Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 27 County Board Meeting: Broadband Building, SSTS Ordinance Public Hearing, County Administrator Hiring Process, Rumble Strips

County Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Sue Hakes and Bruce Martinson were all present at today's meeting.  Also present were Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Bev Wolke.

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

Broadband Building Lease
The County Board passed a motion approving a lease agreement with Northeastern Services Cooperative (NESC) allowing them to place a modular equipment building for the implementation of Broadband Services. The building will be constructed not-to-exceed 16' x 24' for the housing of transmitters and associated equipment for the sole purpose of a fiber optic switching station.  This switching station is a necessary component for providing broadband services to Grand Marais and surrounding area, Gunflint Trail, and the East End.   The Board moved to authorize the lease (4-1 Hakes opposed) with an amendment to require County approval for any sublease (to Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, for example). Commissioner Hakes advocated for no change to the contract, stating that subleases for the purposes of fiber optics switching would be beneficial to Cook County residents and continued negotiation only slows the progress for bringing broadband to the County beyond the West End.

Office of Planning and Zoning (OPZ)
Upon the recommendation of the Planning Commission, the Board approved an Amendment to the Subsurface Sewage Treatment System (SSTS) Loan Ordinance that would allow the exterior plumbing projects of hooking dwellings up to municipal wastewater treatment systems as eligible for participating in the loan program.

As requested by OPZ Director Tim Nelson, the Board scheduled a public hearing before the Planning Commission regarding the SSTS Ordinance Update for Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 6:00 pm in the County Commissioner's Room at the Cook County Courthouse.  A second Public Hearing was tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 5:00 pm.  The Public is encouraged to attend**.  An updated SSTS Ordinance is due to the State on/before February 4, 2014.  A copy of the draft ordinance will be made available on the Office of Planning and Zoning web page or by calling 218/387-3630 and requesting one.

**Members of the Public are encouraged to attend and participate in these Public Hearings.  Over the past several weeks, I've been approached by members of the Public that want to participate but are concerned that in doing so, their existing sewage treatment systems will be flagged for inspection or as non-compliant. When I asked Tim Nelson to address this concern publicly he reassured the Board that this is not the case and that inspections will be triggered only by the normal processes already in place (permit request within shoreline or North Shore Management areas, permit request for an additional bedroom, scheduled inspection programs.)  He also noted that the OPZ does not have the resources to track sewage treatment systems beyond the already establishes procedures.

As recommended by Tim Nelson, the Board authorized filling the vacant Recycling Operator position from within by promoting Rick Sturm.  The Board also authorized Nelson to begin the process to fill the position vacated by Sturm.

Highway Department
The Board accepted the resignation of Highway Department Engineering Technician, Andrew Graupmann, with regrets and authorized Highway Engineer David Betts to begin the process of filling the vacated position.

The Board raised possible traffic concerns caused by the development of the Superior Zipline along the Gunflint Trail.  Betts is aware and will be tracking the situation as it progresses.

Commissioner Doo-Kirk reported she has received calls of concern from residents of District 4 regarding the recently installed rumble strips east of town on Highway 61.  Commissioner Martinson will raise the issue with MN DOT at a September 6 meeting and report back any/all options.  (It should be noted that the County Board sent MN DOT a letter opposing the rumble strips prior to their installation.)

Claims and 2014 Budget, Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers
- Claims were approved.

-  Braidy Powers continues to incorporate reductions, changes, and corrections into the 2014 Budget for County Board review and consideration.  The State of MN has imposed a property tax levy limit of ~3% with final calculations to be determined.  The County Board will set the preliminary levy on September 10.

Public Health and Human Services (PHHS)
Sue Futterer regrettably notified the Board of the resignation of Child Support Officer, Michael Garry.  The Board authorized Futterer to begin the process to fill this vacancy or explore collaborating with another county to provide this service. Over the past 6-12 months, several PHHS employees have resigned and moved to jobs within Cook County or NE Minnesota with higher pay.  The cost to recruit and retrain new employees is not insignificant, including the pressure to "get the job" done placed on remaining employees.

Cook County Community YMCA
The County Board authorized Y Director Emily Marshall to purchase gymnastics equipment for the new facility.  Marshall is coordinating with Diane Booth to begin gymnastics in the Community Center prior to the Y facility being opened.

The County Board authorized the purchase of cabling required for voice & data and sound & paging equipment in the Y facility.  The Board also authorized fiber optic cabling and a door access system compatible with the ISD166 system.

County Drinking Fountain 
Commissioner Gamble updated the Board on the Grand Marais PUC meeting he attended last week to discuss the installation of a drinking fountain near the tennis courts to be used by multiple outdoor athletic participants and spectators.  There are several issues to be worked out to ensure the drinking fountain is appropriate for its intended use and that costs are reasonable.  Gamble volunteered to take the lead on this project.

County Administrator Hiring Process 
David Unmacht, Springsted Group, led the Board in a discussion of the (9) candidates he recommended for further consideration as the Cook County Administrator, noting that (1) of those candidates has withdrawn his name.  The Board addded (3) candidates for further consideration.

Ultimately, the Board will winnow the list to 5-6 candidates to be interviewed.  From that list, 2-3 candidates will be selected for final consideration.  Department Heads and some members of the public will be asked for input on the final candidates.  It is anticipated that the first round of interviews will take place on Friday, September 13 in Cook County.

Overall, the Board is pleased with the quality and quantity of the candidates that responded.

Meeting Minutes
A copy of the final meeting minutes may be obtained by going to the Cook County website or by calling the Auditor-Treasurer's office at 218/387-3640.  Or, you may view this meeting in its entirety by going to Boreal.TV

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

8/20/13 Human Services and County Board Meetings: GO Team Public Meetings, Capital Purchases, Board Process Training

Cook County Human Services Board
Board Chair Sue Hakes and Board Members Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Jan Hall, Carla LaPointe, Jerry Lilja and Bruce Martinson were all in attendance at today's Human Services Board meeting.  Also present were Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) Director Sue Futterer, Income Maintenance & Fiscal Supervisor Jan Parish, and Case Aid/Office Support Allison McIntyre were also present.  Sue Futterer introduced Jennifer Friest, the recently hired Eligibility Worker.

Committee Reports
The following committee reports were given.  For further information and more detail, contact the County Board representative on that committee.

Arrowhead Health Alliance - Sue Hakes
Arrowhead Regional Corrections - Jan Hall and Garry Gamble
Community Health Board - Jan Hall
Health Care Planning Committee - Bruce Martinson

Wilderness Chemical Dependency Outpatient Treatment Program Update
Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LACD), Greg Barnier, came before the Human Services Board to present the work being done in the Wilderness CD Outpatient Treatment Program by himself and Lori Hommerding, ADC.  Barnier provided statistics of the Cook County program participants compared to the State participants, it was interesting.  Barnier also answered questions about the primary substance of abuse (alcohol), as well as use of other drugs including marijuana, hashish, opiates, synthetics, methamphetamine, and heroin.  Over the past 5 years, the Wilderness Outpatient Treatment Program is seeing an increase in clients, as well as a steady increase of female clients.

Alcohol and drug addiction has been identified by the Community Health Board as a top concern for Cook County.  The work being done by the patients and staff in this program is truly making a difference in people's lives.

July Financial Report
Income Maintenance and Fiscal Supervisor, Jan Parish gave the July Financial Report noting that the current fund balance is down to $662,305, but should be back to ~$800,000 by year end.

Director's Report, Sue Futterer
As requested by the County Board, Sue Futterer and Jan Parish provided a list of potential cuts should their budget be reduced by 5%.  The proposed cuts were painful to even consider as they negatively impact children, families and seniors.  In addition, cutting programs in mental health and home care is more likely to increase overall costs as opposed to reduce costs.  It is my personal recommendation and sincere hope that the County Board find the majority of the necessary budget cuts elsewhere.

Futterer presented the MN Department of Human Services Waiver Review Initiative. The primary goal of this Initiative is to assure compliance by lead agencies (Counties, Tribes, Managed Care Organizations) in the administration of Minnesota's Home and Community-Based Service programs.  Cook County's strengths included compliance with Federal and State requirements, case manager relationships with waiver participants and families, client-centered/friendly care and strong connections between other service providers.  Some corrective actions were required and have already been done by PHHS staff. Overall, the report was extremely favorable.

Futterer advised the Board of the impact to the In Home Support Program resulting from 245D Legislation.  Currently, the County provides training and insurance for In Home Support, as well as identifying clients in need of these services.

Futterer made the Board aware of the upcoming submission of the 2014-15 Biennial Service Agreement for the Minnesota Family Investment Program.

Futterer gave the Board an update on the Region 3 Redesign efforts for Child Support Electronic Document Management System (EDMS).

Board Action 
The Board approved a Purchase of Service Agreement between Cook County and AEOA for Home Delivered Meals (Meals on Wheels) through 2013.

The Board approved a Purchase of Service Agreement between Cook County and Hill Haven for Adult Foster Care through 2013.

The Board approved the PHHS abstracts and bills.

Cook County Board of Commissioners
County 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 present were Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, County Attorney Tim Scannell, and Bev Wolke.

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

Office of Planning and Zoning (OPZ)
The Board authorized the purchase of one used semi trailer for $4500 (to replace an older non DOT certified trailer) as requested by OPZ Director and Solid Waste Officer, Tim Nelson.  This capital purchase was planned and is in the 2013 Budget.

Information Systems
The Board authorized the purchase of (14) PCs and (3) laptops as part of the long term life cycle management for IT equipment.  The PCs being replaced are between 4-8 years old. Total cost of this purchase is $17,004.91; State pricing was used.

Building Maintenance
Maintenance Director Brian Silence requested new carpet for the Assessor's Office.  After the remodel, there are gaps in the carpeting.  The Board directed Silence to wait until he knows what other spaces may need new carpet/carpet repair and then get quotes.  No decision was made on carpet repair/replacement.

Miscellaneous, Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers
- The Board approved the Claims.
- Powers asked the Board about attendance at the December AMC Conference so that reservations may be made.  The Conference fills up fast.

Cook County Community YMCA
Local Y Director Emily Marshall came before the Board for approval to purchase the Analog Camera System and VoIP Phone System for the new Y facility.  These purchases are part of the approved $300,000 FF&E (Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment) budget.  The Board approved these purchases (4-1 Gamble opposed) and discussed what the approval process for FF&E should be.

Wade Cole of ORB Management updated the Board on the progress being made in obtaining the contract, bond, contract drawings and material orders from KBB.  He also informed the Board on progress being made with KJohnson to resolve and repair problems with the ice rink slab.

Commissioner Hakes asked the County Board to participate in the upcoming Public Meetings held by the GO Cook County Team that has been working over the past year to find ways to improve the local economy.  Hakes reported that the centerpiece of the work has been around 100 personal interviews with local businesses, as well as an on line survey in which 400 county residents participated.  The next important step is obtaining Public feedback on the survey results and analysis. Meetings are scheduled as follows:

Wed 9/4 1:00 pm Schaap Community Center (Gunflint mid-trail Fire Hall)
Wed 9/4 7:00 pm St. John's Catholic Church in Grand Marais
Thur 9/5 1:00 pm Grand Portage Community Building in Grand Portage
Thur 9/5 7:00 pm Birch Grove Community Center in Tofte

ALL ARE WELCOME & ENCOURAGED TO PARTICIPATE in these meetings!  For more information go to:  www.gocookcounty.blogspot.com

County Board Process Training
In an effort to be more effective as a County Board Commissioner Hakes suggested the County Board seek training about Robert's Rules of Order, Public Hearings, Open Meeting Law, etc.  A motion was made and passed to ask County Attorney Tim Scannell to investigate getting some training from MCIT.

Tennis Courts
On behalf of the County Board, Commissioner Bruce Martinson sent a letter requesting the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) waive facility and hookup fees for water (and sewer if necessary) with the installation of a water fountain.  Although the water fountain will be located near the tennis courts, it may be used by any/all players and spectators of baseball, soccer, softball, etc.  Garry Gamble will represent the County at tomorrow's PUC meeting when the request will be discussed.

County Personnel Classification System
The MAT Team (County Department Heads) passed a unanimous motion at their August 12 meeting to recommend the County Board direct the new County Administrator to prioritize the research, review, and implementation of a new job classification system.  The County Board supports this.

Meeting Minutes
A copy of the final meeting minutes may be obtained by contacting Auditor's Office at 218/387-3640 or by going to the Cook County website.  A video of this meeting may be viewed by going to Boreal.TV.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cook County News Herald Correction

In today's Cook County News Herald article entitled "County board moving closer to finding administrator", Reporter Jane Howard inaccurately reported my words and my intentions:

Howard reported "Commissioner Sue Hakes said she wanted to see all 36 resumes because she was curious and because she wanted the board to be able to throw out any applicants they might know and have disqualifying information about."

This is 180 degrees opposite of what I actually said:

I said "Personally, I'm going to weigh heavily on what you (David Unmacht) determine to be the top 11 or so that go into the matrix.  However, I'd like to see all 36 just on the outside chance that there is someone out there that one of us knows that doesn't, for some reason, make the cut and we have different information about that person."

Ms. Howard's rewording was exactly the opposite of what I said resulting in a gross mischaracterizing of my statement.  For accurate information about the County Board's discussion on any issue, view the video at Boreal.TV.

When any newspaper paraphrases something said in a public meeting--as opposed to quoting the speaker as indicated by quotation marks--please take it with the grain of salt and investigate further.

I appreciate greatly that 36 people took the time to apply for the job of Cook County Administrator. My actions at the Board meeting were to ensure that each and every one of those candidates gets every consideration they deserve and that nobody is overlooked.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

8/13/13 County Board Meeting: More Budgets, County Administrator Recruitment, Highway Department Annual Report

Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioners Doo-Kirk, Gamble, Hakes and Martinson were present for today's County Board Meeting.  Also present were Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, County Attorney Tim Scannell, and Bev Wolke.

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

Tennis Court (moved to earlier spot on the agenda)
During the County Budget Hearings last week, the County Board moved to hire Skadberg Masonry to build the sidewalk and access ramp along the east side of the North and South Tennis Courts. Skadberg Masonry quoted the lowest cost.  The Board also authorized Wade Cole, ORB Management, to solicit costs for installing a drinking fountain that had been purchased several years ago by the County, but never installed.  Wade Cole participated in today's meeting via Skype to discuss with the Board, the cost of that installation.  The Board unanimously authorized moving forward with the drinking fountain at an estimated cost of $1200 for installation, $1300 for PUC hookup.  The Board will request that the PUC waive the hookup fees.  The County will be responsible for the monthly charges.

Recycling Center
Planning Director Tim Nelson notified the Board that the Recycling Center Operator retired last week and requested the Board authorize posting the position.  With regrets, the County Board accepted the resignation of Jeff Sylvester and approved posting the position in-house.

Community Center Director, Diane Booth
The County Board approved the lease agreement between Cook County and the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA) for specified areas of the Cook County Community Center for AEOA Employment and Training activities.  The AEOA office has recently been relocated from its former location at ISD166 to the Community Center and is working out well for clients and AEOA Staff.

Private Land Exchange Request
The County Board denied a request from John Scheef to exchange 80-acres of property he owns (PID 53-118-4100) with County-owned property.

Budget Hearings continued
Sheriff Mark Falk and Emergency Manager Jim Wiinanen reviewed their 2014 Budget proposals with the County Board.  Falk and Wiinanen were unable to attend the Budget Hearings last week. The Board heard requests from other Department Heads and Community Groups on August 5-6, 2013.

The MN Legislature has capped the property tax levy for Counties to ~3%.  Current requests total an approximate 7.79% increase.  The Board requests that each Department Head demonstrate what a 5% cut in their expenses would look like and how they might increase their revenues.

The preliminary levy must be adopted by September 10.

Cook County Administrator Recruitment
David Unmacht, Springsted Group, met with the Board via Skype.  Unmacht reported that 36 applications have been received for the County Administrator position, noting that 21 of the applicants are from MN.  The candidate list will be reviewed and initially pared down to candidates with the most potential. From that list, the top candidates will be selected for interviews.  Unmacht and the Board are pleased with the strong response.  The Board is working to have Administrator begin work by November 1, 2013.

Personnel Committee
Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioner Bruce Martinson reported on the recommendations of the Personnel Committee on which they serve.  They reported that several jobs in the Highway Department were rewritten with minor changes. Two job descriptions were rewritten due to reorganization of some duties within the Assessor Office and Public Health and Human Services.  And, the Personnel Committee recommended an upgraded job description for the Emergency Management Director.  All recommendations were discussed and approved by the County Board.

The Personnel Committee also recommended the methodology used by Cook County to rate its jobs be evaluated and upgraded accordingly so that all positions are accurately documented and fairly rated.

Bond Payments for the Cedar Grove Business Park
The County and the City are working on a written agreement regarding the Cedar Grove Business Park bond payments.  These payments are ~$120,000 annually to be split equally by the County and the City. Ultimately, this agreement will be signed by Cook County, the City of Grand Marais, and the EDA.

Arrowhead Regional Corrections (ARC) 
The Board moved to pay its $81,600 portion of the ARC Asset Preservation and Capital Improvement Projects in full and up front as opposed to making payments.

County Highway Department Work Session
Highway Engineer David Betts, Maintenance Supervisor Russell Klegstad, and Highway Department Accountant Lisa Sorlie presented the 2012 Annual Report for the Cook County Highway Department.  In addition, reports were given on the 2nd Quarter Financials for 2013, Maintenance Project updates and Construction Projects.  Betts reported that the right-hand downhill lane on the Gunflint Trail will be closed for approximately 3-4 weeks for blasting being done for the Superior Zip Line just north of Grand Marais.

Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes for this meeting may be obtained by contacting the County Auditor-Treasurer's Office at 218/387-3640 or by going to the Cook County website.  A video of this meeting in its entirety may be viewed by going to Boreal.TV