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News and other information from Cook County

County continues to consider budget cuts

Tue, 10/01/2013 - 5:51pm

If all the 2014 budget requests department heads submitted to the county board this summer were granted and the fund balance was not touched, the county tax levy could increase by 11 percent next year.  That’s not going to happen, however.  The board decided to cap any potential levy increase at 2.9 percent.  On September 24, 2013, the board tried to whittle the budget down further to minimize dipping into the fund balance and increasing the levy.

One tool the board used was suggestions made by department heads when they were asked how they would reduce expenses by 5 percent if they were forced to do so.  The board spent well over three hours going through specific cuts that could be made department by department, but they didn’t make it all the way through all the departments and decided to pick up the task at another budget work session.  

The board discussed—but rejected—eliminating the telephone booth at the end of the Gunflint Trail or postponing equipment purchases for the county highway department,

They accepted a recommendation from Information Technology Director Danna MacKenzie who suggested a couple of different expense-cutting options including delaying equipment purchases.  The board went with one of the suggestions, which will save $36,721.

The preliminary budget called for using $513,241 from the fund balance.  Commissioner Bruce Martinson said he would like to use half that amount and keep the levy increase to half of 2.9 percent.  Commissioner Garry Gamble said he wanted to eliminate any use of the fund balance and have no levy increase.

Crossing Borders Studio Tour going on now

Mon, 09/30/2013 - 12:32pm
Crossing_Borders_2013_sign_2.jpg

The Crossing Borders Studio Tour and Sale is going on now through Sunday, October 6. (Click on link to WTIP below to hear a feature story on this year's tour.)

The 2013 Crossing Borders Studio Tour features 23 artists in 8 locations between Duluth and the Canadian border, along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The tour is self-guided and runs from Friday, Sept. 27 through Sunday, Oct. 6.  Studios are open from 10 a.m .to 6 p.m. each day.

 
To learn more about the Crossing Borders Studio Tour, visit www.crossingbordersstudiotour.com.
 
 

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Fall weather about to turn cooler this week

Mon, 09/30/2013 - 12:32pm

The nice fall weather will continue for a couple more days, then rain and cooler weather will make it seem more like October usually feels. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Stewart.

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Arrowhead Transit driver Mark Quello recognized for 20 years of service

Mon, 09/30/2013 - 10:22am

Mark Quello of Grand Marais is well known to community members as the driver of “the bus.” He was recognized recently for 20 years of dedicated service with Arrowhead Transit. Quello starting driving for Arrowhead Transit on February 8, 1993.
Quello doesn’t normally attend the Cook County Transit Advisory Committee meeting, but comes in if needed. His supervisor Katy Keranen called him at the meeting on Wednesday, September 4 and Quello stopped work on his home improvement project to see what was needed. It turns out that nothing was needed, it was just time to recognize his hard work for Cook County.
Associate Director of Arrowhead Transit Joe Gentile presented Quello with a plaque in recognition of his dedicated service.
An honor well-deserved said Cook County Senior Center Director Bev Green. “Mark is just loved by all his people. He’s such a gentle driver and he is always willing to go the extra mile,” she said.
Arrowhead Transit covers all eight counties within the Arrowhead – the largest rural transportation service in the United States.
Arrowhead Transit serves Grand Marais and Cook County with scheduled bus services with Dial-A-Ride service work routes to Grand Portage and routes to Duluth. To see a ride schedule, visit www.arrowheadtransit.com and click on Grand Marais.
Or call Dial-A-Ride at (218) 370-1515. Dial-A-Ride services are provided Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 1 - 4 p.m. Dial-A-Ride is also available on Sundays from 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Riders are asked to please call at least a half hour in advance to schedule a pick up time.

County offers opportunity to meet final candidates for county administrator October 3

Mon, 09/30/2013 - 10:19am

Early in the county’s process of hiring a county administrator, there were 39 interested applicants. On Friday, Sept. 13, the board of commissioners interviewed six semi-finalists. Each candidate was interviewed for one hour, and after a discussion the county board selected two finalists:  Mike Roth, Grand Marais city administrator, and Jay Kieft, executive director of human services for Wright County in Buffalo, Minnesota.  
County Board Chair Janice Hall said, “We were pleased with our pool of applicants and we had six very qualified semi-finalists.”

The two candidates for the recently-created county administer position will be meeting with Cook County department heads this week. The department heads will be writing down their impressions of the applicants to share with the county board.

The county is hosting an opportunity for the public to meet the two final applicants at a “Meet and Greet” at East Bay Suites Stone’s Throw Room on Wednesday, October 2 from 6:30 – 8 p.m. 

The final interviews—and possibly a decision will be on October 3.

Planning to enhance Father Baraga's Cross historic site continues

Sun, 09/29/2013 - 12:46pm

At the September meeting of the Town of Schroeder, Jim Norvell, champion of the Father Baraga’s Cross historic site and the Schroeder Township park adjacent to it, gave an update. Norvell travelled from his new home in Duluth to report on the grant-funded planning being done for the township park.  

Planned for the park is an open space by the lake with a picnic shelter set back from the lake.  A vegetation buffer between the park and the beach will absorb storm water and prevent erosion.  A handicap-accessible parking lot will be located near a pit toilet.  The site will have informational kiosks in several places, and the cross will have benches near it that are cohesive with the design of the cross.  The boat launch will remain.

One resident who lives along Father Baraga Road protested further development of what is already there.  She said the boat launch is not functional, the road would not accommodate increased activity, and it would need brushing and plowing.

Jim Norvell said they hope to address boat accessibility over the course of time.  Skip Lamb said this is a 20-year plan, and the township will be focusing on what can be done on its own land, even though the park plan includes enhancements to the cross area, owned by the Catholic Diocese of Duluth, and the river area, owned by Skip and Linda Lamb.

Regarding the road leading to the park, which has several private properties along it, Bill McKeever said, “It’s a town road.”

Public meetings have been held on enhancement of the park, with notices in the paper and on WTIP Radio, said township supervisor Tina McKeever.  It has been discussed at township annual meetings as well.