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.