Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Over 30 Cook County and Grand Portage community members and leaders gathered for a Legislative Event with Representative Skraba

Mar 21, 2024 11:13AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Representative Skraba addresses the group of community members and leaders

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - March 21, 2024

Over 30 Cook County and Grand Portage community members joined together at the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino on Friday, March 15, 2024, for a Legislative Event. Minnesota State Representative Roger Skraba was in attendance to hear from Community leaders on issues, funding requests, and more (State Senator Grant Hauschild had planned to be in attendance but was ill and not able to make it). 

 Cook County Commissioner Ann Sullivan addresses the group with a welcome during the event

The event consisted of a lunch and a large discussion where each Community leader had 1-2 minutes to talk about concerns, needs, or requests. Stable funding, restoring cut funding, support for the Cook County transfer station, lack of EMS (including ambulance drivers and volunteer firefighters especially in Grand Portage), and increased mental health support were common themes from each of the Community leaders. Additionally, many spoke of the importance and appreciation of the partnership between Grand Portage and Cook County, and expressed the need for that to continue moving forward. Ann Sullivan gave a welcome at the start of the lunch/discussion, and Bobby Deschampe and April McCormick closed out the portion of the event. Representative Skraba also addressed the full group during this time. 

Bobby Deschame, Grand Portage Tribal Chair, and April McCormick, Grand Portage Secretary-Treasurer, address the group with closing remarks. 

After the lunch and discussion, 12 organizations had the opportunity to participate in one-on-one breakout rooms with Representative Skraba to further express their needs, concerns, and requests.

Other specific requests to note from the organizations who had a 1:1 with Representative Skraba. All statistics and information came from each organization. To learn more about each entity and what they provide to the Cook County and Grand Portage communities, click on the reference link provided: 

Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Funding the Minnesota Indian Families Prevention Act (MIFPA).
  • Funding for future MMIR Office (would be the first even within the State of Minnesota, and a proposed location would be at the Land Port of Entry between Grand Portage and Canada).
  • Tribal-State Relations Trainings for all state agencies who work with tribes.
  • Preserve a historic stone bridge by realigning a portion of County State Aid Highway 17 through the Grand Portage National Monument, and constructing a new bridge over the Grand Portage Creek. This is a joint project between Grand Portage Chippewa, Cook County, and the National Park Service.
Cook County Sherrif Department
  • Sherrif Eliasen has proposed an increase in training for mental health crisis calls, and responses and an increase in resources that can assist individuals in a crisis. Eliasen explained that law enforcement receives annual training on how to respond to mental health crisis calls, but often, due to a lack of inpatient facilities, many individuals end up in the ER, jail, or on the streets. 
Cook County Transfer Station Facility 
  • The county has requested $2 million in bonding for the construction of a waste transfer station facility. This station would serve all of Cook County, Grand Portage, and eastern Lake County. Although North Shore Waste would manage the facility, the County would own it. $2.5 million funds will be matched. 
Cook County Higher Education 
  • Cook County Higher Ed expressed that the success of their organization has been due to financial support from the state. However, CCHE is at a point where the needs and successes of the organization have outpaced current funding levels. They are asking for one-time funding of $100,000 for fiscal year 25 and a base budget adjustment for fiscal year 26/27 of $100,000 per year, ongoing. 
Cook County Economic Development Authority
  • The EDA did not have any specific requests for its organization specifically but showed support for funding for the transfer station, increased childcare support, as well as for funding support for Cook County Higher Education. 
  • The organization also is in support of a new medical records system for many of the area's rural clinics, which is a one-time investment of $2.5 million (this would serve Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, Lake Superior Community Health Center, Scenic Rivers Clinics, and Community Health Service Inc).
Cook County Housing and Redevelopment Authority
  • The HRA expressed to lawmakers that Cook County is still experiencing a housing crisis, and that constituents in the area are counting on them to help reduce barriers and continue to increase housing availability. 
Cook County ISD 166
  • Some top priorities include:
    • Continuing to close the special education cross-subsidy. (According to the Minnesota Rural Education Association, "A cross-subsidy is the amount of money from the District’s General Fund used to pay the un-reimbursed cost of providing services. The two biggest cross-subsidies that districts were not reimbursed for are Special Education and English Language Learners." The average cross-subsidy in the state is $833 per student. Cook County's average is 1,268.00).
    • Expand Voluntary Prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds who qualify for free and reduced-price meals.
  • Other priorities: 
    • Expand safe school funding
    • Facilities improvements
    • Improve pension benefits
Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Requested maintaining current yearly funding of $15 million per year to continue progressing towards clean water and healthy soil goals.
Cook County Coalition of Lake Associations (CCCoLA)
  • CCCoLA represents 18 lake and road associations throughout the County. The organization requested legislators ban lead ammunition and tackle. 
Violence Prevention Center (VPC)
Cook County: ARMER System Tower Replacement Request
  • Cook County has two system towers that need to be replaced. The MN Department of Transportation has budgeted $2 million for the replacement and improvements of these towers and related buildings. Losing the towers would cause significant outages throughout the County. It was requested to prioritize this funding within the MnDOT budget. 
Cook County: Judicial Center Bonding Request
  • The County has submitted a bonding request for $8.7 million (half of the estimated cost of building a Judicial Center). The County acknowledged that reduced bonding levels this legislative season may result in not receiving the full amount, however, even a lower amount will help the project move forward. Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Sixth Judicial District, and Arrowhead Regional Corrects are partnering in the planning process. 
Cook County: Assessor
  • Property Tax Classifications (changes in the initial proposal will cause a loss of tax capacity on non-homestead residential properties in the County. Requesting a more subtle approach to property tax reform and a simplification of the residential classification).
  • Fiscal Disparity (requesting a legislative audit or abolishment of the law).

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here