Friday, April 17, 2009

What's Up With Two County Administrators At Once?

The SLC Board recently welcomed their new County Administrator, Kevin Gray, who started work on April 15, 2009. As reported in the Duluth News Tribune on April 16th, " Interim County Administrator Alan Mitchell will stay on through May 29, said Dennis Fink, County Board chairman.

“In the recent past the interim administrators have been from within the county and stayed with the county after the new person came on. But we’re going to lose Al permanently now and we thought the transition would be smoother if he stayed on for a while to help Kevin,” Fink said.

Doesn't St Louis County have two Deputy Administrators with a wealth of experience who could train the new guy in? And what about the concern with the budget and county spending...isn't it kind of pricey to pay Al Mitchell and Kevin Gray at the same time?

Did the Commissioners vote to extend Mitchell's contract? Just asking....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Iron Range Youth In Action Program Discussed at Committee of Whole Meeting

In their afternoon Committee of the Whole meeting the Board voted on a construction contract for renovations to the Duluth SLC Courthouse, and on a resolution authorizing an extension with Kangas Excavating to continue operation of the Hibbing demolition landfill.

Commissioner Nelson indicates that there are looking for “enhancements” to the commissioners offices on the range in the future.

The Board also voted to send forward without recommendation an agreement for service contracts for Iron Range Youth in Action Program School Advisors in six Range School Districts. The request was to use the fund balance from the Extension program to fund this. Commissioner Dahlberg asked for examples of activities this program has supported in the past. Commissioner Nelson mentioned Habitat for Humanity, Youth Skating Facility in Ely, operating a heated shack at an ice skating rink in Hibbing to name a few. “Generation W” is the largest student-run newspaper in the USA, according to Nelson, and another example of a project that is supported by this program.

Commissioner Fink was concerned that this fund balance transfer not be for more than one year and was concerned that there was not a 30-day termination clause in the contract. The concern is that this year there is a surplus in the Extension Fund but that may not be the case in the future.

Commissioner Nelson pointed out that terminating this contract in the middle of the school year would be problematic. Proposal is to give schools $1000 per school for this program (max 8 schools) for 2 years and after that the schools have to fund this program on their own. Commissioner Sweeny indicated that the money is there in the Extension budget and should be committed, in partnership with the school districts.

A few minor sparks between Commissioners Nelson and Fink when Nelson suggested that Fink was unsupportive of this concept, not just the “wording” of the contract. Fink said, “This is simple. The funding source does not match the contract”. He also raised his voice and told Commissioner Sweeny that what she says about where the money comes from is not true. Mitchell says the budget is already set for 2008-09 and no money was in the budget, thus monies need to come from some other place (Extension Fund). This particular contract is only for 2008-09. Schools want a 3-year commitment.

Commissioner O’Neil says, "this is a great program. We are talking about $6000 and have been discussing it for 50 minutes, let’s move on." And they did!

County Board and Jail Demolition

At their Board meeting on April 7th the Board discussed awarding a contract for the "deconstruction of the jail" Commissioner Nelson suggested that "media outlets should actually attend a meeting" to hear about the long process that the Board has gone through in deciding to tear down the old jail. Commissioner Forsman indicated that there was information that he thinks has not been made available to the public-such as the fact the 8 studies have been completed and all indicated that the "building is not appropriate for re-use". This conversation was in the context of Commissioner O'Neil requesting that the Board wait to award the demolition contract until the appeal to the City of Duluth has been decided pertaining to the City's refusal to allow the jail to be destroyed, as it is a historic building.

Mike Forsman suggested that the Federal Government be contacted to see about getting prisoners from GITMO, seeing as that is being shut down. Commissioner Rauker indicated that folks would not really want "those people" in the jail-referring to a proposal a number of years ago to house international prisoners there.

Vote 6-1 in favor of moving forward with resolution to award the bid for tearing down the jail.