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News and other information from Cook County

County board approves new office equipment for assessor's office

Tue, 04/30/2013 - 12:25pm

The Cook County assessor’s office will be getting some new office equipment and furniture.  On April 16, 2013, the county board authorized Assessor Betty Schultz to spend about $1,000 for a computer and monitor and to order office furniture and remodeling at a cost of about $3,400.  The equipment and furniture will be used by the new assessor’s technical clerk that Schultz hoped to have in place by May.
Ordering furniture and equipment for a new clerk is part of a process that began months ago.  The county board originally approved a new computer software program that would track multiple types of information for each parcel of land.  County Assessor Betty Schultz then asked for the addition of a full-time clerk to work in the office while the other staff went out gathering all the data that the new clerk would put into the new software program.  The board approved this as well as the addition of a county fleet vehicle so the two assessors working under Assessor Schultz could go out and gather data separately. 
Before approving the office equipment and furniture, Commissioner Garry Gamble asked if the county had anything sitting around that could be used by the new clerk in order to avoid the requested purchases.  The assessor said she had consulted with Information Systems Director Danna MacKenzie and Maintenance Director Brian Silence, who had nothing available.
Commissioner Sue Hakes asked Assessor Schultz to try to negotiate with the office furniture company, Hermann Miller, on price.  She said she had already done so.  Commissioner Bruce Martinson said he thought they should get another bid from another company, and Schultz said Herman Miller tends to be the least expensive and have the best quality.

County board to continue discussion of hiring a county administrator at special meeting April 30

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 7:52pm

The impending retirement of Cook County Personnel Director and County Board Secretary Janet Simonen has propelled the county board into considering the possibility of creating an administrative position that could oversee all departments within the county. 

On April 15, 2013, the board and department heads held a special meeting to talk with three county administrators – Timothy Houle of Crow Wing County (pop. 62,500) and Brian Bensen of Sherburne County (pop. 88,499) in person and Trish Klein of Itasca County (pop. 42,763) on speakerphone. 

Timothy Houle of Crow Wing County said an administrative position will be successful if the administrator is perceived as taking the staff and board where they want to go, He recommended that the board have an annual retreat where they set goals. 

There were questions of whether a board retreat would be open to the public.  The administrators said, “You’ve got to get comfortable doing this stuff in a fishbowl. You’ve got to get comfortable living, working, and breathing in this fishbowl.”

Commissioner Jan Hall said theyneed to look at whether they can afford to have an administrator.

To which Trish Klein said, they need to look at whether they can afford not to. She said that in two years, she has probably saved Itasca County 20 years worth of her salary because they started going out for bids on jobs.

Cook County is similar to a corporation with a $17 million-a-year budget, said Timothy Houle of Crow Wing County and there’s no way a business of that size would not have some sort of chief executive officer.  He stated that more and more counties are moving toward hiring administrators or coordinators.

County approves three Revolving Loan Fund requests

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 2:11pm

The county board approved three requests that had been approved by the Revolving Loan Fund Committee on April 15.  The first was a loan of $48,000 to Randy Sjogren for improvements to the mini-golf course in Grand Marais, which he has purchased. 
The name of the business will be Putt ‘n Pets, and it will include domestic animals such as goats, chickens, and pheasants for viewing.  Improvements include seating areas, more food offerings, improved landscape, and lighted balls, holes, and clubs for evening use.
The second loan was for $16,000 to David Rak and Don Bertolini to supplement a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development grant of $38,500 for the Mangy Moose Motel.  The $56,000 project will include new windows, sidewalks, railings, lighting, interior insulation, energy efficient heat pumps and water heater, and handicap accessible bathrooms.  The beauty salon building will be upgraded as well.
The third loan was for $17,000 to Bruce Block for a $51,000 addition to Sydney’s Frozen Custard & Pizzeria.  The extra space will include an interior seating area and additional deck space.  The interior seating will allow the business to sell beer and wine.
After these loans, the Revolving Loan Fund balance will be $99,869.

Ham Run happening—snow, rain or shine

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 2:10pm

Winter on the Gunflint Trail has been reminiscent of the Energizer Bunny—it keeps going and going and going. With ice still on the lakes and snow on the ground it's hard to believe the Ham Run half-marathon is right around the corner but it is. Are you ready?

For those who aren't ready for the half-marathon, there is the chance to run or walk the 5k Fun Run. And for the kids, there is the Little Runts Run. One of the Ham Run Half Marathon organizers, Sue Prom invites the community. “We'd love to see you on the ‘Trail Less Traveled’ on May 5th, snow, rain or shine,” she said.

Prom reminds potential runners that supporting the Ham Run supports many of the non-profits in Cook County. “The awesome volunteers at the event earn a little something for their non-profit organization,” she said.

In past years, the Ham Run has donated to the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department, Boundary Waters Amateur Radio Club, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and many other organizations.
“It's a great community event and we need your participation to keep it going,” said Prom.

For more information about the route along the beautiful Gunflint Trail and to register, visit the race website at www.hamrunhalfmarathon.com.

Hovland ATV trail moving along

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 2:08pm

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received 18 comments on the proposed 16-mile ATV trail in the Grand Portage State Forest during a public comment period from January 21 to February 25, 2013.  Fifteen were in support of the trail, two expressed concerns about the trail, and one was simply a question. 
A DNR grant of $3,000 to Cook County will help fund the completion of the trail.
While the trail was proposed by the Cook County ATV Club with support from the county, it will be available for many other uses, including hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, skiing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding. 
The trail will use existing DNR forest system roads, minimum maintenance roads, and forest access routes in the Tom Lake Area of Hovland, including the Boyd Road, Irish Creek Road, and Tom Lake Road. 
Members of the club will do most of the ongoing maintenance of the trail, with up to 90 percent of the costs eligible for reimbursement through the Minnesota Trail Assistance (grant-in-aid) program.  The DNR obtains the funds it uses for ATV trails from ATV users themselves. 
According to a summary of public comments, “Increasing participation in outdoor recreation activities is consistent with the DNR’s strategic objective to ‘connect people to the outdoors,’ which includes motorized recreation.”
One comment expressed a concern that if the trail were mapped for ATV use, more users from the Twin Cities would come to the area.  The DNR acknowledged that mapping it as an ATV trail may attract more ATVers. 

A little rain and cooler temps in the forecast

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 11:02am

The weather has warmed up and the snow is melting, but rain and cooler weather lies ahead this week. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Gohde about moving into May.

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