Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year In Review

2013 was a productive, interesting and sometimes sad year for Cook County.  In the end, we have much to be grateful for!  Below is a quick recap of some of the major events of the past year!

-  Jan Hall was elected Board Chair.  New Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk and Garry Gamble were sworn in.  Sue Hakes was re-elected as Cook County Human Services Board Chair.

-  Our beloved Jim Johnson died on January 21.  As a past County Commissioner, Jim was an impactful community leader and friend to many.  He made Cook County a better place for all of us.

-  The Cook County Historical Society and the County Board worked together and received a grant to purchase the historically important Bally's Blacksmith Shop.

-  Pat Strand was hired as the Cook County Veteran's Service Officer.  Welcome Pat!  A heartfelt thank you also goes to Clarence "Clinker" Everson for his passion in serving Cook County vets.  Clinker will continue to serve veterans in Grand Portage.

-  Under the lead of Carlton County, Cook County PHHS collaborated with northeastern MN counties to provide the youth suicide prevention service TXT4LIFE.  TXT4LIFE was implemented throughout northeastern Minnesota; training was provided to students at ISD166.

-  After nearly a quarter century in public service, Janet Simonen resigned as the Personnel Director/County Board Secretary.  Janet's vacation of her role as defacto County Facilitator, led the Board to its decision to hire a County Administrator.

-  Emily Marshall was named Executive Director of the Cook County Community YMCA.  Emily became an integral part of the facility planning process.  Emily's enthusiasm led to successful programming, memberships and fundraising before the facility opened.

-  The County implemented the statewide ARMER radio system.  The ARMER backbone was paid for by the State.  The cost of ARMER radios and consoles was paid for by grant funding and bonding.

-  The County Board installed security equipment throughout the Courthouse including cameras, alarms, x-ray equipment.  New safety protocols were also established and practiced.

-  The GO COOK COUNTY team was successful in evaluating Cook County's economy, engaging the Public in meaningful discussion, and creating a strategic plan to improve life in Cook County.

-  The County Board issued a press release on October 31.

-  Members of the public were successful in getting the attention of the MN Department of Transportation regarding the negative consequences of the rumble strips installed on Highway 61.  As a result, MN Dot has taken action to remediate a portion of the noisy centerline rumble strips, but not all.  This issue remains.

-  Broadband service has been delivered to the Cook County Courthouse, ISD166 and the Hospital/Clinic.  Arrowhead Electric is worked hard throughout all of 2013 to bring service throughout the County in 2014.

-  The County is listening to the public regarding its Subsurface Septic Treatment System ordinance.  The County Board, Planning and Zoning Department, Planning Commission, MPCA and the public are collaborating to find SSTS solutions that are affordable and protect the environment.

-  Cook County IT Director, Danna MacKenzie, was appointed to Governor Dayton's newly created Office of Broadband Development.  Danna will be missed in Cook County, but it's always good to have a friend in the Governor's Office.

-  The County voted to support the Economic Development Authority's work with the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Authority (AEOA) to bring affordable rental housing to Grand Marais.

-  The County hired and welcomed Jay Kieft as its County Administrator.  Welcome Jay!

-  The County Board set the 2014 tax levy at 0 percent increase.

-  The newly built Cook County Community Center YMCA is scheduled to open January 3-4, 2014.  This facility is the result of a unique and amazing partnership between the public, Cook County, City of Grand Marais, ISD166 and the Duluth YMCA.  To date, memberships have exceeded expectations.

Happy New Year to all!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Human Services and County Board Meetings: PHHS Staffing, Moving Matters, 0% Levy Increase and Welcome County Administrator Jay Kieft!

Human Services Board Meeting
Human Services Board Chair, Sue Hakes, along with Board Members Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Jan Hall, Carla LaPointe, Jerry Lilja, and Bruce Martinson were all present for today's meeting.  Also present were County Administrator Jay Kieft, PHHS Director Sue Futterer, Fiscal Supervisor Jan Parish, Social Worker Supervisor Grace Bushard, Social Worker Jennifer Rue and Alison McIntyre Case Aid/Office Support.

Inpatient Treatment - Jennifer Rue, Social Worker
Jennifer Rue came before the Human Services Board to talk about her work in Inpatient Chemical Dependency Case Management.  The target population for this program is youth and adults struggling with chemical health requiring inpatient treatment.  Referrals for this program generally come from Probation or self-referrals. 

Rue noted that her caseload for this program has been increasing greatly.  At the beginning of 2013, one or two clients received in-patient treatment.  In November and December of this year, that number has increased to one or two per week.

Rue also shared the state-level initiative for treatment centers to focus on the dual diagnosis approach to chemical dependency treatment because so many people dealing with chemical dependency also deal with other physical, spiritual or mental health issues.  It is most effective to treat chemical dependency and other health issues at the same time as they are so interconnected.

Rue's work and the services she provides are clearly making a positive difference in the lives of individuals and families struggling with chemical dependency issues.   

November Financial Report - Jan Parish, Fiscal Supervisor
Jan Parish provide the November Financial Report, noting that the PHHS cash balance has grown to a healthier amount of $705,000.  Parish also provided information regarding the Consolidated Chemical Dependency Treatment fund used to cover inpatient chemical treatment costs for people without health insurance to cover these costs.

Parish provided the Board with a MN Department of Human Services quality assurance review on the Cook County Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Cook County's performance is fairly consistent with statewide performance.

Director's Report - Sue Futterer, Director
Sue Futterer gave the Board a Staffing Update and recommendations for filling open positions and the Board approved the following actions:
-  Alison McIntyre advanced from Office Support/Case Aid to Eligibility Specialist at 37.5 hours/week effective 12/30/13.  
- Talbrey Benson-Goupil was hired to fill the Office Support/Case Aid position at 37.5 hours/week.
-  An In Home Support Coordinator and MN Choices Certified Assessor position at 20 hours/week was authorized.

Futterer reported on the Wilderness Outpatient Treatment Program progress toward moving to Electronic Health Records as required by the State to be in place on/before 1/1/2015.  Futterer explained that this is an expensive and an important decision, so much thought and study are going into the decision.

Futterer also reported that a Statement of Work for Child Support EDMS has been created and the Region 3 Redesign collaborative effort is moving forward.

Other Items for Board Action 
-  The 2014 MN Department of Health Assurance and Agreements for the Local Public Health Act Title V, MCH Block Grant and TANF Family Home Visiting was approved.
- The Board approved an agreement between Cook and Carlton Counties for the provision of Child Support Services for Cook County.  Under this agreement, Carlton PHHS will provide child support officers, enforcement aids, and child support programmatic supervision to Cook County for the 13 month period of 12/1/13 through 12/31/14.  
-  The Board authorized a contract for services between Cook County and Financial Worker Mark Wittrock, for Income Maintenance Services from January 29, 2014 through April 30, 2014.
-  The Board accepted donations in the amount of $8500 to PHHS.  These gifts were given by area churches, individuals and one organization.  These funds may be used at the discretion of PHHS to meet client needs when no other funding is available.
-  The Board authorized the appointment of Cecelia Bloomquist to replace Matt Webb on the PHHS Advisory Committee.

Committee Reports  
Garry Gamble reported that Arrowhead Regional Corrections continues to move forward with a 2-year remodel of NERC that is slated to be finished by 12/31/2015.

Jan Hall reported on the Community Health Board noting that the CHB is looking for an interim director to replace Julie Myrhe as the Director.

Bruce Martinson reported that Cook County Community YMCA Director, Emily Marshall, was present at the Health Care Planning Committee meeting last week to discuss the YMCA and ways to collaborate.

Jerry Lilja provided a briefing paper entitled "The State of Early Learning in Minnesota" from the Early Learning Council.  Patty Nordahl of Cook County's PHHS Advisory Committee, serves on the Governor's Early Learning Council.  

County Board Meeting
It was a pleasure to welcome County Administrator Jay Kieft to the Board Meeting today!

County Board Chair Jan 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 County Auditor Jay Kieft, Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, Assistant County Attorney Molly Hicken, and Administrative Support Bev Wolke.  

Public Comment
Cook County News Herald reporter, Jane Howard, announced she has accepted a position with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe as a psychologist and is moving to Onamia.  The Board wished Howard well in her new venture.

USFS Land Exchange
The Board authorized an extension of the collection agreement between the USFS and Cook County for the current land exchange.  The purpose of this modification, as presented by Assessor/Land Commissioner Betty Schultz, is to extend the expiration date of the agreement to December 31, 2014 to allow additional time for completion of the appraisal of lands in the exchange.

Highway Department  
The Board approved (3) requests as presented by Highway Engineer David Betts:
-  With the assistance of Congressman Chip Cravaack, Cook County was able to obtain a release of the reversionary clause that had prohibited the purchase of land needed for construction on CSAH 8.  The County Board finalized this by approving the dedication of this easement and the $163,100 payment to the Cook County Airport.
-  Final inspection of the CSAH 8 Reconstruction Phase 2 has been performed and the work satisfactorily completed.  The Board accepted the project and authorized final payment in the amount of $62,764.88 to Ulland Brothers.
-  The 2014 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is scheduled for January 26-29.  The Board approved the permit application for this event.

Crime Victim/Witness Coordinator  
The Cook County Attorney's office has been functioning without the benefit of a Crime Victim/Witness Coordinator since approximately October 16 when Jeanne Smith began fulfilling the duties of Assistant Cook County Attorney due to County Attorney Tim Scannell's medical leave.  At the request of Molly Hicken, the Board approved filling a temporary, part-time position of Crime Victim/Witness Coordinator at 20 hours a week for the duration of Scannell's medical leave.  This position is paid entirely by a state grant at a wage of $13.774.

Emergency Management, Jim Wiinanen
At the request of  Emergency Manager, Jim Wiinanen, the Board approved the posting for a Firewise Coordinator to be hired from February 1 to December 21, 2014. SRS Title III and the CCWPP Twin Lake Grant will provide the funding for this position.

The Board also approved applying for a Community-specific Integrated Emergency Management Course to be conducted locally in FY2015 with instructional staff from the Emergency Management Institute at the National Emergency Training Center in Maryland. This training would be held in Grand Portage and include multiple jurisdictions including Grand Portage, Cook County, Neebing and Thunder Bay.  If successful, funding for this training will be allocated in 2014 from department training budgets.

The Board approved a motion to apply for a grant from the T.R.A.I.L.S. program of the Polaris Foundation to purchase emergency locator signs on the recreational trails in Cook County. 

Moving Matters 
Kristin DeArruda-Wharton came before the Board to explain the relationships between the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic wellness programs including Moving Matters, State Health Improvement Program (SHIP), Community Transformation Grant, Safe Routes to School and the Active Living Steering Committee.  DeArruda-Wharton shared that Moving Matters is a home-grown, county-wide project of the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and many local partners working to create safe and accessible walking and biking routes for people of all ages and abilities.  Funding for Moving Matters is from a BCBS grant for planning which will include public involvement and facilitation from ARDC.

Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers
Powers reported that the Secure Rural Schools Act was reauthorized for one more year.  The County approved Power's recommendation for allocating the funds with 85% to be divided equally for public schools and public roads.  Seven percent will be set aside for Title III County projects.

The Board approved making no change to Board per diems and salary.  The Board voted to increase the Commissioner's contribution to health insurance from $15 to $25/month (4-1 Hall opposed).

The Board approved a deadline of December 20, 2013 at 2 pm as the deadline for qualified newspapers to submit proof of qualifications and 2014 rates for publishing legal notices.

2014 Budget and Levy
The Board approved the 2014 Budget and set a tax levy of $6,104,890 which is a 0% increase.

Law Enforcement, Judy Sivertson
The Board authorized the purchase of wireless headsets at a cost of $1515 as presented by Judy Sivertson.  These headsets will enable dispatchers to dispatch while away from the desk conducting inmate cell checks, lobby business, and typing.  These headsets will be paid for from the 9-1-1- fund.

ARMER Radios, Rowan Watkins
Rowan Watkins and Danna MacKenzie of the County's IT Department, came before the Board with a request to purchase 70 ARMER mobile radios and 17 base stations.  All but 11 radios and 3 base stations will be funded by a grant.

Economic Development Authority
When asked for an update, Commissioner Doo-Kirk reported that the EDA has laid off 3 of 4 employees at Superior National Golf Course.  In addition, the EDA opted not to renew its contract with Community Funding Solutions (CFS).  These measures have been taken to address EDA budget issues.

Cook County Community YMCA
Wade Cole, ORB Management, gave the Board a construction and budget update for the YMCA project.  The Board authorized up to $16,000 to improve the lobby floor (3-2 Gamble and Hall opposed), $3200 for sun blocker 3M film for the pool windows (4-1 Gamble opposed), and $2250 for gym door mullions and door closers (4-1 Gamble opposed).  In addition, the Board authorized adding $10,000 to the contingency fund (4-1 Gamble opposed).

Everybody is invited to the YMCA's Grand Opening on Saturday, January 4!  Hope to see you there!  On Friday, January 3, there will be a celebration event for Charter Members! Check the Cook County Community YMCA website for membership information!  Join before the Grand Opening and become a Charter Member!

The Board assigned Commissioner Doo-Kirk to the County Safety Committee.  The Safety Committee is different from the Courthouse Security Committee, but the two collaborate on shared goals.

The Board approved Dyan Ebert to pursue reimbursement from the Minnesota Attorney General for prosecution services provide by Thomas Heffelfinger in the Tim Scannell case.

A public hearing on the MN Gypsy Moth program will be scheduled in January.  

Meeting Minutes
A copy of these meeting minutes will be posted after they are approved on the Cook County website.  A written copy may be obtained by contact the Auditor-Treasurer's Office at 387-3640.