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Commissioner's Minutes - June 10, 2008



Grand Portage, Minnesota

June 10, 2008


The Board met in regular session this 10th day of June, 2008, at the Courthouse in Grand Marais, Minnesota.


The meeting was called to order at 8:30 a.m. with the following members present: Commissioners Hall, Fenwick, Martinson, Johnson, and Sobanja.  Absent:  None.


County Board Chair Martinson led the Commissioners in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  Motion was made by Sobanja, seconded by Hall, and carried to amend the agenda for the meeting as presented.



•A.    MN Transportation Alliance Legislative Update, 5/23/08.  Information


•B.     MN Rural Counties Caucus Update, 5/2/08.  Information.


•C.     Materials for 5/5/08 Cook County Soil & Water Conservation District meeting.                       Information.


•D.    Materials for 5/29/08 Cook County Firewise Communities Committee meeting.                       Information.


•E.     Cook County Interagency Service Committee meeting minutes for 5/14/08.  Information.


•F.      Cook County and Ely Area Lodging Tax reports through 4/08.  Information.


•G.    Materials for 6/9/08 meeting of Cook County Historical Society.  Information.


•H.    Materials for 5/27/08 meeting of Cook County Emergency Preparedness Committee                meeting.  Information.


•I.       Letter from Paul Quinn, 6/3/08, re: Poplar River megaslump.  Information.


•J.       Letter from Barbara and Bill Gabler, 6/3/08, re: Poplar River Management Board's                 proposed subordinate service district.  Information.


•K.    Cook County Board of Commissioner meeting minutes for 4/29/08 and 5/13/08.  Motion        was made by Johnson, seconded by Hall, and carried to approve the County Board minutes     as presented.


•L.     Notice of Confession of Judgment for Delinquent Real Estate Taxes.  Information.


Sue Futterer, Director of Public Health and Human Services, appeared before the Board.  Futterer stated that Cook County must make a recommendation to the MN Dept of Human Services regarding its choice of managed care plans for Cook County.  Futterer outlined the process that was used to review and rank the three proposals that were received.  Following that review.  Futterer reported that First Plan and U Care appeared to best meet Cook County's needs.  Following discussion, motion was made by Commissioner Johnson, seconded by Commissioner Hall, and unanimously carried to recommend First Plan and U Care to the MN Dept. of Human Services as Cook County's choices for managed care plans.


Diane Booth, Cook County Community Center Manager, appeared before the Board with several issues.  Booth presented the Barr Engineering report regarding the cost of the water infrastructure project at the Community Center.  Estimated cost was $70,295.00.  Booth thought that this estimate was low, particularly following the recent flash flood event.  Booth will research the bid in greater detail and report back to a future County Board meeting.


Booth reported that the skateboard park has been completed.  Benches, plantings, and the dog station have also been installed in the area. 


Booth informed the Board that the Lloyd K Johnson Fund may help with grant funds to improve the skating rink and warming house.   No action was needed regarding this issue at the moment.


Booth reported that the social capital report conducted by the MN Extension Service regarding Cook County has been completed.  The final data will be presented at an open community meeting later in the summer.


Booth reported that a local community group is attempting to obtain grant funds to create a community garden, possibly at the Harbor View Apartments site.  The Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation may also assist with this project.


Booth reported that the Gunflint Horse Park property was damaged in the recent flash flood, and will have to be repaired in order to meet MPCA code requirements. 


Danna MacKenzie, Information Systems Director, appeared before the Board.  MacKenzie presented a capital purchase request for a web server, to expand the County's ability to publish property maps on the web site.  Motion was made by Johnson, seconded by Fenwick, and carried to approve purchase of a new web server in the amount of $4,000, with money to come from the Recorder's Office Unallocated Land Records Fund.


MacKenzie reported that a local community group is working to consider whether ultra high-speed broadband infrastructure could be brought to Cook County.  Said "Fiber Optics" would allow individuals and businesses to be connected so that more people could telecommute in Cook County.  Estimated cost for a feasibility study is between $70-80,000. The Blandin Foundation, Arrowhead Electric, Boreal Access, and several other small partners have committed money to the feasibility study.  MacKenzie inquired whether Cook County would be willing to commit $15,000.  If sufficient funds are obtained, a study group would gather to draft a request for proposals for a consultant to conduct the feasibility study.  Following discussion, motion was made by Fenwick, seconded by Johnson, and carried to write a letter of support for the Ultra High Speed Broadband feasibility study, and to commit $15,000 in county funds, with money to come from the IT reserve fund.


Mary Black, County Assessor/Land Commissioner, appeared before the Board.  Black presented two abatements, resulting from properties that were split but the parcel record did not transfer over to the New Year.  Motion was made by Hall, seconded by Sobanja, and carried to approve the application for abatement from Dennis and Rebecca Gearou (parcel ID # 56-203-2125) and Michael and Margaret Plummer-Steen (parcel ID # 56-203-2100).  Black will check all other records to ensure that parcels split in 2006 were carried over/transferred into the 2007 parcel record. 


Black reported that the MN Dept of Natural Resources is considering holding a land sale in October 2008 that could involve three parcels within Cook County.  Said parcels were offered for sale last year but were unsold.  Commissioner Fenwick inquired whether there would be any potential gravel resources on the DNR parcels.  Black will conduct more research and report back to the County Board. 


Black reported that the U.S. Forest Service is soliciting comments regarding its Travel Management Project.  This project will decide the management of unclassified roads in the forest and will determine which roads and trails will be managed for off-highway vehicle use.  The Forest Service has a 30-day public comment period.  Black will post large maps of the U.S. Forest Service proposals in the Court House lobby for public review.


Commissioner Hall moved the adoption of the following resolution and upon seconding by Commissioner Sobanja was adopted by unanimous yea vote of all members present:


                                                           RESOLUTION NO. 2008-51A

BE IT RESOLVED, that the following claims totaling $ 95,271.27 having been audited and found to be true and correct claims against Cook County, are approved and the Auditor-Treasurer is hereby authorized to draw warrants in payment of said claims:

Per Diems to be Paid on June 6, 2008 Payroll

Cook County Commissioners

Hall/Janice                                                   635.00

Johnson/James                                             150.00

Sobanja/Fritz                                               850.00

Per Diems to be Paid on June20, 2008 Payroll

Cook County Commissioners


Martinson/Bruce                                         625.00

Per Diems to be Paid on May 23, 2008 Payroll

Cook County Soil & Water Conservation District

                                              Haertel/Roger                                              164.34

Arrowhead Regional Correction            17,154.75

Bay Glass                                                    288.80

Bucks Radio Shack                                       15.59

Como Oil Co                                            1,838.64

Cook County News-Herald Inc                  130.56

Cook County Star                                       212.75

Dalco                                                           577.96

Falls Memorial Hospital                                14.95

Fourth Meridian Land Surveys              29,822.20

Grand Marais Auto Parts                            213.35

Haarmeyer/Nancy                                       118.12

Hall/Janice                                                   237.99

Hicken/Molly                                                58.58

Hubert Company                                        117.72

Iverson Reuvers LLC                              1,054.00

Johnson/Gloria Hall                                    105.00

Johnson/James                                          1,918.47

Joynes Dept Store                                       121.27

Lab Safety Supply Inc                                160.00

Lake Superior College                             1,000.00

Law Enforcement Systems                           84.12

Liepold/Chantal                                          100.00

Lunde/Leif                                                  153.40

Lutsen Gardens                                           508.56

Martinson/Bruce                                         457.61

Matthew Bender & Co                               834.90

MN Law Review                                          40.00

MN Sheriffs Assn                                         20.00

MN State Law Library                               175.00

Northland Fire & Safety Inc                       113.52

Northwoods Abstract & Title                     470.00

O'Neill's Firewood & Tree Service         7,780.36

Petz/Bennett O                                           440.00

Pomps Tire Service Inc                               519.93

Priority Dispatch                                           78.00

Prop Shop                                                     50.00

Quill Corp                                                1,722.99

Ratwik Roszak & Maloney PA               3,556.35

Recovery Systems Co Inc                        1,715.00

Sawtooth Mountain Clinic                          124.00

Schroeder Wood Products                            74.94

Smith Laundry                                            451.67

Sobanja/Fritz                                               635.84

Stone/Clifford                                             252.00

Streichers                                                 1,780.71

Studio North Graphics                                228.72

Superior Lumber                                           84.66

Superiorhealth Pharmacy                              21.82

Swanson Law Office P C                           231.67

Tire & Auto Lodge                                  1,018.71


        Conference/Trade show                      880.00

        Holiday Inn                                         167.88

        Crown Plaza                                        301.46

        Crown Plaza                                          11.99

        Crown Plaza                                        150.73

        Onstar Subscription                              18.95

        Holiday Inns                                       105.80

        Comfort Suites                                    200.14

        Bailey Nurseries                               1,504.65      

Wallys Service                                            209.54

West Payment Center                              2,596.68

Social Services Fund

Cook County Star                                         72.45

Building Fund

Lipe Brothers Const & Door Inc             9,880.00

Northern Door & Hardware Inc              3,264.23

Soil & Water Conservation Fund

University of Minnesota                             325.00


        MN Bookstore                                      16.99

        Hamline Univer                                     16.95

        U of M Ext Svc                                    25.56

        U of M Ext Svc                                    25.56

Early Payables

Minnesota Revenue ©                                242.49

MN Dept of Public Safety                            72.00

Usable Life                                                   10.45

Violence Prevention Center                          20.00

Wild Onion Dave                                   10,000.00

Select Account-Admin                                   1.83


        Ramada Hotel & Conf                        205.80

        Country Inn & Suites                            78.40

        Superamerica Zumbrota MN                40.00

Roy Aero Service                                     4,300.00

Grand Marais/City of                               9,341.12

Gunflint Trail Assn                                  4,370.63

Lutsen Tofte Schroeder Tourism           18,493.41

Arrowhead Electric Coop                        1,256.20

Centurytel                                                     86.33

F S H Communications LLC                      127.80

Frontier                                                       306.25

Jose Cole Circus                                          580.50

MN Dept of Labor & Industry                     30.00

Nelson/Tim                                                    60.60

North Shore Oil Co                                17,713.18

Office of Enterprise Technology             2,829.62

Penny/Water                                                   6.00

Public Utilities Commission                     6,022.84

Qwest                                                            12.08

Superior Timber Wolves Sports               4,324.09

Verizon Wireless                                         297.61

W D S E TV                                                 20.00

Arrowhead Electric Coop                           273.98

Centurytel                                                     35.46

MN County Engineers Assn                       200.00

MN U C Fund                                         5,787.00

Office of Enterprise Technology                  24.29

Public Utilities Commission                     1,209.60

Arrowhead Electric Coop                        1,815.71

Back Office Services Inc                              60.00

Office of Enterprise Technology                  68.13

Arrowhead Electric Coop                        3,055.56

MN Comm of Finance-Treas Di                 304.00

Black/Mary                                                 305.54

Cook County Court Admin                          55.00

Luick/Aimee D                                           254.25

Petty Cash/Auditor Office                           53.14

Qwest                                                          185.54


        Holiday Inn Otsego MN                     168.28

        U of M Water Resource                      225.00

        U of M Water Resource                      225.00

Qwest                                                          217.47

Petty Cash/Auditor Office                             2.73

Petty Cash/Auditor Office                           16.25

Cook County Abstract & Title                     90.00

Helm Trustees/Joseph -Lorrain                       6.40

Humphrey/Stephanie                                    74.40

Interstate Energy LLC                             1,126.00

Johnson/Linda                                               18.00

Rogers/John-Lois                                     1,832.00

Schmidt/Kasia M                                        111.00

MN Comm of Revenue                              190.09

MN Comm of Revenue                                18.91

E C S U                                                  92,441.00

Falk/Mark                                                      16.50

Healthpartners                                          2,183.00

Larsen Brothers of Grand Marais          75,000.00

M A C A T F O                                            25.00

M A C P Z A                                                60.00

Minnesota Revenue                                    180.78

Qwest                                                          509.80

Usable Life                                                     9.15

Verizon Wireless                                           27.98


        Hampton Inns Duluth MN                 178.56

        Batterystuff.com                                 187.00

        Motorola Inc Online                             71.29

        Motorola Inc Online                           253.20

        Holiday Stationstore                             60.50

Boreal Access                                               34.90

Voided Check                                          1,390.75-

Black/Mary                                                 311.60

Centurytel of Minnesota Inc                         46.16

Cook County Higher Education                 125.00

Frontier                                                       306.25

G M P C S Personal Communication         154.65

Nelson/Tim                                                  113.12

Qwest                                                            12.08

Security State Bank                                      18.40

State Supply Company                            1,390.75

Verizon Wireless                                           27.97

Roy Aero Service                                     4,300.00

Arrowhead Electric Coop                        3,055.56

Ely Area Joint Powers Lodging               3,008.62

Grand Marais/City of                               3,617.95

Gunflint Trail Assn                                  1,094.42

Lutsen Tofte Schroeder Tourism             4,498.14

Silver Bay Area Tourism Assn                 1,312.70

Jose Cole Circus                                          838.00

Petty Cash/Aluminum Redemption            405.80

Petty Cash/Auditor Office                         100.00

 Petty Cash/Sag Landing                            400.00

U S Department of State                         1,005.00

North Shore Oil Co                                61,835.36

Verizon Wireless                                         122.13

Grand Marais State Bank                             75.00

I S D 166                                             119,678.52

Cook County Flex Acct                           6,127.48


Braidy Powers, Auditor-Treasurer, appeared before the Board with several issues.  Powers reported that the North Shore Ski and Run Club has requested an extension on its $12,000 Park & Recreation Grant received in 2005 for the purpose of constructing a waxing building, constructing a timing building, and upgrading the Pin Cushion trail system.  Due to weather and equipment delays, the Club is requesting a 2-year extension in which to spend the funds.  The Club is also requesting that the County allow them to transfer some of the grant funds to allow for more extensive trail repair, needed due the recent flash flood event.  Motion was made by Johnson, seconded by Hall, and carried to approve extension of the North Shore Ski and Run Club Park and Recreation Grant for a 2-year period and approving use of funds to provide for trail repair resulting from the flood. 


Powers and the Board reviewed the grant contract between Cook County and the State of Minnesota for their portion of the Irish Creek survey costs.  Powers recommended extension of the State Grant from June 30, 2008 to March 30, 2009, to coincide with the projected completion date for the Irish Creek survey. Motion was by Hall, seconded by Sobanja, and carried to approve amendment No. 1 to Joint Powers Agreement Contract No. B05058 with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Forestry Division, as presented.


Powers presented a gambling permit request from the Birch Grove Foundation, for a raffle to be conducted as a fundraiser.  The permit request requires Township and County Board approval, so that the raffle could commence without the normal waiting period.  Motion was made by Johnson, seconded by Fenwick, and carried to approve the gambling permit request for a raffle to be conducted by the Birch Grove Foundation, and waiving the normal waiting period.


Tim Nelson, Planning Director/Solid Waste Officer, appeared before the Board to provide an update regarding Hungry Jack Lodge concrete debris disposal.  Nelson reviewed the process whereby the County Board voted to allow Forest Parsons, owner of Hungry Jack Lodge, to place concrete debris from his recent Lodge fire into a local gravel pit, until it could be hauled to a permanent disposal site after the road bans were lifted in May.  Nelson reported that Parsons is now ready to remove and dispose of the material. However, Nelson discovered that the authorized pit is part of the Whispering Pines Subdivision, which includes a dedicated open space in the area of the former gravel pit being considered for concrete stock piling.  Nelson stated that the County Board could still authorize temporary use of the pit, but needs to be reminded of the Whispering Pines Subdivision, and will need a motion or resolution to formally authorize permanent disposal in the open space area.  County Engineer Shae Kosmalski was present for this discussion. Kosmalski reported that all road bans were recently lifted, so that the concrete debris could be hauled out to its permanent location rather than stock piling.  Parsons was present for this discussion, stating his assumption that placing the concrete into the pit was a permanent, cost saving measure, and not a temporary stock piling measure.  Following considerable discussion, Parson stated he will haul the materials out to a permanent location.  Motion was made by Fenwick, seconded by Sobanja, and carried to affirm that the opportunity for temporary stock piling of concrete debris from the Hungry Lodge fire into the Whispering Pine gravel pit is no longer available.


Shae Kosmalski, County Highway Engineer, appeared before the Board.  Kosmalski reported that she completed interviewing for the Engineering Technician vacancy and recommended that Scott Benolken be appointed to the position at the C41 Step 1 salary.  Motion was made by Sobanja, seconded by Johnson, and carried to appoint Benolken as the new Engineering Tech as recommended. 


Kosmalski reported that Maintenance Supervisor Paul VanderHeiden has submitted his resignation.  Kosmalski requested permission to advertise for the vacancy that was created.  Motion was made by Sobanja, seconded by Fenwick, and carried to accept Paul VanderHeiden's resignation and to authorize advertising for the Maintenance Supervisor replacement.


Kosmalski requested permission to advertise for bids for summer maintenance activities in the three special tax districts.  Motion was made by Fenwick, seconded by Johnson, and carried to approve advertising for summer maintenance on the special tax districts as requested.


Kosmalski requested approval for a capital purchase request for a 2008 Sterling LT 9500 tandem truck, which would replace a 1993 truck. Cost was $193,076.09. She noted this capital purchase was included in the 2008 Highway Department budget. Motion was made by Fenwick, seconded by Sobanja, and carried to approve the capital purchase of a new tandem truck as presented.


Kosmalski provided a road update, following the June 6th flash flood event in Cook County.  Kosmalski also reported that MN DOT State Aid Engineer Walter Leu was convening a State Aid Disaster Board to view the damage in Cook County.  If they agreed with the estimated damage, the County could receive some State Aid Disaster Funds.


Kosmalski and the Board discussed whether to reinstate road restrictions on certain roads that are still soft, due the recent flash flood.  Kosmalski reported that spring road bans were never removed from County Roads 14 and 16, but she would like to reimpose them on County Roads 6, 60, 69, 70, 45, and 44.  She still needs to assess roads in the West End.  Exceptions to the road bans would be made for emergencies, including road repairs.  Following discussion, motion was made by Johnson, seconded by Fenwick, and carried to authorize the County Engineer to reimpose road restrictions on the roads as listed, as well as others at her discretion for a period of 2-weeks.  The County Board will reassess the need for continued road bans after that date.  Kosmalski will try to meet with local contractors and truckers, to provide them with information regarding the need for temporary road restrictions.


Tim Scannell, County Attorney, Shae Kosmalski, County Highway Engineer, and Charles Skinner, Lutsen Mountain Corp., appeared before the Board to discuss the CSAH 5 (Ski Hill Road) reconstruction project.  Scannell and the Board reviewed the proposed upper CSAH 5 construction and maintenance agreement as well as the Lutsen Public Works Development Agreement.  Scannell suggested that a subcommittee be formed to work on the two agreements and report back to the County Board.  Following discussion, motion was made by Hall, seconded by Johnson, and carried to set up a subcommittee consisting of County Commissioners Sobanja and Martinson, County Engineer Kosmalski, County Attorney Scannell, Assistant County Attorney Hicken, and a Lutsen Town Board representative to review the agreements and report back to the County Board.  Charles Skinner reported that he or Tom Rider would be available to attend said meetings.  Paul Quinn, local citizen, appeared before the Board to encourage the County Board to have large Corporations live up to any agreements that they make with the County or Townships.


County Attorney Scannell provided a review of the open meeting laws as regards County Commissioner meetings during emergencies.  Scannell reported that MN Statute requires government to occur in a transparent manner in front of the public.  Any quorum of the County Board, other than as specifically noted in Statute, requires public notice, even in an emergency situation. Scannell will provide a copy of the open meeting law regulations for each County Commissioner.   No action was needed.


Diane Pearson, North Shore Hospital Administrator, appeared before the Board, along with Tom Spence and Howard Abrahamson, Hospital Board members.  Pearson reported that the North Shore Hospital is requesting to use excess sales tax funds to help purchase a new ambulance.  Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers was present for this discussion.  Powers reported that the sales tax was approved to provide payment for bonds that were used to fund Hospital construction and improvements. Any excess funds generated once the bonds were paid off would go into the County general fund.  It would then be up to the County Board to decide whether to retain the funds or give them to the Hospital.  Powers estimated that between $300,000 and $400,000 in sales tax will be generated in excess of the final bond payment.  Howard Abrahamson appeared before the Board stating that the tax was created to support the Hospital and so any excess funds should also go to the Hospital.  Tom Spence stated that the County should keep faith with the voters who approved the referendum by giving the excess money to the Hospital.  Following discussion, County Attorney Scannell and Auditor-Treasurer Powers will review the original legislation. Pearson estimated that a new ambulance would cost between $100,000 to $130,000.  Following considerable discussion, motion was made by Fenwick, seconded by Johnson, and carried to authorize use of the 1% sales tax excess funds to purchase a new ambulance, with a maximum $150,000 upper limit. 


Commissioner Martinson reported that the Grand Marais City Council would like to meet with the Cook County Board to discuss issues of mutual concern.  The Commissioners gave several dates on which they could meet with the City Council. 


Commissioners Sobanja and Martinson noted that they attended a Poplar River Management Board public meeting on June 7, 2008 in Lutsen, MN. 


Commissioner Martinson reported that Cook County must develop a policy for collection and use of  developer agreement funds. Developer Dennis Rysdahl has such funds that should be collected but cannot turn them over until the County has created a policy.  Board consensus was to ask County Attorney Scannell and Planning Director Nelson to draft a proposed policy for collection and use of developer agreement funds, for review by the County Board. 


County Attorney Tim Scannell reported that he would attend a meeting regarding the proposed County/School land exchange involving the tennis courts and baseball field.  There is as yet no resolution regarding who would be responsible for the water fountain on site. 


Scannell reported that the Court case involving a Border Patrol Officer accident on the Gunflint Trail has been remanded to Federal Court.  Scannell has asked the Attorney General's Office to assist Cook County in this issue.  If no assistance is available, Scannell may be asking permission to contract with a lawyer to handle this case on behalf of Cook County, as the Federal Court is located in the Twin Cities.


Auditor-Treasurer Powers appeared before the Board to present a capital purchase request on behalf of Cook County Sheriff Mark Falk.  Falk would like to purchase a new Viking Ergonomic workstation, to replace the current dispatch workstation with a more ergonomically correct workstation that can be adjusted by all of the various dispatchers who work there. Cost is $14,495.50 plus installation and prep work.  Powers noted that this was a budgeted 2008 jail item.  Motion was made by Johnson, seconded by Fenwick, and carried to approve purchase of a new workstation for the dispatch area in the Law Enforcement Center as presented.


Powers reported that the County solicited bids for two new Communication Towers, but no acceptable bids were received.  Following discussion, motion was made by Fenwick, seconded by Johnson, and carried to authorize Powers to request bids for new communications towers for a second time, hoping to receive an acceptable bid.


Commissioner Martinson noted that the Tofte Schroeder Sanitary Sewer District created a septic owner manual, which is being published in book form.


The County Board discussed the Poplar River Management Board (PRMB), and whether its proposal to establish a subordinate service district to manage the water shed in that area would provide a clear public service to the residents in the area.  The PRMB also proposes to establish a 501K3 non-profit organization for this project.  Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell offered to ask the Attorney General's Office whether the Poplar River Management Board could legally organize and proceed as proposed. 


There being no further business, motion was made and carried to adjourn.






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