Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 28 County Board Meeting: Bill Bally's Blacksmith Shop, Zip Line Project, Biomass Project Q&A, YMCA Budget

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

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

Centerline of County Road No. 97
Molly Hicken, supported by Highway Engineer David Betts, requested County Board consent to the Pouliot and Bazzett Trust Joint Petition for Examiner's Directive. With a 33 foot easement reserved on the Pouliot and Bazzett Trust properties for the County, the County Board approved the request.

Move MN Project
The Board approved a resolution (4-1 Hall opposed) supporting the Move MN Campaign, a state-wide comprehensive transportation funding package to address Minnesota's $50 billion transportation deficit.

AEOA Lease Agreement for 2014
At the request of Diane Booth, Community Center/Extension Director, the Board approved the AEOA Lease Agreement for 2014.  AEOA has leased space in the Community Center since April 2013; their office is currently open 4 days a week.

Gypsy Moth Public Hearing
The MN Department of Agriculture asked the County to reschedule the Gypsy Moth Public Hearing to February 25, 2014 at 10 a.m. in the Commissioner's Room.  This request was approved.  The State will publish notice of the hearing.

John Peterson, Financial Coordinator
With regret, the County Board accepted the resignation of Financial Coordinator, John Peterson.  After 11 years of County service, Peterson will retire as of April 4, 2014.  He will be missed.  The Board also approved the hiring process to fill the position vacated by Peterson.

Budget Review
The Board accepted the Fourth Quarter 2013 budget review for the General Fund as presented by Braidy Powers.  Powers noted that revenues exceeded expenses by $168,997 for 2013.  This amount is subject to year end audit adjustments.  It is anticipated that ~$168,997 will be added to the general fund.

Bally Blacksmith Shop
Cook County Historical Society (CCHS) Director, Carrie McHugh, reported that the Historical Society has received two grants and many donations for the Bally Blacksmith Shop project.  The first is a Legacy Grant from the MN Historical Society to hire staff to sort and catalog the contents of property.  The second is a $20,000 IRRRB grant to do stabilization work on the 1911 original Bally Blacksmith building.  The CCHS will match this grant with donations funds.

Board and Committee Assignments
-  Stan Tull was appointed to the Water Planning Committee as recommended by Water Plan Coordinator, Ilena Berg
-  Commissioner Doo-Kirk was appointed as the primary Board liaison to the Moving Matters Committee.  Commissioner Gamble was appointed alternate.

At the request of the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority, the County approved the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Authority (AEOA) to administer the DEED Small Cities Grant should Cook County be successful in receiving it.

The Board authorized Paul Harvey, Chair of the Cook County Broadband Commission, to attend the Blandin Conference "Border to Border: A Call to Action" on February 4-5 in St. Paul.  The County will reimburse fees and travel expenses at the County per diem level.  The Broadband Commission is working to fill some of the gap left by Danna MacKenzie when she accepted a job as Executive Director of the Governor's newly created State Office of Broadband Development.  The County is currently interviewing to replace MacKenzie as IT Director for the County.

On behalf of the County Board, Jay Kieft will ask Rowan Watkins to attend the Grand Marais Planning Commission public hearing regarding the County's request for a variance to erect a 130' tall communication tower at the Law Enforcement Center.

The County Board approved a motion requesting the MN Legislature appropriate $1.7 million in the bonding bill during the coming legislative session for the construction of the Gitch-Gami Trail from the Cutface wayside rest to Grand Marais.

Commissioner Hakes reported that the Cook County Community YMCA has over 1000 individual members and will be providing 5 full-time positions with benefits (plus several part-time positions).  January revenues have exceeded the projections, but expenses are not tallied yet.  Hakes said the YMCA Board is very optimistic about the financial projections, but cautioned against making early projections.  Hakes also reported that the the building is functioning extremely well, and that the County and YMCA continue working to resolve a few building issues that remain, including locker room floor drainage and the sauna controls.

Superior Zip Line Revolving Loan
Assistant County Attorney Molly Hicken notified Matt Geretschlaeger and his attorney, Baiers Heeren, that Mr. Geretschlaeger did not meet the requirements necessary for the County to authorize a draw down of the $250,000 loan that was approved by the County Board (4-1 Hakes opposed) on July 23, 2013. As a result, the Cook County Revolving Loan granted to Geretschlaeger for his Superior Zipline project is voided.

Biomass Project Q&A
Mark Spurr, FVB Energy, supported by George Wilkes and Paul Nelson of Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP) answered County Board questions and discussed the Biomass Project for approximately 90 minutes.  The Biomass project has been supported in part with One Percent Local Sales Tax funds.  The Grand Marais PUC is exploring the possibility of owning and operating a Biomass Facility in Grand Marais.

Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes for the January 28 and the January 21, 2014 County Board Meetings will be made available on the Cook County website after they are approved.  A copy may also be obtained by contacting the County Administrator's Office at 387-3602.  A video of these meetings in their entirety may be viewed at Boreal.TV.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January 14 County Board Meeting: One Water Shed One Plan Proposal, EDA Loan Repayment Plan and Budget, OPZ Permits

Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Sue Hakes and Bruce Martinson were all present for today's Board Meeting.  Also present were County Administrator Jay Kieft, Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, and acting County Attorney Molly Hicken.

Public Comment Period
No member of the public opted to address the County Board.

One Watershed One Plan Proposal, Water Plan Coordinator Ilena Berg
Ilena Berg and Dan Schutte (Conservation Outreach Coordinator for Lake County Soil & Water Conservation District), with support from Jim Hall and Joan Farnum of the Cook County Soil & Water Conservation District, came before the Board to present information on One Watershed, One Plan and how Lake and Cook County are working together.  One Watershed, One Plan is a vision to build local water plan strategies around Minnesota's major watersheds.  The Board passed a motion of support for One Watershed, One Plan and the collaboration between Lake and Cook Counties.

The County Board approved Neil Hansen and Chuck Futterer to the Water Plan Committee as recommended by Ilena Berg.

Community Center/Extension, Director Diane Booth
The County Board appointed Bill Parish and Bryan Carpenter to the Community Center Board of Trustees as recommended by Diane Booth.

The County Board appointed Debbie Benedict and Bill Huggins to the U of M Extension Committee as recommended by Diane Booth.

As requested by Booth, the Board authorized carry over of ~$2000 from 2013 to 2014 to fund the Back Pack Program.

Personnel Committee Recommendations
Jay Kieft reported that the Personnel Committee reviewed the principles and purpose of the Decision-Band Method of job classification and will be doing some training to maximize and test the potential of this method.  Kieft also reported on the Personnel Committee recommendations for job classifications on (2) new job descriptions in PHHS, and (1) job reclassification due to significant changes and increased responsibilities in a PHHS Case Aide position.  The Board approved all.

2014 Unorganized Fire Levies
The Board approved 2014 fire levies for Colvill, Grand Marais Extension, Gunflint Trail, Hovland, Lutsen Extension and Maple Hill.  Fire Levies will be approved annually.

Economic Development Authority (EDA) Loan Repayment Plan, Scott Harrison
Scott Harrison, EDA Board Member, presented the EDA Budget and Loan Repayment Plan to the County Board.

Harrison reported that the EDA has taken aggressive measures to address cash flow, debt and budget issues.  Such measures include laying off the Superior National Golf Course manager, laying off (2) SN employees, cuts to capital expenditures and not renewing the Community Funding Solutions (CFS) contract for housing administration.  In spite of these cost cutting measures, Harrison reported that the EDA will not be able to repay the County Loan of $175,000 for at least 2 years, possibly longer.

Harrison also reported on the $6,050,000 Superior National (SN) Golf Course Renovation project, approximately half of which will be funded through the One Percent Local Option Sales Tax.  The balance of this project will be paid through IRRRB funding and the sale of revenue bonds.  Commissioner Hakes expressed concern that not enough funding has been set aside for change orders, pricing index and contingency funding;  Harrison agreed.

Harrison gave the Board an update on its hiring of a Small Business Development Consultant and presented the job description that was advertised.  Commissioner Hakes expressed concern that the job description went far beyond the position that was actually to be filled.  Commissioner Doo-Kirk said that each applicant would be contacted to explain the change from hiring an EDA Director to a Small Business Development Consultant.

Office of Planning and Zoning, Administrator Bill Lane
The Board approved 3-2 (Hakes and Martinson opposed) a Conditional Use Permit to establish a hostel/bunkhouse in the FAR-3 zone district on property adjacent to County Road 14.  Hakes and Martinson had concerns about the hostel/bunkhouse conforming to State Lodging requirements, State Fire Code, lack of information about occupancy, and no plan for water, showers, and septic system.

The Board approved an Interim Use Permit to allow the continued use of a mobile home in the FAR-1 zone district on property adjacent to the Sugarloaf Road in Schroeder Township.

The Board approved (11) permits for gravel mining.  The Snow Creek/Waverly Pit (KGM Contractors, Inc.) permit will be renewed pending restorative measures for moving stockpiles and active vegetation restoration.  A permit for the Stan Bautch Gravel Mine is subject to a Planning Commission site review.

HOME Consortium
Because the EDA did not renew its contract with Nancy Grabko of Community Funding Solutions the Board voted to replace Grabko as one of its two representatives on the HOME Consortium. The County Board will make a new appointment.

Donation Received
The Board voted to accept a $2500 donation from the Mid-Gunflint Trail Association for a traffic sign on the Gunflint Trail.  This donation is greatly appreciated.

Association of Minnesota Counties District One Meeting
Cook County is hosting the AMC District Meeting on June 13-14.  Sue Hakes and Jay Kieft were assigned to propose to the Board some agenda options for this meeting.

One Percent Updates
Commissioner Hakes reported that the YMCA memberships are approaching 900 and Y programming is in full swing.  The building is performing well, and the few problems so far are being addressed.  In particular, Hakes reported that the water problem in the locker rooms is being addressed by ORB and JLG Architects.  She also said additional lockers are being moved from the City Pool to the Y to accommodate the significantly higher than anticipated membership.  Hakes represents the County Board on the Cook County Community YMCA Board.

The County Board also passed a motion to dissolve the Community Center Steering Committee recognizing their hard work and significant accomplishments.

Non-Mandated Levy Requests
The Board appointed Commissioners Gamble and Martinson to a committee to study requiring audits for non-mandated levies over $50,000.  There was also discussion about asking non-profits and other organizations receiving non-mandated funding to provide the Board with cuts they would have to make should there be a 5% reduction in funding.  Commissioner Hakes opposed this request stating that the non-profits receiving levy funds are a critical component to Cook County's economic development, health and wellness, education, arts, the environment and our quality of life.  She described these organizations as "providing the bloom on the flower".

Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes will be made available by contacting the County Administrator's Office at 218/387-3602 or by going to the Cook County website.  A video of this meeting in its entirety is available on Boreal.TV.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 County Board Organizational Meeting

Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Sue Hakes and Bruce Martinson were all present for the Board's Annual Organizational Meeting on Tuesday, January 7.  Also present were County Administrator Jay Kieft, County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, and Acting County Attorney Molly Hicken.

Election of 2014 Board Chair and Vice Chair
Commissioners Jan Hall and Bruce Martinson were re-elected to the Chair and Vice-Chair positions respectively.

Public Comment
No member of the Public came before the County Board.

The Board approved travel and mileage reimbursements, designated the Agricultural Inspector, set 2014 Board Meeting dates and added Commissioner Hall to the WTIP interview schedule for the year.  In addition, the Board formally approved the 2014 levy and non-county levy resolutions as well as the legal newspaper resolution.

Citizen Appointments
The County Board made citizen appointments as follows:

Library Board:  Audry Stattelman
Economic Development Authority (EDA) Board:  Howard Hedstrom
Revolving Loan Fund:  Pat Campanaro, Bruce Kerfoot, Scott Harrison (pending EDA approval)
Water Plan:  Neil Hansen, Chuck Futterer
Planning Commission:  Stanley Tull, David Seaton
Board of Adjustment:  Jerry Hiniker, Stanley Tull

THANK YOU to all volunteer citizens!  You are making a difference!!

Commissioner Appointments to Boards, Committees, Commissions
The County Board negotiated and agreed on Commissioner appointments to the various boards, committees and commissions.  In general, most assignments remained intact. Once the list is finalized and retyped, it will be posted on this blog.

-  The Board formally approved the Commissioner Per Diem & Expense Policy that was approved in June 2013.
-  Commissioner Hakes reported to the Board the success of the YMCA Grand Opening noting that memberships exceeded 400 units and 800 individual members.  Doo-Kirk, Martinson and Hakes all participated in the YMCA Grand Opening.
-  The County Board will participate in a Board Retreat to discuss how best to organize and move forward in 2014.  County Administrator Kieft will lead this effort.
-  The Board authorized moving forward with customer service training for all employees.

Meeting Minutes
A complete copy of meeting minutes may be obtained by calling the County Administrator's Office at 218/387-3602 or by going to the Cook County Website.  A video of this meeting may be viewed at Boreal.TV.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Come One, Come All! The Cook County Community YMCA is OPEN; everyone is welcome!

The Cook County Community YMCA opened its doors on January 3, 2014 with
 a celebration open to the more than 800 people who became charter members.
The Cook County Community YMCA celebrated its Grand Opening with a Charter Member Celebration on Friday, Saturday morning Senior Social, and Ribbon Cutting on Saturday afternoon.  The facility was packed with kids, families, adults and seniors--all discovering and enjoying the facility for the first time. Duluth YMCA Staff was on hand to join the celebration and ensure the event was a success, and it was!

Members of the Cook County High School Band played "YMCA"
to celebrate the ribbon cutting ceremony in the new gymnasium!

Representatives from Y-USA, Duluth YMCA, Cook County
Community YMCA, ISD166, the City of Grand Marais and
 Cook County all shared in the ribbon cutting for the new facility.

With a big smile on his face, Chris Francis, Duluth YMCA CEO, reported that after being open just one day, the Cook County Community YMCA sold over 400 Membership Units which translates into 822 individual memberships, shattering the conservative estimates Francis built the business plan around.  "I anticipated selling 400 Membership Units by the end of Year One; I'm more than thrilled that we surpassed that original goal on the day we opened the doors!", said Francis.

Major amenities at the Cook County Community YMCA include a new 4-lane swimming pool with additional zero depth entry area for easy access and play, a fully renovated gymnasium, separate weight lifting and cardio rooms, exercise studio, men and women's locker rooms, family lockers rooms, teen room, child watch, party room, and lounge area with wireless internet access area.  The entire facility is accessible.

A spirited game of pick up basketball was enjoyed by adults,
high school athletes, boys and girls on the lakeside half court
in the newly renovated gymnasium of the YMCA.

Parents and tots played in the zero depth entry of the new
aquatic center while others swam laps, tried log rolling, played
water basketball or relaxed in the large hot tub.  The water slide
is nearly complete and should be ready for use this week.

The weight lifting room is on the main floor of the new YMCA;
the cardio and exercise rooms are located on the upper levels
of the facility and accessible by stairs or a lift.

I had the pleasure of spending the entire weekend at the Y.  Here are some of the remarks I overheard:

-  "That teen center is sweet!"
-  "The pool is so awesome!  And the jets in the hot tub are strong!"
-  "I didn't realize how many classes are included with the membership!"
-  "My kids are having a blast in the child watch, and I am free to work out".
-  "Wow, the new machines are really good".
-  "It's so wonderful to be in this beautiful space, especially on such a cold day".
-  "It feels like we have a whole new community!"
-  "In just two days, we've already gotten our membership fees worth!"
-  "My son couldn't sleep last night; he was so excited to get here".
-  "I can't wait until my grandkids can see this place".
-  "I'm going to LIVE here!"
-  "Everyone is so happy!  Everybody in this place is smiling!"

For more information about the Cook County Community YMCA
 go to http://www.cookcountyymca.org/.