County fills crime victim coordinator position

Rhonda Silence

At the Tuesday, September 23 county board meeting, commissioners moved to accept a grant of $30,000 from the State of Minnesota to support the county’s crime victim witness coordinator position. That position has been vacant since Jeanne Smith was moved from that job to the position of assistant county attorney in October 2013.

After acceptance of the grant, acting County Attorney Molly Hicken requested authorization to hire Carla Hill for 35 hours per week at $19.86 an hour. Hill would also serve as a paralegal for the county attorney’s office. Hicken said Hill’s extensive education as well as career experience make her qualified for the job. Hill’s starting date would be December 1, 2014.

Commissioner Garry Gamble noted that with 35 hours per week, the county was looking at approximately $40,000 for the position in the 2015 budget. He asked where the money over the grant of $30,000 would come from. Auditor Braidy Powers said the grant funding was lower than in the past. In previous years the county received $32,000 from the state to fund the crime victim witness coordinator.

Hicken said Smith had been paid at a higher rate, but acknowledged that her department may have to make up the difference in funding somewhere. Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk noted that the pay for the new hire will still be less than what was being paid.

The board voted unanimously to extend an employment offer to Carla Hill.

RV approved for seasonal residence

Although there was a great deal of discussion the county board ultimately approved an interim use permit to allow the continued use of a recreational vehicle (RV) for property owners Andrew Herman and Jane Powers on Bigsby Lake in Lutsen. The couple purchased their 24.33-acre property with approximately 50 feet of shoreline in 1999 and were granted a conditional use permit allowing the short-term use of a recreational vehicle in 2002. That permit expired in 2007 and the RV was on the property unpermitted until 2011 when a 3-year interim use permit was approved by the board of commissioners. At that time, in response to septic concerns, the applicants installed a holding tank on the parcel.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Bill Lane said that permit expired in May 2014, which is why the matter was back before the commissioners. Eleven notices were sent out to adjacent property owners. One reply was received and that was in favor of granting Herman and Powers another interim use permit. In the memo listing considerations for the planning commission, Lane wrote, “In the case of the Herman/ Powers property, any impact on shared resources and adjoining properties is essentially non-existent. The property is well-maintained, a holding tank is in place, and the landscape is heavily vegetated with old, mixed-type forests and sight lines are extremely limited.”

On September 10, 2014, the planning commission—noting that it was unclear that there is a county requirement of only two years for an interim use permit and that the property was very remote and well-maintained— granted the permit for a period of five years.

The county board followed suit, but Commissioner Sue Hakes stressed that she did so reluctantly. She noted that allowing people the ability to live in an RV instead of building a home could erode the county’s tax base. “We need a plan, a process for RV use,” said Hakes.

In other business

. The county board approved an additional expenditure of $4,286.34 for three conference room phones and a phone for the reception area of Public Health & Human Services capable of transferring calls to more than 20 phone numbers. The request from Communications Director Rena Rogers explained that the phones to be replaced were the only ones that will not work with the soon-to-be installed $23,860 phone system.

. The board also approved $4,762.43 to purchase equipment to finish the set up of the ARMER radio tower at the Cook County Law Enforcement Center. The funds were designated in the county’s capital funds budget for the LEC tower.

. Commissioners followed the recommendation of Cook County Planning and Zoning and approved a zone change from single family residential to Lutsen general commercial, which will allow Arrowhead Electric Cooperative to install a grid-tied, passive photo-voltaic array next to the cooperative’s Lutsen headquarters.

. Commissioners set a public hearing on Tuesday, October 28 at 10 a.m. to consider changes in fees charged by the county for various services. Reached after the meeting, Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers said the list of possible fee changes is not available at this time. Powers said departments were asked to get the details to him by the Thursday before that meeting so the information can be included in the county board packet.

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