Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Human Services Board and County Board Meetings for March 18, 2014: TEXT4LIFE, PHHS Planning,

Human Services Board Meeting
Human Services Board Chair, Sue Hakes, along with Board members, Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, Jan Hall, Carla LaPointe, and Jerry Lilja were all present for today's meeting.  Bruce Martinson was absent.  Also present were Sue Futterer, Grace Bushard and Andrea DeBoer.

Early Childhood Community Collaboration Program Results
Patty Nordahl came before the HS Board to share the work being done on the Early Childhood Community Collaboration Program.  Nordahl currently serves on the Governor's Early Childhood Task Force.

Nordahl began by sharing the agreed upon values at the State level.  (I will do my best to repeat them accurately.)  The first is, "Supporting our youngest is a public good."  Others include, "With 70% of children under 5 years of age in day care outside of their homes, we need to do child care right."  And, "Child care IS early learning".  Nordahl also explained that most important of all in a child's birth to age 5 development is the formation of healthy relationships; in fact is has an impact on how brains are formed and has lifelong impact.

Just this month, ISD166, Gwen Carmen, Nordahl and others sponsored "Early Childhood Community Conversations".  These conversations were well attended and illuminated many of the Cook County assets, challenges, and needs unique to rural Minnesota communities regarding early childhood learning.  As part of those conversations, a video promoting early childhood and its impact on our future, entitled, "The Raising of America" was shown.

Nordahl's experience, leadership, and passion for her work has been a significant benefit to Cook County--and the State of Minnesota--for many years.  Her work is respected and appreciated.

Director's Report, Sue Futterer
Public Health and Human Services Director, Sue Futterer, gave an overview of the PHHS Department planning and staffing updates.  Futterer and staff are working to do cross training so that more than one PHHS staff can support the multitude of programs on-going.  This work is being done to provide better client services and outcomes, reduce stress on the staff, reduce turnover, and improve job satisfaction.

Futterer reported that Cook County will be piloting the use of ITV on line services for a child support hearing this spring.  She also reported that the TXT4LIFE program that originated in NE Minnesota has received national recognition.  TXT4LIFE is a growing suicide prevention program that originated in Carlton County to address the historically high suicide rates in Carlton County and the Arrowhead Region.

Board Actions
1.  The Board approved a Purchase of Service Agreement between Cook County and Linda Waterhouse for Developmental Disability Case Work Training.
2.  The Board approved hiring a Child Mental Health Case Management Social Worker to fill a recently vacated position.

Committee Reports
The following committee reports were given.  For further detail, feel free to contact the representatives listed.
Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency--Sue Hakes
Arrowhead Health Alliance--Sue Hakes
Arrowhead Regional Corrections--Jan Hall
Community Health Board--Jan Hall
Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee--Carla LaPointe or Jerry Lilja
Health Care Planning Committee--Bruce Martinson
North Shore Collaborative--Sue Hakes

Cook County Board of Commissioners Meeting
County Board Chair, Jan Hall, and Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk, Garry Gamble, and Sue Hakes were all present for today's Board Meeting.  Commissioner Bruce Martinson and County Administrator Jay Kieft were absent.  Also present were Assistant County Attorney Molly Hicken, County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, and Administrative Support Bev Wolke.

Public Comment Period
Several members of the Public came before the County Board to express their strong support for constructing a sidewalk along County Road 7 from the intersection with the Gunflint Trail, past the Clinic/Hospital, Care Center, Sawtooth Ridges, and Birchwood Apartments.  Persons who spoke included:  Jay Arrowsmith-DeCoux, Peter James, Gwen Carmen, Danny Garcia, Jennifer Schulz, Kristine Bottorff, Deb Benedict, Kristin DeArruda Wharton, others.  Several letters of support were also received including one from the Sawtooth Clinic Board, Birchwood Apartment residents, Sawtooth Ridges residents, others.

Highway Department
The Board approved the Ulland Brothers low bid of $1,930,420 for the CSAH 12 Rehabilitation Project as recommended by Highway Engineer David Betts.

The Board approved the Northland Constructors low bid of $114,552.70 for the CSAH 7 Sidewalk Project.  This bid was significantly higher than the Engineer's Estimate of $77,600; Highway Engineer David Betts recommended rejecting all bids and cancelling the project.  The Board voted 3-1 (Gamble opposed) in favor of the project.  Board Chair Jan Hall and Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk and Sue Hakes argued in favor of the project which was identified in 2010 as a priority sidewalk by the Safe Routes To School committee. (Note this is the project that so many residents supported during the Public Comment Period.)

Law Enforcement
The Board approved using 9-1-1 funds to purchase (2) dispatch chairs and upgrade personal computers at (3) CAD stations for $3063 and $3403 respectively as requested/recommended by Sheriff Mark Falk.

County Road Vacation, Assistant County Attorney Molly Hicken
At the request and recommendation of Molly Hicken and Highway Engineer, the County Board set a Public Hearing on Road Vacation for CR62, 62E, 62W, 62N, and 62S.  The Public Hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 10:00 am in the Commissioner's Room.

EDA Bonding for Superior National
Bond Attorney for the County, Bob Toftey, came before the County Board to answer questions about possible bonding options for Superior National Golf Course.  Scott Harrison was also available to answer questions on behalf of the EDA and the Superior National Golf project.

(This is complicated stuff, but here is how I understand it:)

As part of the $6.1 million golf course improvement project, the EDA originally  intended to issue revenue bonds for ~$2.3M.  Of 13 traders and banks solicited to sell these revenue bonds, only (2) responses were received.  Both of the financial institutions bidding are proposing best efforts to market the new issue, but will not underwrite the full amount, in large part due to the high risk of the project.  In addition, the proposed interest rates of 6.24% and 5.5% were higher than the estimates.

An alternative to the EDA issuing revenue bonds is a G.O. Tax Abatement Bond issued by the County.  The advantage of this is over $1M reduction in interest costs.  The disadvantage to this is that the bonds would be secured by the full faith and credit of the county taxpayers.  In other words, if Superior National is unable to make the bond payment using revenue from the golf course, the County would be responsible for the payment.

Commissioner Hakes asked the EDA to consider the following:  1) What would the Superior National project look like if it was reduced from $6M to $4M?  and, 2)  What "collateral" is available to pledge to remove the risk from tax payers?

Moody's Investors Service Credit Rating for Cook County
Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers was pleased to report an improvement to Cook County's rating to Aa3 from A1.  The rationale provided for this included:
-  History of conservative budgeting that has led to presence of healthy reserves in all operating funds.
-  High levels of property wealth as exhibited in very strong full value per capita
-  Strong and conservative management team
Moody's also noted challenges faced in Cook County:
-  Below average income indices
-  Older population with reliance on economically sensitive tourism industry.

Veteran's Services
Commissioner Hakes, Cook County Veteran's Services Officer (VSO) Pat Strand, and Grand Portage VSO Clarence Everson will be attending a meeting in Carlton County on April 7 regarding Veteran's access to medical facilities in Minneapolis.  Hakes, Strand and Everson are encouraged by the State Veteran Affairs interest and committment to solving this problem.

Meeting Minutes
A copy of the meeting minutes will be made available on the Cook County website after they are approved by the County Board.  Alternatively, a hard copy of these minutes will be made available upon request by calling the County Administrator's Office at 218/387-3602 and requesting it.  A video of this meeting in its entirety can be viewed at Boreal.TV.