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County says no to cost overrun on septic inspections

Sat, 10/31/2015 - 1:52pm

Planning and Zoning Director Tim Nelson came before the county board on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 with a request from one of the two septic inspectors who were contracted to perform Lakeshore Septic Compliance program inspections at Greenwood, McFarland and Tom Lakes, as well as Lake Superior. Because of a recordkeeping error on his part, the contractor, Tom Rovinski, went beyond the scope of the project and asked if the county could pay an additional $4,488 for that work.

Nelson reminded commissioners that the septic inspections had been funded by a Clean Water Legacy grant. He said after the original three lakes had all the necessary inspections done, there was funding left and the county asked for—and was given—authorization to use the remaining funding to inspect systems along the Lake Superior shoreline starting at the county line. The contractors were cautioned to work until they met the funding cap.

Nelson said Rovinski conducted 22 additional inspections, which was not budgeted for or authorized. However, he added, “The performance of the 22 additional inspections does benefit the county though more upgraded septic systems.”

Commissioner Frank Moe expressed concern about allowing contractors to be paid for working beyond the scope of a project. And, he said, he “respectfully disagreed” that it was a benefit as the county has a large backlog of work to bring septic systems in compliance.

His colleagues agreed and the request for further reimbursement was denied.


This local news is provided by Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at


WTIP Weekend News Roundup for October 30

Sat, 10/31/2015 - 9:36am

Each week the WTIP news staff compiles a review of news from the previous five days.

The county board addresses public input, budget issues for non-mandated programs as well as the EDA.

The high court turns down bear researcher Lynn Rogers, and highway ATV signs alert the grammar police…all this and more in the week’s news.


Local businesses recognized by peers

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 10:59am

A remarkably diverse set of nominees has been put forward for the Cook County Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Business Awards, Chamber Executive Director Jim Boyd announced last week.

 “At our Nov. 3 Gala, sponsored jointly with Visit Cook County, we will give three awards,” Boyd said. “They are for Entrepreneur of the Year, Business of the Year and Community Business Leader of the Year.

“The last award is to an individual who demonstrates extraordinary dedication to community through volunteer work. Nominations for the awards came from the Cook County business community. ”

 The gala will begin at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, with a cocktail hour in the ballroom at Lutsen Resort. It will continue at 6 p.m. with dinner in the lakeside dining room (with additional seating in the resort pub if needed). At 7 p.m., the program will begin. It will include presentation of the awards, short remarks by Sen. Tom Bakk and a short keynote address by Sheila Smith of Minnesotans for the Arts on the economic importance of the arts to Cook County.

 Cost to attend the gala is $10 per person. Links to register are available on the Chamber website at


This local news is provided by Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Commissioners continue to look for ways to reduce levy

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 10:57am

Savings seen in the law enforcement budget because of changes to the Sentence-to-Serve program came up during the county board’s discussion of the overall budget on Tuesday, October 27.

Commissioners set the preliminary 2016 levy on September 22 with a 12 percent increase from 2015, with the promise that they would work to decrease the levy further, which they attempted at Tuesday’s meeting.

According to County Administrator Jeff Cadwell, the current levy increase of 12 percent represents an annual increase for taxpayers of $48 per $100,000 of property value. 

Cadwell told the board that each 1 percent decrease in the proposed levy represents approximately $65,168 and commissioners noted that the STS change equaled an almost 1 percent reduction.

Commissioner Frank Moe said Sheriff Eliasen’s proposal to change Sentence-to-Serve, resulting in a budget reduction of $60,000 was “very instructive.” He said the board has gone through the budget item-by-item and he didn’t see anyway to reduce it further without cutting services or personnel. “We’re not going to nickel and dime this,” he said.

There was discussion of consolidating services and Cadwell said that is something the county does need to look at.

Cadwell said whatever levy number the board decides, he and Auditor Braidy Powers will continue to work toward that goal. But highlighting the challenge commissioners face, Cadwell pointed out that the current proposed net expenditures for 2016 are already a percentage lower than the budgeted net expenditures for 2015.

Talk again turned to what sort of services could be reduced, such as chloride for the roads and the funding of discretionary services.  Discussion continued for nearly two hours. No immediate solutions were found and discussion will continue at the board meeting on November 10.


Sheriffs Office to operate Sentence-to-Serve program

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 2:21pm

Sheriff Pat Eliasen came before the county board on Tuesday, Ocotber 27 to talk about terminating the contract with the state for operation of the Sentence-to-Service (STS) program Sheriff Eliasen assured the board that terminating the contract would not mean the elimination of the STS program—but it would result in a reduction in the Sheriff’s Office budget.

Eliasen explained that current STS coordinator Gary Jorgenson was no longer available to serve in that role, so the Sheriff’s Office contacted the state and learned that Cook County could run its own program. He said inmates in the STS program could still go out to work, but instead of having a crew leader with at all times, the entities using STS crews would be supervising.

Dispatch Supervisor/Jail Administrator Judy Sivertson said she had talked to other counties and this works well for them. She stressed that these are low-risk prisoners and that the supervisors they would be working for are familiar with the program, such as Rick Sturm at the Recycle Center or Brian Silence with county maintenance. If STS workers were assigned to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources project, the DNR would be responsible for supervision. Eliasen said Sivertson and/or deputies would check on inmates throughout the day.

Eliasen said the county would save $60,000 a year by not renewing the state contract. Commissioners asked if there would be additional costs for running the program and Eliasen said he didn’t think so, as the checks on inmates could be worked into the law enforcement schedules.

Eliasen acknowledged that Gary Jorgenson had been an excellent crew leader and the county was losing some of his mentorship with inmates, but said he reiterated that the STS program could be run inhouse.

Commissioners agreed and directed Sheriff Eliasen to move ahead with a county STS program, asking for a report on how it is going in 90 days.

Halloween could be a little damp, but not too chilly

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 10:26am

According to the National Weather Service, there may be a little rain on Halloween, but the temperatures will be pretty nice. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service forecaster Melody Lovin