Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 22 County Board Meeting: Senator Bakk and Representative David Dill visit Board

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, Assistant County Attorney Molly Hicken and Administrative Assistant Bev Wolke.

Public Comment
Mary Manning and Mark Adams came separately before the County Board as property owners on the Tower Road near Hovland.  They are both concerned about the condition of the Tower Road since Arrowhead Electric installed power and fiber. Arrowhead Electric agreed to restore the road to its pre-installation condition, but the work hasn't been completed and winter is coming.  It is the Board's understanding from Arrowhead Electric, that they have been waiting to do road repair until after the fiber was installed.  Fiber was installed early in October.  Board Chair Jan Hall asked Commissioner Hakes to follow up with Arrowhead to get a date on when this work will be done.

Highway Department 
The Board approved a special event permit application from the Greater Grand Marais Chamber of Commerce for the Grand Marais Christmas Parade to be held on November 29 from 5:00 to 5:30 pm.

The Board accepted, with regrets and appreciation for his service, the resignation of Maintenance Worker 2, Rick Motz.

The Board accepted the recommendation of Highway Engineer, David Betts, to hire Jesse Backstrom for the Maintenance Worker 2 positio vacated by Bill Bohnen.  In addition, the Board accepted the recommendation to hire Norris Klegstad to replace Rick Motz.  MNDot District 1 State Aid Engineer Walter Leu participated in the interviewing of these applicants.

The Board made awards for Winter Maintenance on Subordinate Governmental Service District Roads on Evergreen Road, Mile-O-Pine Road, Voyageur's Point, West Rosebush Lane, and Irish Creek Road.  These awards were based on low bid or sole bidder.

Office of Planning and Zoning (OPZ)
The County Board authorized OPZ Director Tim Nelson to initiate the hiring process of a permanent year-round secretarial position at 35 hours per week.  This position is currently a temporary 40-hour per week job; temporary positions may only be held for a 6-month period.

The Board authorized two Interium Use Permits to allow the continued use of recreational vehicles for habitation:
1)  The first IUP was granted to Bob and Debbie Meyer for their property adjacent to Birch Lake.  This permit shall expire after 2 years or upon sale of the property to someone other than Gayle Quistad.
2)  The second IUP was granted to Barbara Wagman for her 20-acre parcel zoned FAR 1 on Lone Cedar Road.

The Office of Planning and Zoning is currently reviewing its Land Use Plan which will include a use plan for Recreational Vehicles.

WTIP Request
WTIP Director Deb Benedict came before the Board to request a letter confirming the County's intention to provide space and enter into a lease agreement for WTIP's new antenna to be installed on the tower being built just north of Grand Marais.  The County voted to support this request unanimously and acknowledged that WTIP is an important asset in Cook County.

YMCA Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment (FFE)
Cook County Community YMCA Director, Emily Marshall, came before the County Board with a request to purchase ~$7700 of equipment for the new YMCA:  pool table, volleyball posts and net, computers, fire wall equipment.  Purchases were made based on low bid except for the volleyball posts and net which was purchased to be compatible with the ISD166 volleyball equipment.  By purchasing good used equipment, Marshall was able to save approximately $15,000 on these items.  The Board authorized this request 4-1 (Gamble opposed).

Marshall then requested authorization to purchase ~$50,000 of equipment over the next few weeks with the approval of Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers if:  1) the purchase is based on low bid, and 2) the purchase is within the budget approved. Marshall has been acknowledged by each of the five County Commissioners for her good work in maximizing the FFE budget.  Marshall's request was authorized by the Board 4-1 (Gamble opposed).

Cook County Community YMCA
Construction of the YMCA is still on schedule for a December 2013 completion.  Go to the Cook County YMCA website for information about classes being held now, the Y Swim Team, making a donation, preliminary hours and more!

Northeastern Regional Corrections Center (NERCC)
The County Board passed resolutions supporting the NERCC Renovation and Improvement Project.  Cook County's financial responsibility in this $6,000,000 rehabilitation project is $81,600 to be paid in 2014.

NERCC is operated by the Arrowhead Regional Correction Joint Powers with representation from St. Louis, Carlton, Lake, Cook and Koochiching counties.  The facility was built in the 1930's and currently includes a 150 bed minimum security male facility and a 3200 acre farm.  The NERCC facility has significant deferred maintenance, life safety, code issues and loss of functionality.  In addition, Carlton and St. Louis Counties have experienced significant overcrowding at their county jails.  This overcrowding has resulted in county inmates being transported and secured in other jails at considerable cost to counties.

PUBLIC HEARING--D.E.E.D. Small Cities Development Program
EDA Housing Director Nancy Grabko gave an update on the 2012 D.E.E.D. Small Cities Development Program in Cook County.  Grabko reported that 3 of 5 owner occupied rehabilitation projects are complete and 1 of 4 commercial rehabilitation projects is complete.  Grabko also reported that the Cook County/Grand Marais EDA will be making application to the 2014 D.E.E.D Small City Development Program for housing rehabilitation funding, commercial rehabilitation funding, and rental rehabilitation funding.

South Fowl Update
Cook County, in partnership with Arrowhead Coalition for Multiple Use (ACMU), and Conservationists with Common Sense (CWCS) are interveners in the South Fowl Lake snowmobile trail litigation.  As interveners, these parties are working with Attorney David R. Oberstar of Fryberger, Buchanan, Smith & Frederick P.A. to file an answer to the amended Complaint in this case.  County Attorney Molly Hicken, Commissioner Hakes, ACMU and CWCS representatives are planning to meet with Oberstar to discuss their response.

County Administrator Contract
The County Board approved the Employment Agreement with Jay Kieft for the position of Cook County Administrator.  This agreement will be forwarded to Kieft for his signature.   

Senator Tom Bakk and Representative David Dill Visit to County Board
The County Board welcomed Senator Bakk and Representative Dill to Cook County. The Board then took advantage of their presence and discussed several county issues including Association of MN Counties District 1 Legislative Priorities 2014, Human Services Administrative Simplification for eligibility requirements, Centerline Rumble Strips on Highway 61 East, Cook County Airport Funding, Parks & Trails, Gitchee Gami Trail construction, dwindling moose population.  In addition, Commissioner Hakes raised the broader issue of rural Minnesota losing its influence to urban communities, which Bakk and Dill readily acknowledged as a growing problem. Hakes also thanked them both for their YES votes on same-sex marriage. Senator Bakk shared a story that his 80-year old grandmother called him after his same-sex marriage vote and told him she had never been prouder of him; it was quite touching.

Bakk encouraged the County Board to bring issues to him.  Representative Dill asked for more details about streamlining Human Services eligibility requirements which Commissioner Hakes agreed to provide.

Meeting Minutes
A complete copy of the minutes for this meeting will be made available on the Cook County website after they are formally approved.  A copy may also be obtained by calling the Auditor-Treasurer's Office at 218/387-3640.  A video of this meeting in its entirety may be viewed by going to Boreal.TV.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 15, 2013 Human Services Board and Cook County Board of Commissioners

Meeting minutes for the October 15, 2013 Human Services Board and the Cook County Board of Commissioners may be read on-line (after they are approved) by going to the Cook County website.  You may also contact the Auditor-Treasurer's office at 218-387-3646 and request a copy be mailed to you.  And, for a video of this meeting in its entirety, go to http://boreal.tv.

Feel free to contact me directly at 218-387-2111 or susankayhakes@gmail.com with any questions, concerns or ideas impacting our County.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

County Board Meeting September 24, 2013

Please accept my apologies for not posting after the September 24, 2013 County Board meeting.  

County Board Meeting Minutes for this meeting will be made available on the Cook County website after they are approved by the Board.

Alternatively, you may obtain a copy by calling the Auditor-Treasurer's office at 218/387-3646.  A video of this meeting may be viewed in its entirety by going to http://boreal.tv/.

Cook County Board Meeting on October 8, 2013

County Board Chair Janice Hall and Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Sue Hakes and Bruce Martinson were all present for the 10/8/2013 County Board Meeting.  Also present were Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, and Administrative Specialist Bev Wolke.

Public Comment
The Commissioner's Room was filled with residents concerned about MnDOT's recent installation of Center Rumble Strips (CRS) on Highway 61 east of Grand Marais.  Deb Vannett read a letter she and her husband, James Vannett, composed in opposition to the CRS.  It appeared the Vannett letter reflected the views of those in attendance.  Several other residents spoke in opposition as well.  Overall concerns include:  noise pollution, hazardous debris from the CRS causing safety concern, negative impact on wildlife,  and proximity of CRS to homes.  The public comment was very respectful.

Cook County Community YMCA
Emily Marshall, Cook County YMCA Director, came before the Board for approval to purchase a server and switches for the new facility.  The Board approved this purchase based on low bid.

MnDOT District 1 Rumble Strips 
Duane Hill, MnDOT District 1 Engineer, along with Engineer Jim Miller and Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) Coordinator Holly Kostrzewski provided an update on the Center Rumble Strips (CRS) mitigation efforts and answered questions for the Board and for the Public.

Hill acknowledged the concerns of the public and said he had been communicating with several Cook County residents.  He also assured the Board and the public that MnDOT personnel, including Commissioner Charles Zelle, is aware of the problem.  Hill reported that MnDOT will be doing some mitigation work on the CRS before snow falls.  The first step will be a sound analysis to understand and measure the noise impact of the CRS; this will be done in October.  After this, MnDOT will work to find a contractor ready and able to modify the CRS to be less noisy.  This work will not preclude further mitigation from being done next year.

The County Board is advocating for MnDOT to address these issues.

Gitchi Gami Express Sled Dog Race
The Board approved a special event permit application for the Gitchi Gami Express Sled Dog Race to be held on January 4, 2014.  This race will begin at Mineral Center, follow the snowmobile trail system to Hungry Jack Lodge, Poplar Lake, Devil Track Lake and back to Grand Portage/Mineral Center.

Maintenance Director, Brian Silence, and Carin Gulstrand of E.R. Perry, presented samples of new directory signage for the Courthouse.  The Board authorized moving forward with this purchase in the amount of $3349.16.

Emergency Management
The Board authorized purchasing cellular communication enhancement equipment for the Search and Rescue Hall in Grand Marais.  The $918.14 cost for this equipment is in the Emergency Management capital expense budget.

Veteran's Services Grant
The 2013 State Legislature modified the structure of the CVSO grant program and funding increased based on a County's Veteran population.  Cook County will receive an additional $7500; funds must be spent by May 30, 2014.

Public Hearing for MN Small Cities Development
The County Board will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 10:00 am in the County Board Chambers of the Cook County Courthouse.  The purpose of this Public Hearing is to provide information and to receive public input and comments on Cook County's 2012 MN DEED Small City Development Program.

Office of Planning and Zoning
As recommended by the Planning Commission, the Board approved a Conditional Use Permit to the Town of Tofte, MN Tower Holdings and Verizon Wireless to erect a 190-foot, multi-tenant communication facility on property within the Town of Tofte.

As recommended by the Planning Commission, the Board approved a Conditional Use Permit to Mike Borman to construct an accessory structure in excess of 3000 square feet without a primary residence in the FAR-2 zone district.

As recommended by the Planning Commission, the Board approved an Interim Use Permit for Jon and Anne Holy for the continued use of a recreational vehicle for habitation on property adjacent to Kemo Lake.

Law Enforcement, Sheriff Mark Falk
Sheriff Mark Falk informed the Board that a North Division of the Cook County Search and Rescue is being formalized on the Gunflint Trail.  The purpose of this volunteer division of the Cook County Sheriff's Office is to assist the sheriff in fulfilling duties as described in MN Statues 387.03.

As recommended by Sheriff Falk, the Board authorized (4-1 Gamble opposed) the purchase of a portable Multi Energy X-Ray Machine and Walk-through Metal Detector in the amount of $24,500. This X-ray Machine is being sold at a slight discount as it has been used once at the UN General Assembly in NYC September 2013.

Scheef Property Access
The Board appointed a small committee to study the issue regarding access to the John Scheef property.  Commissioners Doo-Kirk and Gamble were assigned. (Note:  Hakes is going to request replacing Gamble on this committee as the access issues are in District 3 and District 4.)  Amy Wilfarht presented a letter to the Board expressing her concerns about development of this property and the access issues.

Council on Aging Audit
The Board and County Attorney Tim Scannell discussed the possible development of a County Policy regarding audit requirements for grant recipients receiving $50,000 or more.

Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes for all County Board meetings are available by going to the Cook County website or by calling the Auditor's Office at 218-387-3646.  A video of this meeting in its entirety is available http://Boreal.TV.