Wednesday, January 9, 2019

First Council Meeting of 2019! 1-9-19

The City Council met at its full attendance for the first meeting of the year on the 9th of January. This meeting is largely logistics, but this meeting was characterized by a lively discussion of the Highway 61 Redesign Project, which the Council, the Creative Economy Collaborative, and the Highway 61 Steering Committee has just finished a review meeting for. More on that later...

If you would like to watch the video, you can find it HERE.

The meeting started with a public forum with no public speakers, so we closed the public forum and moved along.

The Consent Agenda was populated with the usual three items (Approve the Meeting Agenda, Approve the previous meeting minutes, and payment of bills). With the addition of a discussion of the Highway 61 Redesign Project to the end of the Agenda, the Consent Agenda was approved unanimously.

On to the logistics!

The Council started by taking a look at openings on the public boards and commissions that the City has. These groups are very important to the functioning of the City government as they provide valuable oversight of different areas of City business and give members of the community a direct voice to be a part of the decision making process. Tonight the Council considered:

One candidate for the Economic Development Authority Board-- Bev Green, who will be serving her second 6 year term.

One candidate for the Library Board-- Judie Johnson, who will serve her second 3 year term.

One candidate for the Park Board-- Jennifer Stoltz, who will serve her second three year term.

One candidate for the Public Utilities Commission-- Melissa Brown, who will serve her first three year term.

A motion was made to approve all of these appointments and it passed unanimously.

**Please make a note that we are still looking for a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. If you are interested, please let me know or go to City Hall for an application. The P&Z deals with some very interesting subject matter; things that directly impact the use of property in our City.

Following that discussion we looked at the Council appointments, of which there were some vacancies that needed to be filled due to changes in the Council roster.
The following list shows the current list of Councilors and their assignments:

EDA Board--Anton Moody
Library Board-- Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux
ARDC Board-- Anton Moody
North Shore Management Board-- Kelly Swearingen
Park Board-- Craig Schulte
Personnel Committee-- Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux, Kelly Swearingen
Planning Commission-- Tim Kennedy
Public Utilities Commission-- Tim Kennedy
Public Utilities Board-- Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux, Anton Moody, Craig Schulte (This board meets to discuss disputes and complaints to the City Public Utilities)
Safety Committee-- Anton Moody (This group meets with employee reps and safety experts to assess safety and ensure OSHA requirements are met)

There are also some groups that the City has liaisons for. Those groups and their liaisons are:

Arrowhead Animal Rescue-- Anton Moody
North House Folk School-- Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux
Cook County Local Energy Project-- Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux
Active Living/Safe Routes to School-- Tim Kennedy
Northwoods Food Project-- Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux
YMCA-- Kelly Swearingen
Cook County Parks and Trails-- Tim Kennedy

There was a motion made to approve this slate of appointments and it passed unanimously!

More logistics!

The Council has the option each year of designating an official newspaper for City announcements and advertisements. This is to make sure that there is an official publication that someone could find if they wanted official information in regards to City goings-on, such as meeting minutes or announcements. There was a brief conversation about what it means to qualify as an "official" newspaper, but a motion was made to designate the Cook County News Herald as the City's official newspaper. There was also discussion about misgivings in the accuracy of the reporting from the News Herald and whether or not that reflects well on the City endorsing the paper in light of the tone of some of the reporting therein. Nevertheless, the News Herald was identified as still being an important conduit to many in the community and was approved as the official newspaper.

In order to disclose where the City deposits public funds to, well, the public, the Council needs to identify the official City depositories for the year. This designation is done every year. The Council approved the following depositories for City funds:

Grand Marais State Bank
North Shore Federal Credit Union
Security State Bank
LMC/4m Fund
RBC

Another piece of accounting that the City needs to do each year is to officially designate the mileage reimbursement for City employees and expensable travel. The IRS set that amount for 2019 at $0.58/mile, up 3.5 cents from 2018. The Council decided to go with the IRS's suggestion and set mileage reimbursement at that level.

The next item on the agenda was not a typical item, but something that came across as pretty timely though. It seems that the FCC changed its rules for the deployment of "small wireless facilities" or cellular boosting antennae in rights of way to limit the actions that cities can take against companies that want to erect poles with these cellular modules on them. At present, cities can request directly to the companies that the community would like them to have the "cellular facility" or antenna or module look a particular way to blend in or meet some aesthetic. This rule change says that after January 14th if a city doesn't have an approved policy on the books requiring certain aesthetic considerations, a city cannot ask the company to do so and cannot deny requests based on an aesthetic complaint. Sure, there are lots of other ways that a city can deny a right of way facility, but there are other rules in the FCC that make such an action harder to do than you'd think. With this consideration and considering all of the work that the community has put into designing and being very intentional with the Highway 61 corridor, the Council saw that it was important to take this action. There were a number of questions asked directly to the City Attorney, who gladly answered them, and the Council decided to adopt a template policy for "Small Wireless Facility Design Guidelines" that could be amended and revised in the future as technologies and applications of those technologies require. This one will be a slightly moving target though and the City Attorney will keep the Council up to date on any developments.

The final thing on the agenda was a lively discussion of the Highway 61 Redesign Project. As I mentioned above, the Council had spent a few hours this afternoon going over design considerations for the project and looking at proposals for the design of the amenities for the project. The project planning is nearing completion and the MN DOT is preparing to work on their engineering designs, so time is of the essence if there are any changes that need to be made. Councilor Kennedy reported that he was impressed with the process and thought that the Council should take some action to approve the design so the City could stay on top of the planning and also send the message to MN DOT that we are staying engaged in the process and won't broadside them with any changes at the last minute. I shared my perspective as well, which was that the Council, community, and stakeholders have come a very long way from the initial plan and I believe that the plan captures nearly all of the desires of the community. Any further modifications to the plan would not be an effective use of time as what the community told the City they wanted is almost all in this plan. At this point Councilor Swearingen added her perspective that she really likes a lot of the plan, but she believes there are a lot of things in the plan that aren't necessary and that the City doesn't need to do. She identified a few locations throughout the corridor where she was nonplussed with the design or the need for the items built there. She identified the 3rd Ave E and 3rd St "landing," which was created because there was a large space made available by the closing of 3rd St to Highway 61. This space called for a potential public art location, a wayfinding/bulletin board kiosk, a bike rack, and a number of different seating options. When asked, Councilor Schulte looked up the amount that was designated for that installation and it was estimated at +- $64,000. Seeing that this was not a completely necessary part of the corridor and that picnic benches on a green space would also be very nice, she made a motion to remove this installation and leave it as grassy space. In the discussion of this motion points were made that, a.) if this is removed now it is gone from these plans, but could be taken up at a later time, b.) there should still be conduit run for a light installation if it is deemed necessary to have a light at that space, c.) the stub of 3rd St will still be included in the plan to allow for a few parking places for area businesses. This motion drew a significant amount of discussion, but in the end passed, saving the project that estimated $64,000 at the expense of the 3rd and 3rd landing. Following Councilor Swearingen, Councilor Schulte spoke about his experience with the process thus far and reported that many business owners on the corridor are very nervous and unhappy about how the process has played out. He reported that many he spoke to feel that there is very poor communication (little to no communication) coming from MN DOT pertaining to property leases for construction, property purchases for right of way, or significant impacts on their properties, including parking, sign location, and entries. He spoke at length of his experience working with MN DOT and the Council saw that it will be necessary to reach out again to these property owners and then advocate their concerns directly to the project manager with MN DOT so the property owners can get an update on where items are and when they can expect to hear about the developments pertaining to the project. The conversation was very thorough and covered many bases, so, to get the full picture of what was discussed, you can watch the meeting video, starting at 56:30.

Following that discussion we had exhausted our topics and moved on to Council and Staff Reports:

Councilor Moody reported that there has been some snowfall this winter and that the Council and County Highway Department should be working on Snow Emergency parking. Administrator Roth reported that the County Highway Department will be attending a future meeting of the Council to bring a draft ordinance for this, which will have some mechanics that the Council and County will have to work out. He also mentioned that the letters concerning the ordinance enforcement for parked RVs have drawn questions and desires some clarification on this. He updated the Council on the sale of another EDA lot to the vet clinic for expansion. The Superior National golf course met its round goal despite a bad October. The EDA housing that has been built has been sold and the second batch of houses are on the market. The Lutsen apartment project is in process with three of the four buildings in place with finishing ongoing with one of the buildings becoming available in each of the next three months. He finished up reporting that the EDA brought in around $1.3 million in grant funding to benefit

Councilor Schulte did not have any reports other than bringing up the conversations with business owners concerning the Hwy 61 Project.

Councilor Kennedy reaffirmed the desire to have a snow emergency parking ordinance.

Councilor Swearingen has a YMCA finance meeting next week. The Golf Course Task Force met and had good conversations about potential actions to improve the course. There are 6 candidates for the superintendent position and interviews will happen in January. She stressed the importance of City strategic planning and its results (i.e. ordinance revision etc). She also mentioned concerns for digging out the fire hydrants around town and ask that if you have one in your area, any help you can give us with this would be much appreciated. The City staff are working on it, but have been pretty busy...

I reported on an interview I did with the City Pages in regards to the award that Cook County received saying that it is the best place to live in the state. I didn't take the steam out of the conversation, but I did say it pretty clearly that there are many challenges to living up here as well. Other than that I reported that the CEC (Creative Economy Collaborative) met to formalize its bylaws and will be bring that information to the Council for considerations in the upcoming months.

Administrator Roth is looking for dates for strategic planning, preferably in February. The Council will be brainstorming for dates and topics.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

City Council Meeting 12/19/18

The City Council met on the 19th to finish out the responsibilities of the year in a very brief meeting.

The meeting was called to order at 5:00pm right on the dot with ALL 5 COUNCILORS PRESENT! Thank you again to Craig Schulte for stepping up and taking the vacant position on the Council!

There were no members of the public present, so the open forum (public comment) was opened and then closed for the night.

The Consent Agenda was populated by the usual three things (Approval of the meeting agenda, approval of the previous meeting minutes, and approval of payment of bills), was moved for approval and was approved unanimously.

There were two other items on the agenda, all being logistical necessities for the year-end.

The first was a resolution setting the cost of living adjustment (COLA) pay adjustments to the City's non-union workers. This past year the City renegotiated a two year contract with the City employee Union (AFSCME) that set the COLA increase for 2019 at 3%. Since supervisors are not union employees, there needs to be another action taken to extend the same treatment to them. This resolution takes care of that. It was motioned, seconded, and passed unanimously.

The final item on the agenda was the last logistical requirement of the Council for the year. This is the setting of the Final City Tax Levy collectible in 2019. As reported in the Budget/Levy Hearing at the previous meeting, the Council and Administration were able to reduce the Preliminary Levy from a 5.99% increase to the Final Levy of 2.72% or $959,021.32. This was brought to the community at the hearing last meeting and there was no public comment so the motion was made tonight to approve the final levy, it was seconded, and passed unanimously.

Following that the Council chose to delay Council and Staff Reports due to the fact that there was only one week between meetings and the meeting was adjourned.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

City Council Meeting and Budget/Levy Hearing 12/12/18

Tonight the City Council met for its regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30pm at the City Council Chambers. The online stream can be found here.

Tonight's meeting had a few special considerations though, things that will effect the operations of the Council for the upcoming years and things that we don't do all of the time...

To keep you in suspense about those things, I will start at the beginning and head through the meeting!

The meeting was called to order at 6:30pm with all sworn-in Councilors present (considering we still had a vacancy at the beginning of the meeting there were 4 Councilors present).

Right off the bat the Open Forum (Public Comment) was opened to allow for the public to bring comments directly to the Council. Since no one rose to speak, the Open Forum was closed and the next item was brought up.

The Consent Agenda was composed of the typical 3 items, Approving the Meeting Agenda, Approving the Minutes of the previous meeting, and Approving the payment of bills. The Council has the opportunity to pull an item for conversation or to approve them all in a single motion. The motion was made and seconded and passed unanimously.

The next item on the agenda was one of the special considerations that I mentioned above: the appointment of a Councilor to the position vacated by Carl "Pete" Gresczyk.
The Council received two (2) letters indicating interest and intention to serve on the Council. One from Craig Schulte, who previously ran in the last election, and Anna Hamilton, long time community member and business owner. The Council had a brief conversation about how each of the candidates would definitely be able to perform the duties required of them as a Councilmember well, brought up some concerns about the fact that the City buys fleet fuels from SuperAmerica, the business that Schulte owns, and ultimately made the motion to appoint Craig Schulte to the vacated position. Administrator Roth will work with Councilor Schulte to make sure that the proper procedures are followed. Since Schulte does not have a contract with the City for fuels the process is a little more straightforward, but is a necessary safeguard for both Mr. Schulte and for the City. The fact that Schulte showed the investment to run in the previous election weighed heavily on the motion and it passed unanimously. Congratulation to Craig and thank you for being willing to serve on the Council!

It definitely goes without saying as well that the Council thanks Jonathan Steckelberg for his service in the past year plus that he served. His voice and perspective were valued contributions to the Council.

Having that business taken care of, the Council then moved on to another one of the special considerations, our hearing on the City Budget and Levy, also known as the Truth in Taxation Hearing. City Administrator Roth went through the City's five year plan that shows the past two years' levy numbers, the current expected levy for 2019, and a projection of the next two years' levies based on multipliers for escalating expenses and planned projects. There are a lot of moving pieces in these budgets, but the Council is taking a relatively conservative look at revenues and a less conservative look at expenses so that the budgets can be created more realistically, or at least assuming more of a "worst case scenario."

After this budget summary (you can take a look at my previous blog post on the last budget worksession that summarizes this information in more detail), the floor was opened for public comment on the budget and levy. No one from the public came forward to speak, so the hearing was closed and the Council moved on to the next item on the agenda.

Next on the agenda was a conversation on two aspects of the Highway 61 Redesign Project. The first was a memo from the Creative Economy Collaborative, a group of leaders in the local art/craft/creative economy who the City asked to vet and review the design elements of the Highway 61 project. The second was a first draft of the expense budget for the project with working numbers of the City's participation.

The memo summarized and affirmed many of the elements of the project as they already stood in the plan, but there were also other suggestions made by the CEC. An overall design concept was proposed for contemporary Scandinavian elements that emphasize durability, beauty, simplicity, minimalism, functionality, and natural forms. *Many of these things are subjective and there will be many more conversations at the Council and community levels before anything is decided about these elements.

Here is the text of the memo for your consideration. Please remember that this is meant to be a recommendation and thus a working document:

Introduction 
On May 30, 2018, the Grand Marais City Council unanimously approved a motion “to accept the assistance of the Creative Economy Collaborative in matters of art and enable communication between the CEC and City to flow in both ways.” In this capacity, the City has asked the CEC and CJ Fernandez, Aune Fernandez Landscape Architects, to meet and work on plans and designs for amenity improvements within Grand Marais relative to the Highway 61 reconstruction project scheduled for 2019-2020. This memo is the summary of CEC lessons learned, priorities and recommendations of action strategies. Our work is based on the scope and deliverables in CJ’s contract with MNDOT, focused on the Highway 61 corridor between 8th Avenue West and the Gunflint Trail. The CEC will have additional input in the future for locations along the highway to the east and west of this segment, as well as other areas in the City of Grand Marais. The CEC agrees: Overall approval of CJ’s design plan and layout of amenities along the redesign corridor. CJ’s design plan and layout of amenities have been informed by several years of community input sessions, Hwy 61 Steering Committee meetings with MNDOT and most recently, engagement of the CEC. The CEC has an over-arching question: What funding, if any, is available through MNDOT or the TAP grant for public art and other amenities?
Overall Design Concept 
The CEC recommends a blend of traditional and contemporary Scandinavian design elements for all amenities. Conceptually, this design honors the rich history and culture of Grand Marais while embracing a progressive and contemporary demographic also being future-oriented. Design concepts emphasized include durability, beauty, simplicity, minimalism, functionality and natural forms.
Street Lighting 
We acknowledge that lighting must meet MNDOT standards. We will soon gain understanding of their level of financial participation with the City of Grand Marais on this component of the project. CEC members liked the designs that CJ shared with us, specifically those that are reminiscent of our nautical heritage and others that are I-beam and wood with exposed hardware. Lighting should fade away and recede from view. It should be engineered at a pedestrian scale for height and intensity. Lighting should not take visual precedence and overwhelm public art. It should remain in the functional category. It should be dark-sky-friendly and warm.
Trees and Plants 
Trees (77) are a priority. MNDOT can provide a list of salt-tolerant trees that are appropriate for our climate. CEC approved the species that CJ shared with us. Shrubs and perennials should be included in planters and in the small gathering areas, specifically at the three identified gathering spaces: 3rd Street/3rd Avenue, the Library and the Community Connection between the Recreation Area and North House.
Benches 
Based on CEC design input, CJ will include two designs for 10 or 11 benches. 4-5 additional benches should be reserved as juried public art projects.
Raised Platforms (Planters, seating)
Board form concrete should be used wherever concrete is used, including in raised platforms and benches. Wood should be sustainable and local when possible, with consideration for maintenance costs and durability.
Bike Racks 
The CEC affirms CJ’s recommendation of 12 bike racks.
Affirmation of Enhanced Intersections 
The CEC favors unique design opportunities for crosswalks. Two-dimensional patterns of George Morrison’s signature totem forms are of particular interest, contingent upon discussions with and approval of the Morrison family.
Public Art (**These suggestions were made to have the availability for these locations to house public art, not that public art will immediately or ever be placed in these locations. That will be up to the community.)
The CEC affirms the ten designated public art locations. MNDOT should prep these sites appropriately with platforms(**This was revised to not have platforms), electric hook-ups, etc., according to the landscape architect’s plans and specifications.
The locations are:
1. Entrance to the Grand Marais Recreation Area
2. Community Connection at Recreation Area and North House
3. 5 th Ave W near Dockside
4. 3 rd Ave W near Voyageur Brewing
5. At the intersection with the Library and Visit Cook County
6. 1 st Ave W near the Pharmacy
7. At the intersection with Broadway
8. In front of the Post Office
9. 3 rd Ave E near the Dentist Office
10. At the intersection with the Gunflint Trail
The CEC will take the lead on both developing and overseeing the juried RFP and artist selection process. There could be temporary installations to learn what the community desires and appreciates, along with permanent pieces. CEC will engage local artists in the design, fabrication and installation of the public art opportunities whenever possible. CEC recommends that the city adopt a Public Art Policy, which has yet to be developed. The city should engage and collaborate with the CEC to identify that policy. The policy will guide the development and implementation of public art opportunities with a master plan throughout the entire community. The CEC’s focus in developing this plan will be community education, involvement and consensus building, to ensure all voices are heard and included. This policy would require a graphic plan that covers the entire community as well as written policy that guides the location, development, selection, maintenance, funding, phasing and all other aspects of public art to be determined through the policy process. CEC is willing to develop a policy based on input from the City Council, CJ’s advice and examples from others. The CEC will also consult with professionals in public art policy to devise best practices, for example, Forecast Public Art. The CEC recommends that a maintenance policy be established within the plan for public art and suggests a diversified approach, perhaps beginning with a set of temporary public art projects that could be used as test cases and means of acquiring community input and buy-in. Gathering Spaces 
Three important gathering spaces need special attention: Library/old Gunflint entrance/Visit Cook County Community Connection between the Recreation Area and North House The space at 3rd and 3rd (in front of dentist office) These sites allow for increased gathering space that could include public art, space for movement and engagement, potential playful elements (ex – swing or jungle gym). These sites would be part of a juried RFP process for artist design.
Entrance to Recreation Area 
Amenity plans include a new sign at the entrance to the Recreation Area. CEC will defer to the Park Board, as this is a project of the Park Board. It appears there is general agreement to CJ’s concept for a boxed sign. Message on the sign could be Grand Marais Recreation Area. No final decision has been made by the Park Board regarding design details.
ADA Access at North Shore Pharmacy 
The CEC affirms the ADA access at the Pharmacy at 1st Avenue West.
Kiosks - Wayfinding and Interpretive Signs, Branding 
The CEC observes that now that the City has completed its comprehensive planning process, a good next step and recommendation is for the city to undertake a planning process for consistent aesthetic and graphic standards. The process would include vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding signage that might not fit into the MNDOT timeline regarding amenities but should be considered and implemented by the city in a second phase. The city should also create a plan for interpretive signage. The CEC recommends that the city hire a professional(s) to develop a community interpretive plan and wayfinding plan. The process would include vehicular wayfinding, pedestrian wayfinding, interpretive installations to be included with wayfinding or as stand-alone projects and incorporate public art considerations to the degree the city’s public art policy and directives are developed and ready for consideration. The CEC would suggest that the consultant be required to initiate a community process (maybe led by the CEC) to develop and determine the interpretative and wayfinding plans as well as the development of aesthetic standards. The CEC recommends that the completion of the work is the city’s adoption of the interpretive and wayfinding plans. The highway corridor will need wayfinding signs with bold, drive-by directions for vehicles and more detailed, pedestrian-oriented structures with interpretive panels. The CEC considers this important enough to recommend hiring a consultant. It is essential that the wayfinding and interpretation share common, consistent materials, graphic standards, text font, etc. The visual significance and impact of these elements can create a lasting first impression for visitors to Grand Marais. A professional in city and graphic design could highlight our eclectic lake/north woods environment and fishing history in a way that is clear to our visitors. We intend to look for outside sources of funding, but since time is short, we hope that the city can help with funding.
Why all the above - planning and implementing amenities projects and future public art policy, wayfinding, interpretation are important 
With this Highway 61 reconstruction coming through the center of the city, we have opportunities. We can: -Help guide the implementation of the project. It has been communicated by CJ, MNDOT and others that Cook County’s approach to this project is unique and should be documented, as it exhibits an engaged and empowered citizenry who have stepped up to ensure the project is backed by community input and resolve. -Demonstrate our community identity -Demonstrate our community values as outlined in the Cultural Plan -Preserve our history, culture and way of life and educate others about them -Prepare for consistent maintenance -Positively impact safety for pedestrians and vehicular traffic through the city by creating more clear gathering spaces, places to sit and rest, better lighting and eventually, clear wayfinding signage -Create additional gathering spaces for the community -Create a consistent visual focus for residents and visitors -Attract short-term visitors -Attract long-term businesses to diversify the economy. Public art is a means of improving quality of life and demonstrating community pride. These are of major importance when entrepreneurs and others are seeking to expand or relocate their businesses, jobs, employees, and families. -Generate good will by good design, which is the physical reflection of Cook County’s spirited and sophisticated pride and sense of place
Conclusion
The CEC and CJ have met multiple times. The CEC has facilitated working discussions to arrive at design concepts. The CEC has come to consensus on the above matters. Thank you to the City Council for accepting our assistance and for your thoughtful consideration of the above. Those who have been actively engaged in creating the recommendations and preparing this memo are: Ruth Pszwaro Grand Marais Art Colony Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux Art House B&B, Fireweed Bike Co-op Gerry Grant Grand Marais Playhouse Greg Wright North House Folk School Betsy Bowen Betsy Bowen Gallery, Art Around Town, artist Jim Boyd Cook County Chamber of Commerce Richard Olson Certified Interior Design, Hovland Jan Sivertson Sivertson Gallery, County Commissioner Linda Jurek Visit Cook County Barbara Backlund Cook County Historical Society Carrie McHugh Cook County Historical Society Pat Campanaro Small Business Development Center Matthew Brown WTIP Community Radio Greg Mueller Mueller Studio, Lutsen Ron Piercy Yellow Bird Gallery Frankie Jarchow Grand Marais Garden Club Mary Somnis Cook County/Grand Marais EDA and staff support to the CEC

After going through that memo, the Council spent a considerable amount of time discussing the overall budget for the project and the City's participation in it.

In brief, the City will be expected to participate in the overall project to the tune of roughly $2.3 million. This sounds like an astounding amount of money (and it is), but let me break down the parts as shown in the table to the right:

Of that $2.3 million, the City will be using $240,000 in Stormwater Grant monies received to help accomplish the City's stormwater goals as laid out in the Stormwater Management Plan. Also, the City is likely to receive a $50,000 grant from IRRRB to assist with lighting costs. The funding that kickstarted the project, the TAP funding, will provide $600,000 for lighting and other elements of the corridor behind the curb, meaning elements that assist in the pedestrian use of the corridor. Likewise, MN DOT will be providing $91,500 in matching funds, some for lighting and some for behind curb amenities in the right of way.

That already totals up to $981,500 of the $2.3 million, leaving $1,318,500 remaining to come from other City Departments.

The Rec Park is looking to include around $300,000 to the project to rebuild the welcome sign to the campground and to develop a community space between the North House campus and the campground itself. (This number will likely go down depending on the designs of both of these elements). The Rec Park has reserved monies for this project and will be using cash to complete these projects.

The Public Utilities have been planning on repairing the infrastructure under the road as a part of this project and have budgeted accordingly so as to not have to borrow for this project either. This looks like $841,156 of utility work.

The remaining amount comes to $187,430, which would be the amount that would come out of the City General Fund. This amount has been budgeted for as well and is currently being held in cash, so it will not effect the tax levy at all.

As one of his first comments on the Council, Councilor Schulte reminded the City that any significant building up here needs to have about 10% built in for overages and even if these were engineer numbers, they are still prone to go up when the project goes to bid. A good perspective to keep in mind.

Councilor Swearingen agreed and added that she was very glad to see these numbers, but that they really don't mean anything until we see the design that shows what/where all of the trees, benches, bike racks, etc actually are and then we can really look at what we need and don't need.

There were questions about what the process looks like from this point on, at which Administrator Roth mentioned that MN DOT feels like the conversation is more or less over. The Council will be bringing this item back in January in conjunction with design ideas and thus the conversation will NOT be over until the Council gets to a point where the City has had an opportunity to involve the community. It was stated that these numbers would better serve the Council to be seen as a sort of "Preliminary Budget" for the City's participation in the project and thus it gives parameters to work within in regards to these design features. The Council agreed to study the numbers and to bring them back to the next conversation about design so that the Council can be more informed about potential costs.

In Council and Staff Reports:

Councilor Moody reported on the EDA meeting he attended: The first unit of workforce housing in Lutsen is up and they are working on interior finishing. The Grand Marais "Nordic Star" homes sales have been closing and there are people on a waiting list for the remaining 4 homes. Superior National finished the year up from their budgeted 12,000 rounds at just under 12,200 and thus have revenues that have gone up as well. He also asked about our schedule for Strategic Planning exercises, which will be planned for January.

Councilor Kennedy reported on the work that the County is doing in regards to vacation rental activity in the County. The classification of properties used for vacation rental will be changed to residential non-homestead, which will, it seems, keep more of that property tax money in the county. There was uncertainty about the efficacy of that technique, but it seems that is the way the County is choosing to move forward. The County will also be putting together a license with fee to gather information on properties being used as vacation rental. These are potential steps that the City could adopt if it is seen necessary. Kennedy also reported that the PUC voted to keep both water and electric utilities at the same rate (0% increase) and to increase the sewer utility by 2% to accommodate some upcoming projects associated with the wastewater system.

Councilor Swearingen asked about what the process was when there was a person operating a vacation rental illegally in the City. The answer is that the City sends them a letter. If they do not stop operating, they get a cease and desist letter. If they continue in light of these, then the City prosecutes through the County Attorney. Councilor Swearingen had nothing further.

Due to me being ill for a week and the quietude of the holidays, I, in a rare moment, did not have anything to report!

We adjourned at 8:22 or so.

**THE NEXT COUNCIL MEETING IS ON THE 19th, NOT THE 26th! This will be a short one where bills and the final levy will be set.

As always, if you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to reach out to me!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Council Worksession on Budget: 12/6/18

The Council and City Administration spends the better part of each year gathering information, looking at trends,  and trying to predict the future by setting priorities for the upcoming years. This includes a number of public worksessions throughout the course of the year.

The City Council had the final of those worksessions today (Thursday) in preparation for the December 12th Truth in Taxation Hearing at 6:30pm, just prior to the regular City Council meeting.

At this session Councilors looked at the (more or less) final numbers for the past year so the Council could choose a revised number to bring forward at the Truth in Taxation meeting this coming Wednesday.

A few things to know about the process:

1. The City has a "Long Term Priority" list. This includes projects that we do not have on any calendar, but that we know will have to be done at some point. An example for this list would be street reconstruction based on a roughly 30-40 year rotation.

2. The City has a "Five Year Project" list that includes all of the major projects that the City has put on the schedule and calculated into its future debt load. These projects are, in no particular order:
-1st St. Reconstruction from Library to the west side of town. This project will include needed utility work under the street as well as resurfacing/subsurface work.
-5th Ave. W Reconstruction, which is a county road, but it has City infrastructure under it, so we need to budget for replacing that infrastructure when the road is redone by the county.
-Hwy 61 Reconstruction. The vast majority of the project cost will be footed by MN DOT and through grant funds that the City has been able to secure, but the City PUC will be putting in significant resources to replace all of the aging infrastructure under the highway and the City will be putting in funds to make sure that the street lighting and general function of the roadway is what we want it to be.
-MN DNR Boat Launch Project. This project has been approved and funded by the MN DNR and the City is a partner with it. It will effectively move the MN DNR lake access from Artist's Point (Coast Guard Point) to the west end of the Harbor by the existing rubble wall. The City will likely participate in certain amenities that will benefit the Rec. Park and the overall usability of the space, but this is a DNR project and is funded through their budget.
-City Hall/Liquor Store. This item made its way onto the list last year and has picked up steam with conversation in the City starting about where a new City Hall/Liquor Store should be, should they be in the same place, how much office space is necessary, etc. No decisions nor formal conversations have been had about this topic, only the assessment of the current facility's value is roughly equivalent to the cost of getting it to meet our needs. That tied to the feedback from the Liquor Store Manager that the current facility does not meet their needs makes a case.
-Digger derrick truck for City PUC. This is a piece of equipment used in setting poles, digging holes, bucket lifting, and much more. This item has been on the plan for quite a while and has been budgeted for by the PUC.

3. The City has a rolling "Three Year Analysis" of the City budget. This includes two years behind present and two years ahead of present. This year the City looked at the budget (revenue, debt, levy, etc) for 2017 and 2018 to inform our budget for 2019, but also to look ahead to what we expect to need to operate for 2020 and 2021. This is a very helpful tool and the City has been able to follow this analysis pretty closely during my time as mayor, which leads me to believe that it is pretty true to reality.

Ok, so that's the information the Council is armed with going into these conversations. Another few pieces of information so that we are all on the same page:

*In September the Council set the Preliminary Levy at a 5.99% increase over last year's. That means that the City cannot increase it any more than that. 5.99% more than 2018 would be the absolute maximum the City can collect. This is a conservative number that assumes most, if not all of the worst things we can expect would happen.

*There are moving pieces in this year's budget: Revenues for 2018 were set at a high level for the 2018 budget and did not quite make that number, so that is brings revenues down and is reflected in the 2019 budget. This is largely due to the campground operating at near capacity during its operating season and without any way to increase beyond that season, the numbers are starting to flatten out. It is important to note that this is not a problem at all. The campground is still providing a great deal of property tax relief and will continue to do so.

*Another moving part has been employee health benefits, which the City successfully renegotiated this year to provide similar if not the same amount of coverage for employees for significantly less cost. This also will be saving the City money and thus lowering the cost of the City's share of employee benefits.

Due to these changes, which have been formalized since the September meeting, the Council was able to reduce the levy increase to 4.32% before the worksession. Through the scrutiny of the worksession, the Council was able to remove another $15,000 from the budget to get the levy increase down to roughly 2.76%, which is what will be presented at the Truth in Taxation meeting, barring new information that would cause a change.

It is the job of the City Council to be responsible with public money and the current members of the Council take that job very seriously. This post is meant as a snapshot and basic information. More information will be available at the Truth in Taxation Hearing this coming Wednesday. Please feel free to come and listen/give your two cents.

As always, if you would like to ask any questions, just let me know. I am around until the 22nd, when I head out for family Christmases.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Council Meeting 11-28-18

Ok everyone and hello again after a long hiatus...

First of all, I would like to thank the members of the community for coming out en masse to vote this November and for re-electing me for another 2 years for Grand Marais! There is a lot to learn every election and I learned this time that there is a good percentage of people in our community that would like to see something different from the Council than what we currently offer. I will be spending time this term investigating this and welcoming conversation/suggestions from people in the community about how I/we can serve you better. The first effort that I will be making is to begin (again) writing a brief summary of each Council meeting and I will make my best effort to write up other Council worksessions that are held so that there is a record of those meetings here as well. (For the record, all public meetings where a quorum of Councilors are present are either sound or video recorded, with a preference toward video).

A lot has transpired since I last wrote one of these summaries and I would love to take the time to explain it all, but would abbreviate that by directing you to the City of Grand Marais website where we have been placing most, if not all of the information about the Highway 61 Redesign Plan, the Stormwater Management Plan, the Sawtooth Bluff Master Plan, and a slough of other projects that the City has been working on.

Alright, on to the meeting tonight! If you want to watch it on video, check it out here.

The meeting was called to order right at 6:30pm with four (4) Councilors present (Moody, Kennedy, Swearingen, and myself) as well as Administrator Roth and Communications Director Patrick Knight behind the camera. Finance Director Dunsmoor was ill and we hope for her swift recovery!

For those that do not know, our City Attorney, Chris Hood of Flaherty & Hood was on the phone as he often is for our meetings.

There was no one present for the Open Forum, so it was opened... and then closed!

The Consent Agenda is a mechanism that a Council can use to quickly approve a number of items that are of general consent to the Council. The Consent Agenda for the Grand Marais City Council usually consists of three (3) items:
1. Approving the current meeting agenda (Which is necessary to run the meeting... We can add or remove items at this time).
2. Approving the Minutes for the previous meeting, which are included in the Council Packet.
3. Approving the payment of bills for the previous period, which is usually 2 weeks worth because there is usually 2 weeks between Council meetings.
*The Consent Agenda is where repeating permit applications sometime end up (think fireworks).
**The Consent Agenda items can be pulled for individual consideration if someone has an issue with one of the items. We have done this when there is an issue with the reporting in the Minutes or if someone wants to discuss a permit in more depth.

This time the Consent Agenda passed unanimously... and we moved on to our first item:

The results of the 2018 election re-elected me for mayor (thank you again), Councilor Swearingen, and Councilor Moody via a slim margin. In the special election Carl "Pete" Gresczyk defeated the incumbent, Jonathan Steckelberg, by 24 votes. Because this was a special election to fill the remainder of an existing term, the winner of that election became eligible to be sworn in and begin serving the day the election was certified. Although he was quite reassured by the City Attorney and acknowledged this factor in his resignation letter, Mr. Gresczyk chose to not serve the term for which he was elected, citing a personal concern over the appearance of a conflict of interest due to the fact that his company, G&G Septic, is one of only a few companies that can service contracts with the City to provide temporary bathroom facilities for summer activities and to haul waste from our wastewater treatment plant. This is truly disappointing as I hoped to have Mr. Gresczyk's perspective on the Council, as it would make us, I believe, a more representative body of our community. Despite the reassurances that the City would be able to accommodate any potential conflicts and that he could serve his term, the Council accepted Mr. Gresczyk's resignation and declared a vacancy on the Council via Resolution 2018-23.

The next step is for the Council to gather potential candidates for appointment to this vacated position. We have already received one from Craig Schulte, who ran in the election and was on the other side of that "slim margin" I mentioned previously. If you are interested in serving on the Council and would like to be considered, please contact cityhall@boreal.org or me and we will get your name added to the list for consideration. We will be accepting candidates until December 7th and will be hopefully choosing a candidate on December 12th. This candidate will be able to be sworn in at any public meeting after the appointment, which could be December 12th.

Following that bit, County Land Commissioner Lisa Kerr appeared before the Council to ask for the approval of the City for the Sawtooth Bluffs Master Plan. This plan is a concept plan of what the County/City/user groups would like to see developed as a part of a recreational facility on the 640ish acres of land owned by the County and City on the Bluff, largely where the old ski hill was and to its west. The Council had many questions pertaining to how the park would be funded from planning to development and operation. Ms. Kerr offered that the development of the plan was largely funded through a STAR Grant from the MN DNR where the necessary matching monies were split between the County and the City, with each paying $3750. To assuage many of the concerns about the potential future expenses of this park, the motion was made to approve the plan contingent on the development of an acceptable management plan between the County, the City, and potential user groups that would have a role in the maintenance of such a facility. This means that any application for funds for further planning or actual development of the park itself cannot happen until an acceptable management plan has be approved by all of those interested. It appears to me that this is a prudent way to move ahead as it makes sure that the cart doesn't get ahead of the horse so to speak and that the County and City have a plan in place that works before we start with any further development of the park.

The motion for this passed unanimously. This means that the Council did not approve the Sawtooth Bluffs Master Plan, it means that we will approve it if and only if an acceptable management plan is in place for said park.

Moving along, the next thing on the agenda was a resolution denying a height variance request in the Core Downtown Waterfront District. The Council had discussed this at length at the previous two meetings and had directed Administrator Roth to draft a resolution for the denial of the variance. For the record, this variance was for a 31.5' building in a district where the height limit is 30'.

As a brief explanation of the process:
Any variance or conditional use has to be weighed against certain criteria in order to be accepted or denied. In this particular situation, the Planning and Zoning Commission had written findings that the Council disagreed with (which happens pretty rarely) and drafted its own. These are the criteria and findings as per the Council:

Criteria 1: The variance is in harmony with the purpose and intent of the ordinance.
Finding 1: The additional building height would detract from other existing uses in the area.

Criteria 2: The variance is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
Finding 2: The additional height unnecessarily interferes with the public view corridors that the Comprehensive Plan recognizes as important in the DW zone due to its adjacency to the harbor and other important public places.

Criteria 3: The proposal seeks to use the property in a reasonable manner not permitted by the zoning ordinance.
Finding 3a: The additional height is not reasonable as other similar spaces have been viable while complying with the 30' height limit.
Finding 3b: A drawing provided to the Council by the applicant's architect portrayed a 30' structure with ceiling heights that were deemed reasonable by the Council and were consistent with heights described in the applicants initial submittal.

Criteria 4: The plight of the landowner is due to circumstances unique to the property and not created by the landowner.
Finding 4: Other properties have been successfully developed on 25' lots with closely adjacent neighboring buildings.

Criteria 5: The variance, if granted, will not alter the essential character of the locality.
Finding 5: The essential character is partially defined by the 30' height limit.

So there you have it. I would like to point out that these findings do imply a precedent for downtown building height being pretty firmly capped at 30'. If the community disagrees with this, it is important for the Council to hear this because the Council just claimed that part of the essential character of the downtown is having buildings 30' or shorter...

The motion was made and passed unanimously to accept the resolution denying the variance.

The final action item on the agenda was an approval of a "Business Associate Agreement" between the City and the A.T. Group, the group that we have arranged for the City employee health insurance program for 2019 through. This agreement is basically to bind the A.T. Group to the health coverages that we have agreed to and outline the expectations of both parties in the agreement. After a few questions about modifications that the City Attorney made to the agreement, it passed unanimously.

On to Council and Staff Reports!

Councilor Kennedy didn't have anything to report.

Councilor Moody reported that he has been receiving some vehicle/atv noise complaints and is wondering what we are to do about such complaints. The answer was that this is a hard one to police, but it is a violation of Section 70.2 of the City Code and is a petty misdemeanor and should be reported to the Sheriff. He also pointed out that we will be having vacancies on some of the City Commissions and was wondering what the plan was to advertise for those. The plan is that we are putting advertisements in the paper and on social media shortly.

Councilor Swearingen reported that she attended a YMCA Advisory Board meeting where they reviewed the contracts between the YMCA and ISD 166 as well as asked some questions about what needs to happen with the re-negotiation of all of the contracts it is in. The question was also asked as to whether or not the County Auditor provided the City with an estimate of what the levy situation would look like if the City bowed out of the YMCA contract with the County. This would mean that the City would not levy any of the YMCA funds and the County would levy all of it, spread out evenly throughout the County. These numbers have not yet come in and will be needed as a part of further negotiations... of which there will be many.
Councilor Swearingen also asked whether or not the City sent out letters to the properties in the city that are in violation of the trailer/camper ordinance. The letters have been sent and the process of enforcing the ordinance has begun.
She also asked whether or not the Council had a view on the employee review information that she provided following the last meeting with the aim to do a review of Administrator Roth, something that hasn't been formally done for some time. This dovetailed into a conversation regarding regular reviews for all employees, to be completed on a regular basis as a goal-setting exercise so the City can be sure our employees understand their expectations clearly and are equipped properly to achieve them.
I reported that the Library budget for 2019 was approved at the County on Tuesday and that the Library Board/Staff have set the calendar of events, schedule, and action plan for 2019. It promises to be another exciting year at the Library and I hope that you take some time to participate/enjoy the resources that are there.
I also reported that I attended a Grand Marais Business Coalition meeting where the Oh Ole Night planning was just finishing and Hygge planning heating up. We are very lucky to have such a motivated and involved community of businesspeople here. Thank you to all that they do and the services they provide!
The Creative Economy Collaborative (CEC) is drafting a response to the Hwy 61 Redesign amenity plan. Their role is to create or support the design of the amenities so that they are reflective of our unique culture and so that they meet the requirements of being in a MN DOT right of way. They have been doing a lot of work on this and I look forward to seeing their report.
Due to the new election of Councilors (and one appointment), I reminded the Council that there are trainings available that they can attend to help them understand the role more completely and be a more effective member of the Council.
I made a suggestion, and eventually a motion, that the Planning and Zoning Commission begin the process of looking into policy solutions that could help us address the affordable housing and rental issues that we have in Grand Marais. I am not sure what the solutions look like, but we need to gather a lot of information and dig into a lot of options to see what could work in the City. It's a first step, but I have high hopes that we can get some meaningful changes from this process that will make housing easier to develop and to own.
Lastly, I asked if we took any steps toward creating a Snow Emergency schedule for the winter. The answer was that we haven't, but that the County Engineer has been brought up to speed and we are waiting for her suggestions. The Council anticipated that action on this wouldn't be likely this year, but that it is a solution that we will need to do sooner or later. In the meantime, if it snows, please try to move your vehicles so that the plow/grader can get through and clear the snow effectively. Thank you!

Administrator Roth reported that he attended a SMMPA (Southern MN Municipal Power Agency) meeting yesterday where PUC Commission George Wilkes helped present to the SMMPA Board a proposal on the de-carbonization of our energy supply. Grand Marais buys all of its electricity from SMMPA and a majority of it comes from a coal-fire power plant. SMMPA did recently buy into a 100MW wind farm and build a 5MW solar farm, which makes it very possible that Grand Marais could potentially purchase 100% renewable energy from SMMPA, but that conversation has not yet begun. It would get us significantly closer to our climate action goals however...

Well, that's it! Whew. Thanks for hanging in there through it all.

As always, if you have any questions, please let me know. I am all ears.

Friday, January 20, 2017

City Council Meeting January 11, 2017

It always seems like right after the New Year I start too many new projects and then I tend to get behind in everything! Maybe I should make a resolution to start one new project at a time so I can get the blog posts out there in a more timely manner!

At any rate, thank you for being patient, here is the meeting summary!

The Council met for the first meeting of the year on the 11th, everyone was present so we moved on to the public forum.

Denny Fitzpatrick spoke to the Council urging the Council to do what is possible to acknowledge and prevent Climate Change either through the Carbon Fee and Dividend program or other programs that the City could consider.

After Denny spoke, no one else chose to speak, so the public forum was closed.

We then moved on to the Consent Agenda, which contained the usual three items (Approval of previous meeting's minutes, current meeting agenda, and city bills). There was no conversation about the Consent Agenda and the motion to approve was unanimous.

We then moved right along to the report of the Planning Commission who had three items for the Council to consider:

1. A resolution for 2 apartments to be made into 3 apartments at 21 W 2nd St. The Planning Commission went through the request and found that it was in correlation with the ordinance and voted unanimously to approve the request. The Council followed suit with a few questions, but seeing that it was in line with the ordinance and didn't change the nature of the area, approved the request.

2. The second item was a request for a variance for a sub-standard lot on 8th Ave W for construction. The proposed structure that would be built on this property would meet or exceed all of the set-backs and other stipulations of the zoning ordinance; the variance was asked for because the lot is 15 feet short of the minimum width requirement and thus 2,320 sq. ft. short of the minimum 10,000 sq. ft. lot minimum. The Planning Commission found that the construction plan was in line with the nature of the zone and that the lot would be undevelopable without the variance and thus requested approval of the variance unanimously. The Council heard the conversation and was glad to have the opportunity to open up another "in-fill" lot to development and voted unanimously as well.

3. The last item on the Planning Commission report was a request from the Planning Commission to adopt the temporary moratorium on commercial construction over 5000 sq. ft. in the C/I Zone as permanent only until the City has had time to complete its Comprehensive Planning process, which will give us the appropriate information to make an informed decision regarding the future of development in the City. This comes following the report from our previous meeting stating that the Council has three options to respond to this: a.) let the moratorium expire and not adopt any new language b.) draft new language now to capture the desires of the community c.) adopt the interim ordinance (moratorium) as permanent until we have collected the information necessary to properly rewrite the ordinance.
It was made clear by the Planning Commission and the Council that removing the protection given by the moratorium without having a full understanding of the needs/desires of the community would be dangerous, so option a.) was removed. The Planning Commission then reflected that there simply wasn't enough time to draft, proof, and have two readings of a new ordinance before the moratorium ran out, so they looked to option c.).
This option was not a very popular option, but it did seem to be the best option available to the Council to make sure that the community visioning process could be completed without compromise. I stated that I will make sure that the adoption of the moratorium is temporary and will get down to work to draft a C/I zone ordinance that is effective in revitalizing that area of town and making it more valuable to City residents and others.
In the end the Council agreed with the Planning Commission and had the first reading of the ordinance to adopt the interim ordinance (moratorium) as permanent.

Following that discussion, George Wilkes of the Public Utilities Commission came forward and made a presentation about a proposed program called the "Carbon Fee and Dividend" program.
This program is a concept developed as a cost-neutral way to create incentive for energy companies to do research for and develop renewable energy. It is a little complicated, but I will try my best to explain it. I added a little image below to help explain it as well:
1. When fossil fuel energy is extracted, there is a fee put on that activity. So when we suck oil or natural gas out of the earth, the company going the work is assessed a fee based on the amount that is extracted.
2. That money is collected and then issued to consumers as a dividend based on the amount of electricity they use (which is mostly calculated by family size and composition).
3. Energy prices go up to compensate for the fee, which is off-set for consumers by the dividends they are given.
4. This creates incentive for the energy companies to invest in renewable energy options because it puts the cost of renewable energy closer to on par with fossil fuel energy.
5. The fee continues to rise year to year, which continues the incentive for pursuing renewable energy at very little expense to the consumer.

**This plan does raise the expense of energy it should be explained. It will not however, raise the expense of energy beyond what it should be or beyond what it would be if the world was using only renewable sources of energy.

The PUC signed on last year to promote this solution to carbon mitigation and Mr. Wilkes was returning to the Council to see if the Council would sign on as well. Last year when this was brought up to the Council we stated that we would like to hear what our electricity producer, Southern MN Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA), has to say about it. SMMPA did not take a formal stance on it, but it was made clear that SMMPA is composed of its member cities, so Grand Marais is SMMPA and thus a statement by one of the cities in the agency speaks for the whole agency.

The Council thanked Mr. Wilkes for his thoughtful presentation and then voted to support the Carbon Fee and Dividend program and promote it for adoption through the state and federal governments.


Following that conversation we moved on to appointments to boards and representative groups.

The City had several openings on City Boards:
2 on the Library Board
1 on the Park Board
1 on the Planning Commission

There was one person who asked to be re-appointed to the Park Board, so the Council re-appointed Barb Backlund to her seat. Thank you for your service Barb!

We are looking for City residents for the other boards however! If you are interested, please contact me or inquire at City Hall for an application. It is a short application and the work is very rewarding!

Library Board applications can be found at the Library Service Desk as well.

The Councilors voted to retain their same assignments to the various committees and boards as well. I have included that list below:

Moving right along the Council designated the Cook County News Herald as the City's official newspaper and voted to continue to work with the following list of banks for City deposits:
Grand Marais State Bank
North Shore Federal Credit Union
Security State Bank
LMC / 4M Fund (investments and reserves)
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (investments and reserves)

Those were all of the items on the agenda so we moved on to Council reports!

Councilor Mills reported that the Park Board is going to be "tweaking" the Park Master Plan to make it more applicable for the application for Greater MN Parks and Trails Legacy monies. It doesn't sound like there is a lot that needs to be changed, but it will need to include some updated information about projects that have already been completed and capture any changes in direction that the Park has taken since the plan was originally written.

Councilor Kennedy reported that Spectrum Health has been in contact with the EDA concerning developing Assisted Living in Grand Marais and would like to come and look at some properties for potential development. The City has offered several plots of land for consideration.

Councilor Benson reported that the North Shore Management Board cancelled their latest meeting due to weather and lack of participation, but that she is going to be starting to push them more and more to allow for participation over the phone. She also stated that she wants to be a part of the conversation about collaborative projects between the City and North House to celebrate 20 years of partnership. 
She also asked for an update on the Comprehensive Planning process, which I gave shortly thereafter. 
(She also brought jelly beans to the meeting, which I ate a lot of during the meeting...)

My report was pretty brief, but focused on updates on the Comp Plan process/Community Visioning. We are getting close to the end of the first stage of the process where we gather information regarding what the values of our community are. We have gotten roughly 900 surveys turned in and have done over a dozen other activities around town to engage people. Some of the information that we learned was a little troubling: 38% of respondents were NOT from Cook County. We have the ability to filter out those responses, but it is OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE that we hear from community members!

Also we did not have many younger respondents, so... please fill out the form!


**I proposed that the City consider appointing a Greenstep Coordinator to work on helping the community continue to develop efficiency, carbon minimization, and renewable energy work... So that's something to consider!

**I also reported that there has been talk about getting Grand Marais reviewed as a potential Blue Zone, which is a place in the world where people live longer than the average. There was some conversation that Grand Marais may be one of these places, so there is interest in reviewing that. The Council seemed to think that was a good idea, so I will move forward with that.

That was about it! As always, if you have any questions, please let me know!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Time for The Community to Pull Together.

As I write this I am torn up inside due to the tragedy of losing Gunnar Anderson. I knew who Gunnar was as he was a senior the first year that I coached Cross Country and Track, and I knew of  Gunnar through stories relayed by friends and just seeing him around town.

I never heard a bad thing about him.

I am sure that he had his moments, as we all do, but the stories that I heard were of him volunteering to build a doghouse for a customer he was building a garage for, just because he liked the dog. I remember seeing him talk to and encourage the younger football players as they walked, no, strutted out to the practice field with their cleats clicking on the sidewalk. I heard time and time again about his good attitude and his zest for life.

I feel so epically bad for those that were close to him and I send my deepest possible condolences to his family.

What a rough way to start a New Year...

One thing that we CAN do is that we can all remember his zest and put some of that into our own lives... in Gunnar's memory. We can care for and reach out to others in our community and give them a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. We can go out on a limb and build that dog house just because you like the dog or say thank you to the person behind the counter for being there every time you need gas or a cup of coffee.

We live in a place where the loss of one person is not just significant, it's personal. I didn't know the impact that Gunnar had on so many, I just knew what his impact was on me, "He's a good guy," that's what I thought and what I still do think. Let's help remember Gunnar by taking care of each other and continuing to be the kind of community that can produce young men like Gunnar.

Blessings to you all and if I can be of any assistance through this process, please let me know.