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