Sunday, November 16, 2008

WAW To Hold Press Conference on Tuesday, Nov 18th

Citizen Group Grades County Board Members.

Join us !!! Stand for Accountability, Stand for Transparency, Stand for Justice!

Press Conference: Report Card on Performance of County Board

Tuesday, November 18th

9am on the steps of the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth

For more than 14 months the We are Watching Campaign has been following the actions of the St. Louis County Commissioners. We are watching will present a report card on each commissioner’s performance in key areas related to transparency, accountability, and ethical standards.

At the time of the group’s formation, over two years ago two St. Louis County employees had reported sexual harassment and the subsequent investigation by the county appointed independent agent substantiated the charges of harassment. One complainant has lost her job and the other fears the loss of her job - she is currently unable to work because of events surrounding the harassment.

While our goals encompass more than the sexually inappropriate behavior and racist comments which served as a catalyst for this campaign, it is with renewed outraged that we call on citizens of St. Louis County to speak up for justice for the two women who, after being subjected to sexually inappropriate behavior have had their lives unraveled and their livelihoods taken away. We ask you to stand with us and symbolically, with these employees on the steps of the County Courthouse.

Following the Press Conference, greater detail regarding each rating will be available on the 18th at our website

You may email questions to

If you are unable to attend the press conference visit our website to participate in action steps aimed at increasing transparency, accountability and ethical behavior in county government.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

State to move forward with BWCAW land exchange Timberjay Article

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 Volume 14, Issue 9

State to move forward with BWCAW land exchange
By Marshall Helmberger

For the first time, representatives of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say they plan to meet officially with the U.S. Forest Service over their plan to conduct what would likely be the largest land exchange in state history.

They also indicated their intent to seek support from the state’s congressional delegation for the exchange, which would swap about 93,000 acres of state school trust land in the Boundary Waters wilderness for an estimated 200,000 acres of the Superior National Forest outside the wilderness area. State officials hope congressional action will allow them to circumvent Forest Service opposition to the idea as well as the cumbersome federal regulations related to such exchanges.

for the rest of the article go to :

SLC rejects request by US Steel TIMBERJAY Article

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 Volume 19, Issue 44

County board declines to add Three Bays lots
By Marshall Helmberger

The St. Louis County Board has declined a request by US Steel to increase the number of lakeshore lots at the company’s proposed Three Bays development on Lake Vermilion. At the same time, the board did amend several other conditions that had been imposed on the development project by the county’s planning commission.

Officials from U.S. Steel appealed to the county board on Tuesday, seeking to overturn five of the conditions that the planning commission had set when it gave approval to the Three Bays project back in April.

The county board rejected US Steel’s request to expand the number of lakeshore lots from the 62 approved by the planning commission, to 65.

Legal counsel for the planning department had noted that US Steel’s legal arguments in support of more lots was in direct contradiction of longstanding county policy as well as state law.

US Steel did make some progress on other issues, particulary on the question of dockage. The planning commission had limited the number of docks per lot to one, but Tuesday’s discussions produced a potential compromise that allows for two straight docks or one dock with a T-shaped structure at its end.

Commissioner Mike Forsman said the new dock agreement will be much stricter than what is currently in effect in many areas of Lake Vermilion.

“The docks’ issue is spelled out. It’s going to look structured along the shore and there won’t be a proliferation of docks,” he said.

He added that the DNR will be very involved with dock regulations as it has been, especially in regard to sizes and lengths.

The county board also considered changes related to the covenants that would be incorporated along with the proposed development.

County Planning Director Barb Hayden emphasized that the discussions at Tuesday’s meeting are only recommendations. The planning department will work with the attorneys to finalize the wording of the conditions for board consideration at their next meeting on Nov 4.

Forsman said he feels good about the progress.

“I believe that on Nov. 4 we will have a final document signed, sealed and delivered, and this particular chapter of the board will be over,” he stated.

Even so, the future of the Three Bays project remains in question. The Minnesota Legislature has authorized purchase of the land in question from US Steel for creation of a state park. But talks over that land purchase made little progress this summer and were suspended by US Steel in September. State officials say they hope to restart negotiations, possibly next year.

BWCAW Land Swap

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 Volume 14, Issue 9

Separating facts from myth on BWCAW land swap
By Marshall Helmberger

Separating fact from political spin is never an easy job, and that is especially so when it comes to the proposal to exchange state of Minnesota land in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for a major chunk of the Superior National Forest. Legislators and the DNR have made a number of claims about the value of a land exchange, versus the alternative of selling the state’s 93,000 acres of school trust lands in the BWCAW (see story, page 5).

Few, if any, of the claims of legislators actually hold up under inspection, and a number of factors argue strongly against the idea of a exchange.

Here are just three examples of the myths behind the legislators’ arguments and the actual facts of the issue.:

‰ Myth: A land exchange would yield the most revenue for the state’s school kids.

Reality: A land exchange would actually mean far less for the state’s school trust fund than an outright sale of the state’s holdings in the BWCAW. The state’s recently completed appraisal put the value of the state’s school trust lands in the wilderness at about $72 million. Selling the land outright would immediately increase the size of the school trust by about 15 percent and accumulate an extra $3.5 million a year, assuming just a five percent annual average return.

A land exchange, by contrast, would yield nothing to the school trust initially. And even if the state could obtain 200,000 acres from the Forest Service (which is probably little more than a pipe dream), that land would generate a relative pittance for the school trust— no more than $650,000 a year based even on DNR’s optimistic estimates. Based on the DNR’s actual track record on the management of school trust lands, we could expect the 200,000 acres to yield significantly less than $650,000— probably half of that figure.

Over 25 years, an exchange would likely generate about $12 million for the school trust. During that same period, an outright sale would generate about $160 million for the school trust. If it’s really a matter of generating revenue, this is a no-brainer and it is fiscally irresponsible of legislators and the DNR to pursue such a reckless course.

‰ Myth: This land exchange is needed to help consolidate land ownership patterns, which would make management more efficient.

Reality: It’s absolutely true that better consolidation of ownership would be a good thing for both the Forest Service and the DNR, not to mention the counties. Each entity has scattered lands that intermingle with mixed ownerships, making access more complicated. But there is nothing that prevents the DNR and the Forest Service from sitting down and working out smaller land exchanges right now to consolidate ownership, regardless of what happens to the lands in the BWCAW. The DNR hasn’t pursued that option.

‰ Myth: DNR control of lands now managed by the Forest Service would boost the amount of logging substantially, helping to revive the region’s struggling wood products industry.

Reality: It’s possible that DNR management of these lands would increase harvest levels incrementally, but the impact on the region’s timber market would be so insignificant, that it would be virtually undetectable. The Forest Service’s La Croix District, on the west end of the Superior National Forest, currently puts out about 32,000 cords per year on approximately 160,000 acres of productive land base, or about .2 of a cord per acre per year. The DNR puts out about 400,000 cords per year on its productive school trust land base of 2.38 million acres, or about .168 cords per acre per year. Even assuming that the land the state might receive from the Forest Service is significantly more productive than other school trust lands, it still is highly unlikely that DNR management of this land would yield anything other than a trivial amount of additional timber.

And this deal gets worse. Not only would the land exchange shortchange the school trust, it would cost the counties, especially St. Louis County, several thousand dollars a year in federal funding. Counties receive money from three sources: Payments-in-Lieu-of-Taxes, (or PILT); the 25 percent Fund; and Thye-Blatnik funds. Under the plan envisioned by area legislators and the DNR, most of the federal land that would go to the state would come from St. Louis County, which means the county would lose the majority of its PILT and 25 percent money. This would easily cost the county about $400,000 a year. Lake County would also stand to lose some of this money, though not as much as St. Louis County. This is one reason why the counties have been less than enthusiastic about the land swap proposal in the past.

While the transfer of state lands in the wilderness to federal ownership would mean an extra $250,000 in Thye-Blatnik dollars, that increase wouldn’t come close to making up for the lost PILT and 25 percent funds. Over ten years, the counties could easily see a net loss of $2.5 million.

And if the DNR and legislators have their way, we could lose substantially more federal funding. That’s because the DNR is planning to seek congressional action to circumvent the federal government’s regular and very cumbersome land exchange process. The state’s congressional delegation has been reluctant to go this route in the past, because they worry it would bring attention to the Thye-Blatnik funding. The BWCAW is the only wilderness in the country that receives such funds, and our congressional delegation would just as soon leave sleeping dogs lie. Given the budget-cutting mood in Washington, the Thye-Blatnik dollars could easily be cut off, a move that would cost the three Arrowhead counties about $2.1 million a year.

That’s probably one of the reasons Congressman Oberstar says he doesn’t favor congressional action on this issue, at least not now.

To put it all in perspective, the proposal by the DNR and legislators for a land exchange will cost the state as much as $150 million in lost revenue over 25 years, cost the counties millions in lost revenue, and will likely yield little or no additional timber. This proposal isn’t just bad, It’s utterly irresponsible. It appears area legislators and DNR officials are essentially putting their egos ahead of the public interest. Unless they can shelve the false rhetoric and come up with a legitimate explanation of why the state should surrender so much money at a time of fiscal crisis, this proposal should go absolutely nowhere.

Nov 4 St. Louis County Board Mtg

Today's board meeting is currently being broadcast on Cable Channel 7


9:30 A.M. USS Appeal of April 10, 2008, Planning Commission Decision – Three Bays on
Vermilion Development
9:35 A.M. Public hearing, pursuant to Resolution No. 538, adopted October 14, 2008, for
Submission of 2009 Action Plan for CDBG, HOME, and ESG Funds. {431}
9:40 A.M. Public hearing, pursuant to Resolution No. 539, adopted October 14, 2008, to
consider the adoption of the fee schedule for various County services for the year
2009. {432}
BOARD ON ITEMS NOT ON THE AGENDA. [Speakers will be limited to 5
minutes each]
CONSENT AGENDA: Approval of business submitted on the Consent Agenda.

November 4, 2008
County Board Room, Room No. 200, St. Louis County Courthouse, Duluth, Minnesota
1. Applications approved for abatement of taxes.
2. Appraisal report for sale of timber, as submitted by the Land Commissioner.
3. Workers’ Compensation Report dated October 24, 2008, as submitted by the County Attorney.
4. Applications for license to sell tobacco products at retail, as submitted by the County Auditor.
5. Application for license to sell tobacco products at retail, as submitted by the County Auditor. {Change of officers}
6. Applications for license to sell tobacco products at retail, as submitted by the County Auditor. {Licenseholders were issued tobacco violation citations}
7. Amendment to Ordinance No. 46 for rezoning the N 1/2 of SE 1/4 of the SE 1/4 and the SW 1/4 of the SE 1/4 lying east of County-State Aid Highway No. 4, Section 14, Township 58 North, Range 16 West (Biwabik) from SMU-11 to MUNS-4.
8. Amendment to Ordinance No. 46 for rezoning GL 2, the SW 1/4 of the NE 1/4, and the NW 1/4 of the SE 1/4, Section 5; GL 2, GL 3, GL 4, GL 5, GL 6, GL 7, the SE 1/4 of the NW 1/4, and the E 1/2 of the SW 1/4, Section 6; the NE 1/4 of the NW 1/4, and GL 1, Section 7; the E 1/2 of the W 1/2, and the W 1/2 of the SW 1/4, Section 8; and the N 1/2 of the NW 1/4, Section 17, all in Township 61 North, Range 15 West (Kugler), from FAM-3 to MUNS-4.
9. Repurchase application approved for John Stepan to purchase the NE 1/4 of SE 1/4, Section 30, Township 61, Range 15 (Town of Kugler), for the total consideration of $2,828.39.
St. Louis County Board
November 4, 2008
Page 2
10. Repurchase application approved for Judy Bechtold to purchase Lot 13, Block 4, Merritts First Addition to Mountain Iron, City of Mt. Iron, for the total consideration of $4,531.75.
11. Repurchase application approved for Terry and Mary Johnson to purchase Lot 19, Block 5, Virginia/Rainy Lake Cos Addition to Virginia, for the total consideration of $8,851.05.
12. County Auditor authorized to grant a utility easement to Lake Country Power over: All that part of the NE 1/4 of the NW 1/4 and the NW 1/4 of the NE 1/4, Section 16, Township 55 North, Range 16 West, for the total consideration of $146.00.
13. Approving the reclassification to non-conservation and sale of state tax forfeited parcels located in that part of the SW 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 26, Township 63 North, Range 12 West, lying west of the west right-of-way boundary of County Highway 88; and that part of the SE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 lying north of County Road 115 in Section 15, Township 62 North, Range 17 West; for the total consideration of $160,662.51 for Parcel 1; and $14,003.90 for Parcel 2; funds for the two parcels totaling $174,666.41 to be deposited into Fund 240.
14. Designation of Broeker Road (C.R. 626) as a Minimum Maintenance Road beginning at the SE corner of Section 30, Township 59 North, Range 21 West, and running westerly on the section line one-half mile terminating at the South quarter corner of Section 30, Township 59 North, Range 21 West; and further, that the Public Works Department immediately erect signs on the roadway.
15. County officials authorized to execute an agreement with the University of Minnesota for payment for C.P. 3769, NOvA Project Easement to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources whereby the University of Minnesota will reimburse the amount of $37,385.68 to the County and authorizes the revenue to be deposited in Fund 200, Agency 203204, Revenue Object 583100, and payable from Fund 200, Agency 203204, Object 636500.
16. Lawful Gambling License Application approved for Voyageur Trail Society, Inc., to operate out of: Ash Ka Nam, Unorganized Township 68-19, Pull Tabs, renewal; The Dam, Leiding Township, Pull Tabs with dispensing device, renewal; Frontier Resort, Unorganized Township 69-19, Pull Tabs & Bar Bingo, renewal; Kec’s Cove Resort, Kabetogama Township, Pull Tabs, renewal; Norway Point Resort, Leiding Township, Pull Tabs, renewal; Rocky Ledge, Kabetogama Township, Pull Tabs and Tipboards, renewal; Sportsman’s Last Chance, Portage Township, Pull Tabs, renewal; Trails End Resort, Portage Township, Pull Tabs, renewal; Voyagaire Lodge, Crane Lake Township, Pull Tabs, renewal.
St. Louis County Board
November 4, 2008
Page 3
17. Chair of the Board and County Auditor authorized to execute the Lobbying Services Agreement with Arrowhead Counties Association which would use the services of St. Louis County’s lobbyist to further Arrowhead Counties lobbying activities at the State Legislature during the 2009 legislative session not to exceed $16,000 (excluding the County’s in-kind contribution of $2,000).
18. County officials authorized to enter into an agreement with the Town of Fayal whereby the township will pay the project costs for M.P. 6723-56473, C.P. 56473, and other costs detailed in the agreement or incurred by the County. Revenue budgeted for expense in Fund 200, Agency 203203, Revenue Object 551537, in the amount of $30,000 and project payable from Fund 200, Agency 203203, Object 652800.