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Commissioners strongly support local trail collaborative

Hiking in the Arrowhead
Hiking in the Arrowhead

There was a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The following discussion and action items occurred during Tuesday’s meeting.
Public Comment
There were two people who spoke during the public comment period in Tuesday’s meeting. Speaking first was Joe Pandy, the new CEO of Arrowhead Electric. Pandy said he wanted to meet the commissioners and share information about Arrowhead Electric and the community at large. Pandy noted the number of highly-educated individuals and the skilled workforce that lives in Cook County.

“We have a lot of really smart people living here,” Pandy said of his new community.

Also speaking during the public comment period was local resident Arvis Thompson. Explaining the reasons for her frequent appearances at meetings of the county board in recent months, Thompson said she is doing so in hopes that other local residents become excited and engaged about local government and where and why tax dollars are spent locally. Thompson also raised several questions about a proposed facility, or garage, for the highway department in Hovland, including overall costs and the necessity of the project.

Diane Booth
Moving into the regular agenda from Tuesday’s meeting, Diane Booth from the Cook County Community Center followed up on the county’s plans to expand the local ice rink and a warming house near the rink. Booth requested the commissioners approve a contract with the Twin Ports based Meyer Group, a design firm that will handle the architectural plans for the project and seek contractors to build the proposed facilities. The design plan submitted by the Meyer Group will cost approximately $28,000. It does not include any actual construction, it is simply a design plan and request for bids.

Commissioner Bobby Deschampe said he was contacted recently by some local residents who wanted to make sure all parties involved with the rink and community center, including the hockey association and curling clubs, are on the same page with the project.

Booth said her role and the community center board’s role is to come up with a plan that best serves all parties that utilize the ice rink and community center. Booth also said it is only a preliminary budget with regard to the project, while acknowledging it will be a challenge to make everyone happy with a final plan for the rink.

The commissioners approved the plan on a unanimous vote that includes moving the request to Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers for final approval.

County Attorney
Following that, Cook County Attorney Molly Hicken spoke about two topics relevant to the Public Health and Human Services Department. The first was a request from the commissioners for the county attorney’s office to enter into a joint powers agreement with Carlton, St. Louis and Lake Counties in court cases that involve chemically dependent or mentally ill individuals. County attorneys represent human services departments in these types of cases, Hicken explained, so they are prohibited by conflict of interest rules from also representing the subject of the commitment. Cook County has partnered with other counties in the Sixth Judicial District to pool funds to hire attorneys to represent the respondents the county brings forward in commitment cases, Hicken said. The arrangement is very fair and beneficial to the county, she added.

Under the terms of the agreement, Cook County will only pay $885 as their share with the other counties.

Also on Tuesday, Hicken requested the board to delegate authority to the human services department to obtain treatment from Lutheran Social Services for local children who are placed in the West Central Regional Juvenile Center. There is currently one Cook County youth placed in the juvenile detention center, which is located in Moorhead, Minnesota.
Highway Engineer
Making her first official appearance before the county board was new Cook County Highway Engineer Krysten Foster. Recently approved by the commissioners to serve as the highway engineer for both Cook and Lake Counties, Foster brought information and a request to solicit bids for the upcoming Ski Run Bridge project. The project will be funded by allocated sales tax transportation dollars and a cost-sharing agreement with Lutsen Mountains Corporation. The project could be completed by fall 2018.

Prior to her request, Foster shared information about her background as a highway engineer and experience working on roadways in northeastern Minnesota.
Trail updates 
In more news from Tuesday’s meeting, Jim Shinners from the North Superior Ski and Run Club made a request for the commissioners to support a grant request for trail making and maintenance equipment that will be used on several North Shore trails. These trails include the Pincushion and Britton Peak trails.  

Shinners said the Superior Cycling Association and the North Superior Ski and Run Club were asking the county to serve as the fiscal agent for a grant to improve and expand these local trails.

“I don’t think I need to speak to any of you about the value of our local trails with regard to economic impact,” Shinners stated to the commissioners.

Also speaking in support of the project was Chris O’Brien from the ski and run club and Tim Kennedy from the cycling association.

Cook County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers said the equipment upgrades are long overdue and that it will help the many volunteers who work on local trails.

Several commissioners noted the benefits of local trail organizations working together to form partnerships geared toward progress.

Commissioner Jan Sivertson made the motion to accept that these organizations move forward in seeking grant funding, noting that the county will only act as the fiscal agent and that it will not impact the county’s budget.   

Commissioner Updates
In more discussion from Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk said she recently attended a meeting in St. Paul about working with future generations, namely millennials. Doo-Kirk said the future of finding, motivating and maintaining staff and volunteers is changing and offered several ideas that could be beneficial to future employment and volunteers throughout the county.

“We have to stop knocking millennials,” Doo-Kirk said, “because we need them.”
The audio below features an interview with WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs and Commissioner Jan Sivertson about the decisions and discussion from this week’s meeting of the county board.