Around Cook County
The band Portage will perform their classic country music for a dance at the North Shore Care Center on Saturday, July 23 at 6:30 p.m. As always, families and community members are welcome to join in
the fun at our music events.
There are many fun volunteer opportunities at North Shore Care Center during the summer months. Please consider giving some time to assist with a garden project, an outing, or a special event. For more
information contact the Activity Department at 218.387.3518 or go to the hospital's website, www.nshorehospital.com.
As Cook County commissioner budget work sessions began there was a great deal of discussion regarding the question: When is it time to dip into a fund balance? On July 8, Auditor-
Treasurer Braidy Powers said, “We do have a significant fund balance, which we’ve had as long as I’ve been here.”
The state recommends that counties keep a fund balance of 35-50 percent of their annual expenses, and Cook County currently has 64 percent. Cook County’s fiscal policy requires that the county maintain an undesignated fund balance of no less than 50 percent of the annual budget.
“Could the state take that away from us?” Commissioner Jim Johnson asked.
“I suppose they could,” Powers answered. The state has the authority to garner money counties have in their fund balances.
What if a road washes out and there’s no FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) money to fix it? Commissioner Fritz Sobanja wondered. “We need a reserve.”
Technically, reserves are set aside for a specific purpose and must be used for that purpose. Fund balances can be either “designated” or “undesignated” but if they are “designated,” the board has the right to “undesignate” them at any time.Powers said designating portions of the fund balance for specific purposes might decrease the likelihood of the state demanding that money from the county.
County Attorney Tim Scannell noted that the county’s bond rating could go down if its fund balance went down. Audito-Treasurer Powers said he would like to see Cook County retain or increase its fund
balance and would like to see it keep at least 50 percent unreserved and undesignated.
Recent hot weather has been greatly increasing the amount of power people are using throughout the Midwest. SMMPA gets its power from Midwest Independent Transmission System Operators (MISO), which covers parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Iowa and the Dakotas. To cover the additional need, MISO asked SMMPA to bring on additional plants and SMMPA in turn asked Grand Marais to run its plant, to put out more power over the transmission lines. “We’ve been generating power all week,” Electric Superintendent Mike Taylor told the commissioners.
The city always has an employee at the power plant when it is generating electricity so that equipment is not damaged if something malfunctions, such as a hose breaking. City Administrator Mike Roth said the city has a large investment in its power plant and keeps close watch on it because of this. “I’d be pretty uncomfortable not having someone there,” Superintendent Taylor said.
The amazing musical reperatory offerings by the Grand Marais Playhouse continue at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts this week. Shout! The Mod Musical is another summer performance not to be missed and the boisterous production hits the stage tonight, Thursday, July 21.
Cast members— Molly Hicken, Karina Roth, Kerri Bilben, Karen Blackburn, Hilja Iverson—will make you laugh, smile and want to sing along. They are backed by musicians Kay Costello, Erika Haglund and Kris Johnson.
If you were lucky enough to catch the teaser in March, you know how much fun you’ll be in for this time around. Shout! the Mod Musical! provides a non-stop journey through the infectious and soulful pop anthems and ballads that made household names of stars like Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield and Lulu.
Upcoming performances of Shout! The Mod Musical are July 23, 29, 31, Aug. 4, 6, 12, 14.
George Wilkes of the Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP) appealed successfully to the county board on July 12 for a $1,000 matching grant to demonstrate the county’s support of CCLEP’s work as it applies for a $20,000 Lloyd K. Johnson grant. The grant money would be used to employ a half-time coordinator for a year.
“As a volunteer organization, we’ve realized we’ve reached the limit of our capability,” Wilkes said. Within those limits, however, CCLEP has accomplished many community projects aimed at increasing energy efficiency and pursuing renewable sources of energy.
“The whole world is looking for energy solutions,” Wilkes said. Federal, state, and foundation grants are available, and CCLEP just needs someone who can pursue them.
“I just want to commend George for his persistence,” Commissioner Jim Johnson said.
The matching funds will be taken from the county’s Timber Fund.
As government budgets get tighter and tighter, the Cook County Board of Commissioners is strategizing how to provide good service with the least amount of money necessary. Each department head will be required to submit his or her annual budget requests this summer, and to help them understand what direction the board wants them to take and to help the board understand what the departments’ needs are, they met in a work session on June 28 and another on July 8.
Department heads asked if the board wanted to dip into the county’s fund balance, reduce services, or alter staff positions.
The board asked department heads to prepare lists of which of their services are mandated and which are not and which they consider essential, whether mandated or not. Commissioner Fritz Sobanja said legislators want to know how effective the mandated services are, he said. Are they making a difference?
Programs that are mandated include the county attorney, assessor, auditor, management information systems, personnel, recorder, sheriff, planning and zoning, environmental health, and emergency management. Counties have discretion regarding how much of those services to offer.
Non-mandated programs include the airport fund, the EDA, emergency medical and rescue services, the Senior Center, the Violence Prevention Center, the library, the Historical Society, recreation, the MN Extension Service, the Soil and Water Conservation District, AEOA transportation, and higher education.