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Board chair shares thoughts on final meeting in 2017

Jan Sivertson
Jan Sivertson

There was a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Dec. 19. The following discussion and action items occurred during Tuesday’s meeting.
PHHS Meeting
Prior to the regular meeting of the county board, the Public Health and Human Services Board met for their monthly discussion. At the top of the meeting, county staff and the PHHS Board discussed the fact Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton made a proclamation on Dec. 13 to acknowledge all of the hard work the state’s county, tribal and state health and human services workers perform. The board said it is important to recognize the diverse and valuable role the county’s PHHS staff have in the community.

“Everyone does a fabulous job,” Commissioner Ginny Storlie said in reference to the local human services department.
Greg Wright
Moving into the regular session of Tuesday’s meeting, North House Folk School Director Greg Wright appeared before the county board on Tuesday to share an update. Wright presented an economic impact study that showcases the valuable role the Folk School has in the local community. The economic impact study is a comprehensive document the Folk School completed in September and has been sharing with local officials this fall and winter. It coincides with the Twentieth Anniversary of North House. The study describes the amount of money students and visitors to North House spend annually in Grand Marais and throughout Cook County. In the decade that has passed since the last comprehensive update or economic impact study North House has on the community, Wright said there has been extensive growth in a variety of aspects.

Following the presentation about the economic impact study, Commissioner Bobby Deschampe questioned Wright if there is discussion to improve parking at North House, as Highway 61 can be tight or congested when the Folk School hosts an event that draws a big crowd. Wright said it is something North House will address in long-term planning, including a scheduled redesign of Highway 61 in Grand Marais.

Wright also spoke with the commissioners about recent and ongoing conversations for the Folk School’s intent to purchase Dockside Fish Market in Grand Marais. North House is requesting a grant of $200,000 from IRRRB that would be a first step in making the Dockside acquisition a reality. A meeting was scheduled this week that Wright and local EDA Director Mary Somnis planned to attend where the grant funds might have potentially been awarded. That meeting was rescheduled for later this month or in 2018.  

“It’s a really important step for North House,” Wright said of the Dockside acquisition. “It’s a really important step for the community.”

Wright also requested from the board to share their vision of where North House fits into the future of community planning, including how to utilize the space and facilities where Dockside now sit.
Valerie Marasco
Also addressing the county board on Tuesday was Valerie Marasco, the county’s director of emergency management. Marasco requested the board approve the renewal of Firewise Coordinator Todd Armbruster’s contract with the county. Marasco said Armbruster has a long history and successful track record with Cook County in its effort to build a community with strong knowledge of fire awareness and prevention. As a part of the contract renewal Armbruster received a raise in his contracted pay to $28.87 per hour.

“It’s a great service they have in the county,” Commissioner Storlie said of the Firewise Committee.

The board approved the contract renewal on a 4-0 vote, as Commissioner Myron Bursheim was not present for Tuesday’s meeting. Burhseim stated previously he would be out of town for Tuesday’s meeting.

In addition to the contract renewal request, Marasco also provided an update on the Firewise Committee and highlighted a number of accomplishments for the local organization in 2017. The biggest achievement of the year was the completion of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, Marasco said. The board approved this plan in July, and it opens the door for a variety of funding opportunities and safety policies should a wildfire impact Cook County.
County Administrator Update
In more news from Tuesday’s meeting, County Administrator Jeff Cadwell shared information about an issue with the new bus garages the local school district built that encroaches on county land. A fence around the new garages reaches approximately 24-inches onto property owned by the county’s highway department, Cadwell said. Essentially the idea behind acknowledging the encroachment on county property is to create a legal paper trail should this ever be an issue in the future, Cadwell said.

In breaking from their regularly scheduled meetings, there will not be a meeting of the county board on Tuesday, Dec. 26 during the holiday break.
To hear more about Tuesday’s meeting of the commissioners, the audio below is an interview with WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs and Board Chair Jan Sivertson.