Around Cook County
At the end of the county board meeting on Tuesday, May 8, the county board met in closed session to discuss potential litigation between the City of Grand Marais and Burbach Aquatics regarding a contract the city signed with Burbach years ago for Burbach’s services should the city pursue rehabbing its municipal pool or building a new one. Upon the advice of its attorney, the city has refrained from any involvement with the county’s community center project because Burbach contends that the city is still bound to its contract with this project.
After that closed session, County Attorney Tim Scannell wrote in a letter to City Administrator Mike Roth:
On Tuesday, May 8, 2012, the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed the following motions:
1. That Cook County needs the City of Grand Marais to participate in payment for costs of operation and maintenance of the planned new community center when the project goes forward.
2. That Cook County supports the City of Grand Marais’ Declaratory Judgment action against Burbach Aquatics and is willing to negotiate an offset of payments for costs of operation and maintenance of the community center to support the city’s lawsuit.”
This spring, the city council authorized City Attorney Chris Hood to seek a declaratory judgment from the court regarding the city’s contractual obligation to Burbach Aquatics.
One of the first orders of business at the Tuesday, May 8 meeting of the Cook County – Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) was action to end the employment of EDA Director Matt Geretschlaeger. The action was no surprise—at previous EDA meetings, the director alluded to the fact that he may be stepping down if his new enterprise—a zip line attraction adjacent to the Gunflint Trail in Grand Marais—became a reality.
EDA Board Member Mike Littfin brought up the topic, saying, “We have all had an inkling this was coming,” he said. “We all know Matt has been involved in a private business enterprise. To avoid the appearance of conflict of interest for our director, I recommend that we lay him off, effective 30 days from today.”
EDA Board Member Bruce Martinson asked if Geretschlaeger could remain on staff until after the next EDA meeting, June 12. His colleagues—Littfin, Mark Sandbo and Bob Spry agreed and a motion to that effect passed. EDA Board Members Hal Greenwood, Don Davison and Scott Harrison were absent.
Geretschlaeger was agreeable to that. He said, “I’ve appreciated the time I’ve worked with you over the years and I agree the board is taking appropriate action.”
A meeting of the EDA Personnel Committee was held Friday, May 11 to put together an advertisement for the EDA director position.
Burning restrictions will soon be lifted in several counties in northern Minnesota due to the green-up of fire fuels, which eases wildfire conditions, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
On May 16, burning restrictions will be lifted in Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Pennington, Polk, Roseau and St. Louis counties.
On May 21, burning restrictions will be lifted in Lake and Cook counties.
This will remove the spring seasonal open burning restrictions throughout the state.
At the Tuesday, May 8 county board meeting, Lutsen Fire Chief Paul Goettl requested a loan from the county to help the county complete expansion and renovation of its fire hall. “Lutsen has basically outgrown its fire hall,” he said. More people are attending meetings than in the past, and larger fire hall and town hall meeting space is needed.
The township plans to remove an old garage (which will be given to the Lutsen Trailblazers Snowmobile Club) and put up a new one in its place, attached to the current building. A new meeting room will allow about 180 people to be seated at tables. A larger clerk’s office and an emergency services office space will provide more secure storage space as well. The new garage will have six stalls instead of four, allowing all of the fire vehicles to be inside at once.
The estimated cost of the project is $577,000, and the township already has $227,000 in hand. Goettl asked commissioners for a 20-year loan of $350,000 at 1 percent interest per county policy.
Lutsen will soon be done paying off a previous county loan used to buy a fire vehicle; this has required payments of about $8,500 a year. The township has been setting aside $10,000 a year for a new building for about the last 10 years, Goettl said. These two amounts combined come close to the $19,395 a year that will be needed to pay the new loan to the county.
The board approved this loan unanimously as well.
The next Lutsen Town Meeting will be held at the town hall on Tuesday, May 15 at 7 p.m.
The Cook County Community Center Steering Committee met on May 7, 2012 and discussed a potential layout for a community center attached to the west wing of Cook County High School. The preliminary design proposes remodeling and adding onto the existing building at an estimated cost of $8,350,000.
Outdoor and other amenities totaling $990,000 were also discussed, bringing the total project cost to $9,340,000, which is $340,000 over the amount authorized by the county board. Among other things such as ball fields and a lighted outdoor ice rink, the preliminary plan includes upgrades to two tennis courts and remodeling of the existing Community Center to include warming house amenities.
At the Tuesday, May 8 county board meeting, Commissioner Sue Hakes said the steering committee would be asking the county board to raise the project cost cap to $9,500,000.
Consultant Tom Wacholz of ORB Management later contacted the News-Herald and said, “…If the board authorizes moving forward with the project there will be additional public comment opportunities as the design process moves along.” He said a more updated plan and budget would be presented to the board on May 15.
The Cook County News-Herald wishes all the moms out there a very peaceful and happy Mother's Day!