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!