The Itasca County Board of Commissioners met for a regular session meeting Tuesday, Oct. 27 in the Itasca County board room. Commissioners discussed a variety of topics including the rising water levels of the Canisteo Pit and plans for leftover Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) funding.
Land Commissioner Kory Cease shared a letter addressing the Canisteo Pit water level to be sent to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with the board.
“As the Canisteo Pit water levels continue to rise, the DNR has tried to pick up a strategy from old plans that were developed and develop a new strategy for funding, and try to find a solution for an outlet to the pit,” Cease stated.
Cease noted Itasca County has been meeting with the DNR, county attorney, county administrator, and commissioners from the affected districts to look for a local partner to address the water levels.
“This letter is in light of those conversations. Essentially stating that we are committed to finding a long-term solution and willing to help in any way we can, but we feel that the rising pit waters are a matter of the state of Minnesota,” said Cease. “And it’s consistent with the position that the county has taken, historically, on this issue over the past decades.”
Commissioners voted in favor of sending the letter.
County Administrator Brett Skyles presented an update of the current state of the CARES funding in Itasca County. As of Tuesday, the remaining funds were about $266,000. Skyles stated this amount would go down slightly with more updates this week. Additionally, Itasca County is waiting to hear back from some fire departments and towns with populations under 200 regarding whether they would like the money that was allocated to them or not. These responses could adjust the final amount that is left.
“Things are moving fast in the CARES world,” Skyles commented.
Skyles asked commissioners to approve the use of the CARES funding for a court technology purchase in the amount of $14,340, an additional business grant in the amount of $2,500, and an additional logger grant in the amount of $9,000. Commissioners approved the request and then discussed possibilities for the rest of the funding.
“We do need to think about what we want to do with any leftover funds,” Skyles stated.
Skyles raised numerous options for what the leftover funds could be used for such as IPads for virtual court technology, app development and marketing for the Mask Up Itasca campaign, signage for COVID-19 testing events, business grants, and broadband technology.
Commissioner Burl Ives stated he had conversations with local school districts and school board members about using the funding to help pay for WIFI hotspots for students learning virtually at home for internet access.
“These kids shouldn’t be punished and with that in mind, I know the school districts didn’t budget for it, nor did the taxpayers budget for that for the school districts,” said Ives. “If we could help that way, I think that would be well worth our dollars.”
Commissioners agreed to address the topic of leftover CARES funding again at the second board meeting in November.
In other business, commissioner warrants in the amount of $890,093.47 with an October 30, 2020 check date were approved. Itasca County Health and Human Services Department warrants for October 2020 in the amount of $1,803,810.86 were also approved.
Kim Huffman, county based purchased (IMCare) division compliance coordinator, presented an update regarding the Member Appeal and Grievance Program.
A request for hiring authorization for one corrections position that was vacated because of an internal transfer was approved.
The purchase agreement for the purchase of Parcel Identification Numbers (PINs) 91-415-2920, 91-415-2930, and 91-415-2950 in the amount of $2,100,000 with closing costs to be split between buyer and seller, for the new jail/facilities project was approved 3 to 1 with Ives voting against.
Additionally, a resolution designating the month of November 2020 as National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness month in Itasca County was adopted.
Commissioners approved the meeting’s consent agenda, including the following actions:
• Adopted the Resolution Re: Authorization to Execute Minnesota Department of Transportation Grant Agreement for Airport Improvement Excluding Land Acquisition, which approves Agreement #1044882 with the State of Minnesota for the GPZ Runway Reconstruction Project (State Project #A3101-97) at the Grand Rapids/Itasca County Airport.
•Approved and authorized necessary signatures on the Enterprise Master Lease Agreements with Itasca County and the Itasca County Sheriff’s Department, the Maintenance Agreements with Itasca County and the Itasca County Sheriff’s Department, and Sourcewell Cooperative Purchasing Agreements with Enterprise for Itasca County and the Itasca County Sheriff’s Department.
• Entered into a Joint Powers Agreement with the Saint Paul Port Authority (SPPA) to administer the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program in Itasca County and adopt the Resolution Re: Designating the Port Authority to Implement and Administer a Property Assessed Clean Energy Improvement Financing on Behalf of the County, and Providing for the Imposition of Special Assessments As Needed in Connection with that Program.
•Requested board approval for the IMCare Director to sign the 3-year Metastar HEDIS auditing contract.
• Approved the request to utilize the recorder’s compliance fund for the purchase of two GPS Survey receivers for the Transportation Department
• Approved utility easement for construction, maintenance and operation of underground telecommunication cable over and across tax-forfeited trust lands in Section 10, Township 58, Range 25 and authorized necessary signatures.
• Authorized notice for intermediate and regular oral bid auction of timber be given by publication in the official newspaper of the County as provided by law and that Land Commissioner offers such tracts of timber associated with said notice of sale, and that sale shall commence at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, December 7, 2020 at the TimberLake Lodge in Grand Rapids, MN. Special COVID-19 public safety guidelines and precautions will apply.
• Approved the request to utilize the Recorder’s Compliance Fund for the purchase of two survey-grade GPS receivers for the Department of Surveying and Mapping, in the amount of $54,740.90.
• Approved a temporary easement at the Grand Rapids/Itasca County Airport with Grand Rapids Public Utilities for the Solar Garden grading project.
• Adopted the Resolution Re: Approving Laws of Minnesota, Laws 2020, Special Session Chapter 1, Senate File 5, Pursuant to M.S.A. 645.021, Subd. 2, as it relates to the jurisdiction of Stony Point Road.
Commissioners went into a closed session to consult with their attorney in reference to a pending action in the Matter of Timothy D. Moratzka, Trustee of the Nancy L. Mayen Residual Trust, a Trust under the laws of Minnesota vs. Aaron Britton, et al. The discussion was informational only and no action was taken.