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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Cook City Council approves five-percent levy increase for 2020

E.M. Schultz
Posted 12/26/19

COOK— The city council here voted to approve a 5-percent levy increase to cover rising city expenses for next year. The council made its decision after no one appeared for the annual …

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Cook City Council approves five-percent levy increase for 2020

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COOK— The city council here voted to approve a 5-percent levy increase to cover rising city expenses for next year. The council made its decision after no one appeared for the annual truth-in-taxation hearing.
The council set a preliminary increase of five percent in September and opted not to reduce that amount. The increase was higher than the 3.5-percent levy increase the council approved last year and will help with several capital improvement projects the city is considering, including upgrades to the airport and community center.
The council also approved starting a bid process for a new ambulance to replace one with over 100,000 miles on it and has become a safety issue. City Administrator Theresa Martinson says she will work with the department to find a grant to help defray the cost of the new rig, which could total over $200,000. The new rig would be slightly longer and larger than the previous one and would be four-wheel drive rather than two-wheel. The money for the new ambulance will come out of the Cook Area Ambulance budget, which is funded in part by the hospital levy. The bid process will likely take at least a month, then it will take roughly a year for the new rig to be built.
In addition to the new ambulance, the department will now be able to keep staff on hand rather than on call during the holidays. The council voted to approve holiday pay for either two EMTs or an EMT and an EMR for a total of nine holidays. This will double the pay the working staff currently receives on those holidays and help ensure that someone is available to do transfers. The council will review this decision at the end of 2020 to see if it is worth continuing, which will depend on the amount of transfers performed on the included holidays.
In other business, the council:
Heard from council member Elizabeth Storm regarding a $30,000 Artists on Main Street grant the city of Cook received from Springboard for the Arts, Rethos, and the Bush Foundation. Cook was one of four cities in Minnesota to be awarded the grant, which will be used to revitalize the downtown area with art pieces and performances. More details will be released after a Jan. 16 meeting, which will include representatives from the city, Northwoods Friends of the Arts, and the Cook Public Library.
Approved 2020 liquor license renewals for the Old Muni and VFW Post 1757. The actual renewal of the licenses is contingent on approval from the state of Minn.
Approved a payment of $10,862.40 to JPJ Engineering for work done on the Hwy. 53 Commercial Corridor Infrastructure project, which is part of the Zup’s rebuild.
Approved a payment of $304 to DSGW architects for renovation work done on the Cook Public Library.
Approved the writing off of an uncollectable utility bill. The property is now owned by the state of Minnesota, making it impossible to collect the overdue bill. Auditors for the city recommended writing it off in order to bring the books up to date.
Heard from councilor  Storm regarding the Lake Vermilion Trail, which is moving along. The board is currently seeking an Executive Director. They have drafted interview questions and are seeking someone who will be able to help with grant writing and marketing.
Approved the appointment of the 2020 election judges. There will be a total of three elections during 2020. The council also voted to move forward with a grant application for a new ballot counter, which the county plans to switch over to in the future.
Heard from councilor Storm regarding the city’s annual weed report. Purple loosestrife, a noxious weed, was found in two ditches and behind one individual’s house. If you find a noxious weed, the council recommends that you carefully pull the weed and place it in a black bag until it dies. You may then dispose of it as you please.
Heard from administrator Martinson regarding a new requirement from the Federal Motor Safety Administration for city maintenance workers to hold a CDL. The city may choose to follow the federal program or create its own. Martinson told the council she would have a program to present to them at the next council meeting, which will take place on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m.
Heard from Martinson regarding the Iron Range Partners Board, which is currently seeking a new board member. Tom Beaudry, who previously served on the board, is leaving the area, creating the opening. Interested parties should contact city hall to learn more about the position.

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