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County board, staff share facts on digital land survey

Land of Sky Blue Waters (Gunflint Trail Historical Society)
Land of Sky Blue Waters (Gunflint Trail Historical Society)

There was a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Nov. 21. The following discussion and action items occurred during Tuesday’s meeting.
Public Comment
There were three people who spoke during the public comment period of Tuesday’s meeting. Lutsen Resident Rae Piepho spoke to the county board about her concerns with the county’s plans to spend money on a digital land surveying device. Piepho said she hoped the commissioners were able to read the results of a local tax payer survey, which she called “an overwhelming response.”

Piepho said there are many Cook County residents who are retired and look to the county for spending their tax dollars only on necessary items such as expenses for the sheriff’s department and other critical county needs. A digital land survey would not constitute a necessary need, according to Piepho. 

“I’m just saying as a citizen and taxpayer who is retired. With a husband who is retired. To look so very closely with the money that is being spent,” she said.

Piepho, who is a member of the Lutsen Town Board, said she works hard at fundraising for projects in the community, and that all spending can’t come from taxpayers.

Also speaking during Tuesday’s public comment period was Todd Sylvester from Grand Marais. Sylvester said there are community members who can’t come to meetings of the county board because they’re working, but that a portion of the community feels the county board is no longer serving the working citizens of Cook County. Some residents, Sylvester said, feel the commissioners are pushing them out by continually raising taxes.

The final community member to speak was Lloyd Speck, who also addressed the issue of taxes and county spending. Speck said he has devoted his life to Cook County and that the proposed tax increases the county board is considering will force some local residents to move away. Eventually the county board will have to decide what is important with regard to hearing from local residents, Speck said.

The bottom line, Speck said, Cook County is becoming a difficult place for people who are on fixed incomes to live.
Tim Nelson
Moving into action items from Tuesday’s meeting, Land Services Director Tim Nelson brought a motion before the county board to adopt a buffer ordinance. Nelson explained the buffer ordinance and where it aligns with state mandates. Under the new buffer ordinance, the county will opt into the state program that regulates land use near water or shorelines. However, the county will monitor most aspects of the buffer law.

Nelson said there were two people who turned up to a recent public hearing on the buffer ordinance, but they only wanted to hear information and had no specific questions.

Commissioner Ginny Storlie said she was glad to finalize the new buffer ordinance, as it has been a topic of conversation between the land services department and county board for about a year.
Jeff Cadwell
In more news from Tuesday’s meeting, Cook County Administrator Jeff Cadwell spoke about a number of discussion items scheduled for the committee of the whole meeting, which also took place on Tuesday. Cadwell said the committee of the whole would discuss budget requests from the local Economic Development Authority, requests for discretionary funding the county could support and the upcoming Truth in Taxation meeting. The Truth in Taxation meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 27 at 6 p.m.
Commissioner Concerns
Toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Bobby Deschampe asked about the interviews with the potential highway engineer.

Cadwell said there were two interviews for the Cook County Highway Engineer and that one candidate was selected. Cadwell said a job offer will be extended to that individual as soon as possible.  

In more county news, Commissioner Ginny Storlie said with regard to a digital land survey, the county will not be purchasing a machine. Any information the digital land survey will accomplish in fact should be updated and is therefore a need of the county. Financial support from the project will come from DNR and Forest Service, Storlie pointed out.

Cadwell said comments in the local newspaper claimed the county was purchasing a quarter-million dollar pictometry machine, which is inaccurate. Cadwell said the comments in the newspaper also reference the fact Google provides the service for free. This too is inaccurate, Cadwell said, because Google and online maps get their data from the county, not the other way around. Meanwhile, because of the involvement from other agencies, the price for the county do have this aerial survey done is going down, Cadwell noted.

And finally, with regard to the EDA budget, Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk said there is no longer the possibility of spending $25,000 for an administrator for the Superior Cycling Association. That request has been removed from the consideration following a vote from board members of the EDA.
To hear more about Tuesday’s meeting, the audio below is an interview with WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs and Commissioner Myron Bursheim.