during this road construction.  If you have any questions or concerns about this project, contact Sue Hakes or David Betts.

Meeting Minutes
A copy of the final meeting minutes for today's County Board meeting will be made available on the Cook County website or by calling Janet Simonen at 387-3602.  A video this meeting in its entirety may be seen on-line at Boreal.TV.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 9 County Board Meeting: Vacation Rentals, Cook County Family YMCA Rates, Tennis Courts

County Board Chair Jan Hall, along with Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Sue Hakes and Bruce Martinson were present at today's County Board meeting.  Also present were Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen and Bev Wolke.

Public Comment
No member of the Public opted to come before the County Board.

Highway Department, Highway Engineer David Betts
The County Board approved awarding the grading and gravel contract for West Rosebush Lane to LaBoda Grading, Inc.  LaBoda Grading was the sole bidder.

Highway Engineer, David Betts, and the County Board discussed recent legislative changes to 1) allow all 87 counties to levy, by board resolution, a $10 per vehicle wheelage tax, and 2) enact up to 1/2% sales tax for transportation by board action, without holding a referendum.  Should the County decide to  enact these changes, it would bring ~$53,000/year (wheelage tax) and ~$650,000/year (sales tax) to Cook County to be used to improve roads and bridges.  The County Board discussed the pros and cons to residents of Cook County for both of these possible taxes.  No decision was made at this meeting, but will be addressed again.

Office of Planning & Zoning, Director Tim Nelson
Tim Nelson asked the County Board to consider modifying Cook County "after the fact" (penalty) fees from the $300 fee applied in all cases.  Applying the same penalty fee in all cases isn't always reasonable making it difficult for the Planning Commission to impose it in certain cases.  Commissioners Hall and Doo-Kirk will work with Nelson to examine the issue and present some options.

The County Board discussed vacation rental homes and cabins that are not in compliance with State Licensing requirements.  It is important that the owners of these properties obtain a State License and pay State/Local taxes for 3 reasons:  1)  safety, 2) to create a level playing field with hotels, motels and resorts, and 3) State and Local tax collections.   The Board discussed a possible local ordinance, but no decisions were made.

Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers
The Board authorized extending the Gunflint Trail Assessment Grant to August 15, 2014 as recommended by the Firewise Committee.  This extension is necessary due to the late spring.

The Board approved a reduction in the Revolving Loan interest rate for the Birch Terrace Supper Club from 4.9% to 3.12% as requested by Brian Larsen and recommended by the Revolving Loan Fund Committee.  This reduction in the interest rate is contingent upon Larsen meeting with a volunteer from the newly formed Cook County Chamber of Commerce and a volunteer from the Small Business Development Center in Duluth for business advice.

The Board approved a Satisfaction of Mortage for Fall River Holding, LLC, DBA Stone Harbor, as they paid off their revolving loan on 1/31/13.

Public Health and Human Services, Director Sue Futterer
The Board passed a motion supporting the recommendation of Cook County Public Health and Human Services approving UCare and Medica as managed care organizations providing managed health care services in Cook County for the recipients of Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare.  The final decision will be made by the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

The Board authorized Sue Futterer, Director of PHHS, in consultation with County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, to make the determination when necessary to grant PHHS Staff permission to travel outside the State of Minnesota without further approval by the County Board.

Cook County Community YMCA
Cook County Community YMCA Branch Director, Emily Marshall, and Duluth Family YMCA Executive Director, Chris Francis came before the County Board to present their 2013 Budget.  Marshall also shared the rates for the Cook County Community YMCA as follows:

  • Under 18:  $15/month
  • Adult:  $42/month
  • 1 Parent Family:  $51/month
  • 2 Parent Family:  $61/month
  • Youth Day Pass:  $5
  • Adult Day Pass:  $10
  • Family Day Pass:  $20
  • $50 Initiation Fee
Marshall and Francis reminded the Board that financial assistance is available for those who need it.  It was also noted that some YMCA Programming will begin even before the facility is complete!
Wade Cole, ORB Management, came before the Board to advise them that the Construction Contingency Fund is down to $44,378.  After some discussion, the County Board authorized transferring $67,764 from the Uncommitted One Percent Funds to the Community Center Project.  Just under $500,000 remains in the Uncommitted One Percent Funds.  

Tennis Courts Walkway and Drainage
Construction of the road between the existing tennis courts and the Cook County Community YMCA (aka YMCA) exposed faulty drainage in the SE corner of the northern courts.  Per Wade Cole, this problem has been resolved by connecting the existing drain tile to the YMCA Building drain tile.

The issue of accessibility to both the north and south tennis courts has also been raised.  Per Wade Cole and Dan Miller, ORB and JLG will work (at no charge) to design and manage the installation of an accessible sidewalk connecting the north and south courts along the east side.  Drainage from the surface of the north courts will also be addressed. 

This work on the tennis courts is not part of the current YMCA construction project and per Braidy Powers could be paid from the County Rec Fund.  The Board authorized Cole and Miller to design the sidewalk and drainage system and determine associated costs for Board consideration on July 16.

Fire Evacuation/Fire Drill Instructions
Janet Simonen went over the Fire Evacuation and Fire Drill procedures with the County Board.  A Fire Drill is being planned in the near future.

Cook County Administrator Position
The County Board met via Skype with David Unmacht of Springsted.  The purpose of this meeting was to review and modify the Informational Sheet being created by Springsted to solicit applications for the newly created Cook County Administrator position.

Meeting Minutes
A copy of the final meeting minutes may be obtained by going to the Cook County Website or by contacting Janet Simonen at 218/387-3602.  A video of this meeting in its entirety will be available on Boreal.TV.