Cook Council OKs Timber Days, supports ATV use on county roads
by A.J. Shuster
Timber Days started the April 28 Cook City Council meeting. The June 10-12 event needed approval for blocking main street for vendors, parade and car show. Also a request was approved for a fireworks display, contingent on insurance coverage and a qualified coordinator. As this is a community event, it was requested to waive the suggested Parks & Rec. charge of $250 for use of the baseball fields (tournament) and building. All of these were granted by the council. Also approved were requests by the Old Muni (Friday night street dance and 10 a.m. Sunday liquor waiver), and the VFW (Saturday night live band in the parking lot and Sunday 10 a.m. liquor waiver). It was also announced that Red Water (old school) will be hosting a basketball tournament and having open gym. The hospital is also hosting a 5K run during the event.
After welcoming back the Farmers Market (starting June 18), granting requests made to Planning and Zoning for setback variances, and agreeing to payment for services on the River Street bridge project, the next item was a presentation by Voyageur Country ATV members.
Bill Beste and David Culbert brought some newspaper articles against the use of county roads by ATV drivers. One quoted said the City of Cook stood against such use. This was confusing them as they left the last meeting with what they thought was support. Council members agreed that had been their intent, and no authorized person spoke for them to the contrary to any news organization. They requested a letter of support before heading to the next county hearing to be held in Duluth May 10. The only concern was that the vehicles be restricted to county roads within the city and follow the speed limits and other rules of the road. These two men assured them that all state regulations would be met, and that ATV riders are good at policing themselves; they want to be responsible road users. The letter will be written around these understandings, and a council member might also attend the meeting to squelch misinformation.
The airport, along with Orr's, is having problems with the crack sealing job. It needs a remedy, and SEH is looking into warranty coverage.
Ambulance directors are looking into getting a change, legislatively, to be able to use levy funds for administrative/operational/and salary uses, not just for equipment. A question by personnel on changes to how salaries are determined is going to be addressed after Administrator Martinson does research into other municipal ambulance departments. Coming up is participation in a mock crash event at the North Woods School and an open house.
Ruth Boudreau's resignation from her city office assistant position was accepted "regretfully and with thanks" (Elizabeth Storm). Approved was the hiring of Ashley Vito for recreation attendant, and permission for the Personnel Committee to review a position change for Lois Pajari to a leader.
A logo contest is ongoing for the Lake Vermilion Trail. It was reported that Carol Booth has been instrumental on this end of the proposed project, by walking trails. Approval was given to be a joint applicant with the City of Tower in seeking funds.
Attorney Mark Weir has sold his practice, but is staying on with the new owner to continue to help the City.
Elections for 2016 will be moved from City Hall to the newly-opened Community Center. This allows more space for voters and no interrupted City business during voting hours.
The hospital is sponsoring a forum on May 12 at the Community Center on the plague of sex trafficking.
Lake Country Power annual meeting addresses principles, purpose and service
Amid unprecedented change in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, Lake Country Power remains rooted in co-op principles, its sense of purpose and an obligation to serve. That's the message Lake Country Power shared with nearly 500 members and guests at its annual meeting Thursday, April 28, in Mt. Iron.
"The board's primary role is to ensure the co-op is financially healthy and viable so the service members receive is safe and reliable," said Dale Long, LCP board president. "We adopt policies that guide management and focus on the best interest of the membership as a whole, not individual gain or benefit."
Lake Country Power General Manager Greg Randa reflected on the 37 years he's been an electric cooperative employee and 35 years as a co-op member. He spoke about his great respect for the hard work, creativity and ingenuity of the co-op employees from his father's generation. Randa complimented today's workforce for having the same values and sense of purpose to provide an essential service for better life.
Randa spoke about the values - integrity, safety and quality, innovation, communication, teamwork and respect - that drive Lake Country Power to deliver valuable programs and services for rural co-op members.
He also referenced the long-term rate philosophy that recovers costs fairly across the system. The philosophy helps Lake Country Power maintain lines, substations and equipment without sacrificing safety while energy sales decline and government regulations expand on utilities.
The subsidiaries, Lake States Tree Service and Lakes States Construction, had a loss of $188,000 in 2015, compared to a profit of $525,000 for 2014
For the 2015 year, Lake Country Power expenses were $37,981,207, compared to $37,178,632 for 2014. There were 48,757 total services, with 45,254 from residential, 3,339 from small commercial, 160 from security lighting, three from industrial, and one from resale. The co-op covers 10,872 square miles, one of the largest cooperatives in the United States in terms of area. Electricity sales for LCP fell $5 million from 2014 and KWH sales dropped 10 percent.
A group calling themselves "Lake Country Power Cooperative member Alliance" handed out a paper demanding LCP Board Accountability to Member Owners. Their report complained that rates were rising 10 percent, that the board was not up front with members, the board could have reduced the service availability charge, and board compensation was not controlled.
LCP General Manager Greg Randa has prepared the following statement in answer to those complaints:
"Based on an initial review of the information that was handed to members - but not shared with co-op directors or staff - at the annual meeting, we have a lot of work ahead to correct the numerous inaccuracies, misstatements and mischaracterizations shared by two former directors of the co-op.
"Regardless of who is elected to board seats, rates are increasing to keep up with rising costs for health care, taxes, technology, power lines, substations and trucks - just to name a few examples. It's like a bridge or a highway - if you don't reinvest, infrastructure crumbles. Electric rates revenues drive the reinvestment in safe and reliable electric service for the members we serve.
"It's also worth noting that co-op directors are also members-they are elected by fellow members and pay electric bills too. They are accountable to members every three years when they are up for election.
"We work hard to provide members with accurate, straightforward information about their electric service, the cost of service and rates. We will continue to do so, especially when information is mischaracterized and taken out of context.
"We will also continue to focus on our mission to provide members with safe and reliable electric service, manage member resources wisely and serve to help our communities prosper."
Director election results were announced. Candidates ran unopposed in Districts 2 and 4:
District 2: Michael D. Forsman, Ely, 554 votes
District 4: Craig Carlson, Grand Rapids, 374 votes
District 8: Jim Huhta, Cromwell, 371 votes; Marvin E. Ketola, McGregor, 173 votes; Danny G. Smith, Tamarack, 242 votes.
Immediately following the adjournment of the annual meeting, the board of directors held a re-organizational meeting. Board officers are: Dale Long from District 1, president; Craig Olson from District 7, vice president; George Harvey from District 3, secretary; and Don Simons from District 6, treasurer.
On April 26, St. Louis County commissioners unanimously approved adding a second public hearing - this one in Duluth - on the proposed ATV ordinance. Citizens are invited to comment on the draft ordinance on May 10, beginning at 9:45 a.m., during the County Board meeting held in the Duluth Courthouse, second floor.
The public hearing will then be continued, as originally scheduled, during the May 24 County Board meeting, which will be held at Hibbing City Hall. People also can offer comments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to ATV Ordinance, c/o St. Louis County Public Works, 4787 Midway Road, Duluth, MN 55811.
The proposed ordinance would make it legal for ATVs to operate on county roads outside of city limits. The County Board requested last fall that an ATV usage policy be considered, recognizing that there are many ATV trails within the County that require use of County Roads to travel from one trail to the next. The draft ordinance can be found at stlouiscountymn.gov/atv.
Prior to drafting the ordinance, county engineers gathered extensive input via three public meetings held throughout the County, an online survey, plus additional meetings with representatives of cities and townships within the county, law enforcement, and surrounding counties that have enacted ATV ordinances.
The May 10 public hearing was added following a request by the Duluth City Council.
The Cook-Orr Healthcare District board heard the good news from the 2015 audit that the hospital more than doubled its profit or increase in net position for 2015. The increase was $790,574 compared to $343,943 for 2014. Net operating revenue was $12,565,911 compared to $11,269,462 for 2014.
The hospital was in the red when just operating income was considered. For 2015 the loss was $528,193 compared to a loss after operations for 2014 of $897,091.
The levy brought in $1,253,808 with $20,964 coming from contributions and $17,524 earned from interest, with $123,062 going out in interest expense. Capital contributions and grants brought in an additional $149,533. The Statement of Net Position showed that total assets increased to $16,561,609, up from $15,942,537 for 2014. The largest expense for the hospital was salaries, which totaled $5,591,795 for 2015 compared to $5,260,015 for 2014.
The audit presentation was given by RSM (formerly McGladrey).
The board also passed a resolution to accept the Gross Revenue Note for the new construction project for the Care Center.
For the month of March, the hospital reported a loss of $27,167 from operations compared to a budgeted profit of $11,754. Adding in non-operational income such as the levy showed the hospital had a year-to-date profit of $209,332 compared to a budgeted profit of $215,982.
Administrator Teresa Debevec reported that they were not having any luck finding RN or LPN staff for the Care Center. They have added a second nurse through a contract agency.
A pre-bid meeting will be held in early May on the Care Center Construction, with bids due by May 19.
Administrator Debevec told the board that she had been appointed to the State Trauma Advisory Council Level 4 Work Group. This group will scrutinize Level 4 Trauma Hospital criteria requirements and make recommendations.
The Executive Committee recom-mended that the hospital accept a three-year contract for the MNA (Minnesota Nursing Association, RNs). The Credentialing Committee recommended the appointment of Adam Hecht, MD (Teleradiology) and the reappointment of Kyle Menzel, MD (Orthopedic).
Lake Vermilion clears of ice on April 25
Fire destroys cabin on Crane Lake Road
'Sirens' Cook Ambulance News
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