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County board to decide levy on December 12

Dec 08, 2017 07:24AM ● By Editor
By Brian Larsen from The Cook County News Herald - December 8, 2017

Cook County commissioners set December 12 as the date to set the levy for 2018.

The decision came at the board’s November 28 meeting. Commissioners have been eyeing a levy of 19.9 percent, but could lower it at the December 12 meeting. Counties have until December 29 to get their 2018 levies in to the state.

Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen came before the commissioners with a recommendation to hire WOLD Architect & Engineers for a proposed fee of $45,975 to complete a jail needs assessment and comprehensive facility assessment and feasibility study, along with the development of a comprehensive master plan.

Eliasen said the money to hire WOLD was in the law enforcement budget and wouldn’t need to be taken from the general fund.

The study would be completed sometime in March, said Eliasen, and the information “would give us an idea of where we go. Do we stay and do what we do now? Or do we grow?”

The study would also look at the space in the courthouse and come back with recommendations for how best it can be used or updated.

“This would give you a useful tool for budgeting for facility improvements and determining long-range needs for the county,” said Eliasen. 

Next, at the request of the board, Eliasen read a statement he had prepared about racism and bullying encountered in the school and throughout the county. Because the entire speech was printed in the newspaper, only a portion will be shared in this space.

“As a leader, a Law Enforcement professional, a parent, a coach and a lifelong community member of Grand Marais, it is extremely disheartening to hear of recent incidents of racism and bullying occurring in our community. The Cook County Sheriff ’s Office has zero tolerance for bullying and/or racism. I, along with our staff, believe whole-heartedly in the Sheriff ’s Office Mission and Vision statements:

Mission: To serve and provide public safety with fairness and respect.

Vision: Providing equal enforcement and protection of the law without prejudice or favor through excellence, professionalism, integrity, and timeliness…

“As a public safety official, I am proud to serve and protect every member of this County. We are all neighbors, classmates, team members, business patrons, proud northerners and human beings. You have my commitment to fairness and respect from the Sheriff ’s Office and law enforcement, and I ask the rest of the community to have the moral courage to join me – zero tolerance for racism. Diversity in its many forms, even differing opinions, makes a community stronger; and when combined with fairness, respect, and dignity we all have a brighter future,” Eliasen said.

Commissioner Myron Bursheim complimented Eliasen for his well-stated stance, adding, “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.” Commissioner Ginny Storlie concurred, and the board voted unanimously to include Eliasen’s statement in the county record.

In other county business the board approved the following:

$205,713 was approved to go into the bonding package for 2018 to make improvements at the Cook County Community Center playground and back parking lot.

Cook County Community Center director Diane Booth reminded commissioners that at their request the community center board had been working for eight months on plans for improvements. The playground is more than 20 years old, said Booth, and at 12-15 years old most playgrounds are updated, she said.

Booth will write several grants in the hopes of getting some funding— as much as half—for the improvements, so not all of the money allocated for the project might not need to come from the county.

The board also agreed to name the community center park “The Cook County Community Center Park.”

County Planning Director Bill Lane asked the board to approve a variance so that Randy and Lisa Nelson could add a structure of over 1,000 square feet to their property in Tofte. They will reach the new construction through their son Derrick’s property because wetlands impede other access.

Lane said the planning and zoning board had made the recommendation to approve the variance and the county board passed it unanimously.

Heather from the Minnesota DNR presented the county board with two sales of private land in the Hovland area to the state. The sales have been taking some time to complete because two state agencies are involved, she said.

Because the property would be removed from the county tax rolls each transaction had to be approved by the county board. Heather said the public could use the land for low impact recreation like hiking or cross country skiing or hunting. The owners of the property approached the DNR about purchasing the land, said Heather. One piece was 40 acres and the other 80 acres.

Commissioner Bursheim said, “Looking ahead, we have a lot of public lands. Here we are eroding our tax base. We need to consider that, need to look at that in the future.”

Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk called for a motion to deny the sales but didn’t receive a second on her action.

Administrator Cadwell said in the absence of the county not having a “no net gain” policy, he doubted whether the commissioners could deny the land sale from a private party to the government.

With that, the commissioners approved the two sales, but Bursheim requested that the board explore what it would mean for the county to establish a “no net gain” policy at an upcoming committee of the whole meeting.

Administrator Cadwell said he hoped to have news about a candidate to fill the open highway engineer vacancy, but information that was supposed to come on Monday, November 27, hadn’t arrived.

Four people applied for the vacancy left open when the county’s engineer Dave Betts resigned this summer to take a new job elsewhere. The highway engineer for Lake County has been assisting Cook County part-time until the county finds a replacement for Mr. Betts. 

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