City council OKs library project agreement

Bill Neil

Grand Marais city councilors gave their stamp of approval to a joint powers agreement that will allow the library expansion project to move forward with the county’s construction manager in charge of the work.

City Administrator Mike Roth presented a revised addendum to the existing agreement to councilors at their March 30 meeting. The document, which has already been approved by the Cook County Board of Commissioners, designates the county as owner of the library for the life of the project. Under the terms of the longstanding joint powers agreement, the city and county split the cost of operating the library equally, but the city owns the building and is responsible for its day-to-day operations. Roth said, however, that by ceding ownership during the construction, the project would move forward more quickly and efficiently.

“Yes, we are giving up absolute control with this arrangement. But this is the simplest process we could have,” Roth said in response to questions of concern from Councilor Tim Kennedy and Mayor Larry “Bear” Carlson. City Attorney Chris Hood said he had reviewed the addendum to the joint powers agreement prepared by County Attorney Tim Scannell, and suggested only minor revisions that were subsequently approved unanimously by council.

Hood assured councilors that the city’s interests were protected and “everything was covered.” The joint powers agreement is still in effect as far as daily operations of the library are concerned, said Hood, and own- ership of the building will revert back to the city once construction is completed.

Roth, too, said he didn’t foresee any problems because both the city and county have the same interest in seeing that the project is done well. “There is a shared motivation to see that it’s done the right way,” Roth said.

With council’s vote of approval, ORB Management will act as construction manager. It is hoped that the estimated $1.1 million expansion project can begin this spring and be substantially completed by year’s end. The work to add 2,600 square feet to the facility is being financed through the voter-approved 1 percent sales tax.

In other business:

Council approved a request from the Cook County Farm and Craft market to once again use a portion of the city parking lot on Broadway on Saturday mornings throughout the summer season. Market Manager Carolyn Kopchik said this is the 14th season for the farmer’s market, and membership has grown from nine to over 25 members who participate.

Kopchik said this year’s request does not include four spaces adjacent to the alley in front of Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply in an effort to eliminate some parking problems that arose last year with the business. “In 12 years of the market, we never had a problem with any of our neighbors around the Senior Center. In an effort to not have any problems this year, we revised our request for space,” Kopchik wrote in her request.

Also, the wording on the “No Parking” signs that are placed in the lot on Friday evenings will be clarified to let visitors know that parking in the lot on Friday is permitted, and the restrictions don’t go into effect until early Saturday morning.

Cook County Emergency

Management Services Director Jim Wiinanen gave a presentation about the upcoming emergency services conference April 29 and 30, and was granted permission to use an area in the city’s campground near the harbor for a simulated plane crash. Wiinanen said the event is designed so as to be complex and “push agencies to cooperate and coordinate their efforts.” He said there will be a public viewing area, and encouraged city officials to come out and watch or participate.

Councilor and park board member Bill Lenz reported that the board has received 10 proposals for the so-called community connection at the northeast entrance to the Rec. Park, and hopes to review them and narrow the selection down to three, who will be asked to give presentations.

Lenz also said it is hoped upgrades on about 20 campsites can begin in May. Depending on the cost, the work may also include upgrades of electrical hookups as well as sewer connections and a general flattening of the area between Eighth Avenue West and the ball field.

Senior Center Director Bev Green told council that equipment for water fitness exercises has been donated to the pool, and weight belts will be coming soon, thanks to a grant. Green also said the free shuttle bus service offered by Arrowhead Transit during Fisherman’s Picnic will be available again this year. The bus will make a continuous loop from town to the school, campground and other designated sites in an effort to alleviate parking problems downtown.

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