Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

HealthShare could help small businesses

Wed, 05/01/2013 - 10:52am

Small businesses and the people who work for them may be happy to learn that a local, nonprofit health coverage program is available at a cost they might be able to afford.
HealthShare was established four years ago by a group of area health care providers and foundations.  Their goal was to reduce the number of uninsured by providing health and wellness services to working families in Cook, Lake, St. Louis, and Carlton counties through an affordable, employer-sponsored health coverage program.
About 500,000 people in Minnesota are currently uninsured.
Health Share Inc. Executive Director Jenny Peterson spoke to a group of businesspeople at a Business Networking Luncheon sponsored by Cook County Higher Education on March 27, 2013.  She said funding for the program comes from employers, employees, and the community, including local foundations and health care organizations. “Definitely the health care system sees the value in this,” she said, adding that the Affordable Care Act is only going to cover about 60 percent of uninsured Americans.
Preventative care is an key component of HealthShare, which offers reduced costs for people who go through health risk criteria and set two health goals with a care manager once a year.  People who do not take preventative measures, such as taking medication to avoid a health crisis, end up needing higher-costing health care.  “We strongly believe in wellness and promoting health,” Peterson said.
Services that are covered include primary and specialty office visits, hospital and emergency care, pharmacy (up to a certain amount), lab, radiology, physical and occupational therapy, equipment and supplies, and up to 20 behavioral health visits a year.

Library Friends needs your books

Wed, 05/01/2013 - 10:51am

While you’re doing your spring cleaning, consider donating your gently used books to the Library Friends.
These books, recent magazines, videos, DVDs, and CDs are needed for the Friends’ annual book sale Aug. 1-3.  Income from this sale helps support the Grand Marais Public Library and all public school libraries in Cook County. Sorry, moldy or musty books, textbooks, cassettes and Reader’s Digest Condensed Books cannot be accepted. Donations received by July 10 will be included in the sale.
Books should be brought to the library.  Do not put these items in the outside drop box.  For more information call the library at (218) 387-1140.

School counselor position receives overwhelming support

Tue, 04/30/2013 - 11:28am

The Jane Mianowski Conference Room at Cook County High School was filled with students at the April 18, 2013 ISD 166 school board meeting, determined to convince the school board to keep Bryan Hackbarth and his school counseling position.
At the March meeting, the board had voted to eliminate the job, although Superintendent Beth Schwarz assured them that they could add it back.
Colton Thompson presented a petition signed by 140 students asking the board to reinstate the position.  He said before the petition was created he couldn’t walk down the street without people asking him if there was a petition he could sign.  “I don’t know how much community feedback I’ve gotten.  Everybody is just really impressed with the job [Bryan Hackbarth] does,” Thompson said.  “To get rid of him would be absolutely foolish.”
Bjorn Johnson said it would be easy to just graduate and wash his hands of the matter, but he strongly believed letting go of the counseling position was the wrong decision.  “We need a guidance counselor at CCHS,” he said. Classmates have told him they couldn’t have graduated without Bryan Hackbarth’s help.  Johnson said that he had never seen students band together in such a way and that he believed the school could actually use two full-time counselors. 
CCHS would have a lot more dropouts without Bryan Hackbarth, Ali Iverson said. 
Colton Deschampe’s mother, Sherri, who attended CCHS, said Bryan Hackbarth was the best counselor the school has ever had.
Colton Thompson’s grandmother, Arvis Thompson, read from the school stationery on which board meeting agendas are printed.  It states in part, “We provide a safe environment in which mental and physical health is a priority.”  “It sounds like Brian is the key to your mental health,” she said.

County board approves new office equipment for assessor's office

Tue, 04/30/2013 - 11:25am

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 - 6:52pm

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 - 1:11pm

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.