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The Year in Review

The Year in Review

County Connections : : Interim Administrator Rena Rogers

COOK COUNTRY, MINNESOTA  December 6, 2010  (LSN)  Much of government work is transactional, process oriented and somedays down right mundane. But within this structured framework there is always the opportunity for creativity, collaboration and leadership to improve the way we deliver services. 2019 has been an eventful year filled with opportunities and challenges, some of which are highlighted below.

Long Term

2019 saw two long term initiatives/issues finally resolved:

  • The County and the Forest service completed the BWCAW Land Exchange, a reflection of extensive work by our Attorney and Assessor’s Offices, GIS analyst, and others.
  • 911 Service redundancy was finally achieved through a partnership with CenturyLink, The Northeast Service Cooperative, True North Broadband, and the State of Minnesota, assisted by Cook County MIS, the Sheriff’s Office, and Emergency Management. The result: no more County-wide 911 outages!

These issues, of course, were replaced with new challenges: Thye-Blatnik (BWCA Payment in Lieu of Taxes) proposed payment reduction and the impacts of increased vacation rentals.

The Assessor’s Office has been involved in addressing these issues – and in finishing the fifth year of assessments in our quintile, bringing Cook County in compliance with the Department of Revenue’s schedule for property assessments. Land Services took on the challenge of trying to understand the scope of increased vacation rentals through the Vacation Rental Licensing Project. During the next few years the county will require the licensing of vacation rentals, ensuring that health and public safety issues are being addressed. This project will be reassessed by the Board after two years.

Collaboration

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. – Helen Keller

This year Cook County departments have collaborated with the City of Grand Marais, the State of Minnesota, North Shore Health, ISD 166, other county departments, and many other groups. Following are a few notable examples of what those partnerships accomplished:

  • Revised Tobacco Ordinance that prohibits the sale of all tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21 in Cook County-licensed facilities. Public Health and Human Services took the lead on this initiative, which proactively addresses the vaping issue in our schools.
  • Community Health Assessment, in which Public Health convened community partners to look at health data and develop priorities for improvement. This provides useful data for the organizations working on quality of life initiatives.
  • Restorative Justice, which began taking referrals in 2019. The goal of this volunteer-government partnership is to address conflict and harm with a restorative and victim-centered approach. This initiative has been a success in part due to leadership from our Attorney’s Office.
  • Winter Parking Ordinance that was passed by the City of Grand Marais this fall. The Highway Department and the Sheriff’s Office collaborated with the city on this project, and deputies have communicated with vehicle owners in a manner that encourages compliance.

Projects

This year the Highway Department took on a couple of long-awaited projects: CSAH 17 in Grand Portage and the South Shore Drive project. The weather impacted the completion of the latter, but this project will be completed during the 2020 construction season. Additionally, the Highway Department has received $2,498,000 in state and federal transportation grants that will be applied to multiple projects from 2021 to 2024.

The Recorder’s Office partnered with the GIS division of the Management Information Systems office on the Public Land Survey System Project. This project uses surveyor information to improve our GIS data based on original public surveys. The project outcome is valuable to surveyors and property owners. Also featured are historical and current surveyor notes, which are viewable online.

Working with the Highway Department, the GIS division also created an online version of the county highway map that can be used offline to track your location. More map apps are planned soon.

Three significant capital bonding projects will come to a successful close by the end of this year:

  • Hovland Public Works building – Space for all equipment at that site, reducing maintenance and replacement costs
  • Community Center improvements – Playground upgrades, ice skating rink and warming house, which will provide great recreational activities for Cook County families and children
  • Courthouse and Law Enforcement Center improvements – Roof and window replacement at the Courthouse and window replacement at the Law Enforcement Center, reducing utility and building maintenance costs. Installation will be a significant project coordinated by our Maintenance Department before the end of the year.

 

The final capital bonding project is the replacement of the outdated 911 hardware and software at the Sheriff’s Office. This project should be complete next spring.

Proactive Leadership

One of the challenges facing all counties is the rising cost of foster care due to increased use of opioids and methamphetamines. Cook County Public Health and Human Services has made the case that proper staffing of social workers proactively addresses the fallout from societal issues like addiction: between 2012 and 2018, Cook County’s foster care placement costs dropped from $418,000 to $221,000 per year due, in large part, to this change in staffing.

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

Several plans with significant potential impacts were developed and approved by the Board this year:

  • The One Watershed Plan now has an approved work plan and funding in place.
  • The Emergency Operations and the Hazard Mitigation Plans that provide 1) a roadmap in the event of a disaster, and 2) proactive steps to mitigate the impact of a disaster are complete and approved.
  • The Auditor’s Office is preparing for the first ever Minnesota Presidential primary election, developing communication and training for voters and election judges.

New Faces = New Opportunities

Government is made up of people. Some notable changes include:

  • The Veterans Service Office is now staffed fulltime by Pat Strand.
  • Mike Keyport is our new emergency manager and comes with a wealth of experience and local knowledge.
  • Krysten Foster will return as county engineer: the Shared Highway Engineer Services Agreement with Lake County has been renewed.
  • Pamela Dixon is our new HR director and is already bringing needed changes to our processes and policies.
  • The Board is beginning the process to hire a new county administrator, which has already generated a good discussion about roles and leadership. These discussions will continue into 2020.

Additional information about county programs and initiatives is available on the county website, https://co.cook.mn.us

 

By: Cook County Interim Administrator Rena Rogers

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service.

 

About Cook County Minnesota

Cook Country Minnesota   Lake Superior News

Cook County is at the tip of Minnesota's Arrowhead region in the remote northeastern part of the state, stretching from the shores of Lake Superior to the US-Canada border. By land it borders Ontario, Canada to the north, and Lake County, MN to the west.  The highest point in Minnesota, Eagle Mountain is 2,301 feet and the highest lake,  Total Area equals 3,339.72 sq miles

Cook County is home to three national protected areas:
Grand Portage National Monument
Superior National Forest
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Cook County include:
 Grand Marais     Lutsen Mountains
 Gunflint Trail      Superior Hiking Trail
 Grand Portage 


Fall Colors Minnesota
Snow Depth  Minnesota   Lake Superior News

Categories: News Minnesota
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Wisconsin Ring-Necked Pheasant Season Opens Oct. 16

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Robert McKenzie 0 448 Article rating: No rating

Northern Wisconsin ~~  October 17, 2021  (LSNews) The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wishes hunters luck and safety during the upcoming 2021 pheasant hunting season. The season opens statewide at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16 and runs through Jan. 9, 2022.

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Norm Foster’s LUNENBURG

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Robert McKenzie 0 896 Article rating: No rating

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~~  October 14, 2021  (LSNews)  This autumn, Magnus Theatre invites audiences to a summer weekend on the coast in Norm Foster’s LUNENBURG. This charming romantic comedy marks the fourteenth of Foster’s works produced at Magnus Theatre since the world premiere of BRAVADO in 1988.
 

#LSN_Arts  #LSNews_TBay 

Thunder Bay Venue the Apollo Facing Eviction

now is the time to stand up and fight for them 

Robert McKenzie 0 1656 Article rating: 5.0

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~  October 8, 20212 (LSNews)  The Apollo, a long-running venue in Thunder Bay, ON, is facing imminent closure and is seeking to raise money to save the space.

The campaign notes that the owners, mother Constantina Stathopoulos and daughter Sheila Stathopoulos, were victims of fraud in the 2000s. The two have also faced medical struggles: Sheila had stage 3 ovarian cancer and experiences daily chemotherapy fatigue, while Constantina has Alzheimer's.

#LSNews_TBay  #LSN_Econ #LSN_Arts 

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Robert McKenzie 0 2004 Article rating: No rating

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~  October 5, 2021 (LSNews)  Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron have both continued their seasonal declines in September. As a result of the drier than average conditions, water levels on Lake Superior have gone below the seasonal long-term average for the first time since April 2014. Lake Michigan-Huron water levels have declined significantly from the record-high levels observed in recent years, but water levels remain above the seasonal long-term average. Lake Superior outflows continue to be set in consideration of water levels upstream and downstream.

#LSN_Shipping  #LSN_ONNews #LSN_MMNews  #LSN_WiscNews #LSN_MiNews 

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Make Your Plans Today – Some Areas At Or Near Peak Colors

Robert McKenzie 0 1878 Article rating: No rating

NORTHERN, WISCONSIN  ~~  October 3, 2021  (LSNews)  Wisconsin is home to many scenic landscapes that showcase the delightful colors of nature in autumn. We're starting to see the leaves change colors, with some parts of the state already at or nearing peak colors.

#LSN_Outdoors  #LSN_WiscNews 

CBP Nets Nearly $230k in Undeclared Currency at Ambassador Bridge

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James Brown 0 1833 Article rating: No rating

DETROIT, MICHIGAN   ~  September 29, 2021  (LSNews) Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Field Operations seized $200,000 in undeclared U.S. currency at the Canadian border early Tuesday morning.

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Robert McKenzie 0 1934 Article rating: No rating

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO   ~~   September 29, 2021  (LSNews)  Linda Penner is the winner of the Orchestras Canada Betty Webster Award for 2021.

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Robert McKenzie 0 5034 Article rating: No rating

NORTHERN, MINNESOTA  ~~~~~~  September 16, 2021  (LSNews)  I am pleased to announce the opening of my latest exhibition, Beacons of Hope curated by Dr. Megan Arney Johnston at Concordia University-St. Paul.  The site-specific works center on the conceptual and gestural elements of hope.
 

Beacons of Hope opens Thursday, September 16th from 5-7pm with an artist talk at 5:30.  Please join me.  If you're unable to attend, the artist talk will be recorded and shared at a later date, and the works will be on view through October 13th.
 

#LSN_Art  #LSN_MNNews 

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