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County board update

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Emergency notification system moves forward 

CodeRED, the county’s new emergency notification system, was officially approved by the board last week. It will replace the emergency sirens in Two Harbors that were rendered useless after a 2010 thunderstorm.

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With the new system, when a severe weather event is headed for the region, the county will be able to send out alerts to its citizens. The system uses a database of contact information gleaned from public sources and people can sign up for the service, as well.

Warnings will be in the form of phone calls, text messages, social media posts and emails, much like the current system the Lake Superior School District uses to notify students and parents of school closures.

The system costs $5,688 per year. In 2014, the dollars will come from the 911 fund and several departments will share the cost in the following years.

Commissioners donate to Ruby’s Pantry

The commissioners approved a donation to Ruby’s Pantry, a food resource with a drop-off location in Silver Bay. The nonprofit organization brings surplus fresh food to sites around the region. People pick up boxes of food and most give a $20 donation. The food is often worth much more than that amount. There are no income requirements for those receiving food and Commissioner Pete Walsh said it’s been an extremely successful program.

The commissioners’ donation came from its victory on the curling rink over the Two Harbors City Council during Winter Frolic. Commissioners and councilors put money in a pot — $200 total –prior to the match and the winners agree to donate the spoils to the charity of their choice.

Airport funding in question

Two Harbors City Councilor Seth McDonald and a handful of aviation enthusiasts were at Tuesday’s county board agenda meeting to make the case for the Richard B. Helgeson Airport.

Lake County withdrew its usual $20,000 contribution to the rural Two Harbors airport’s budget this year without proper notification, airport users allege. Commissioner Rick Goutermont said he agreed that the airport users should have been better informed about the decision, but that the county just doesn’t have the money.

“It comes down to the strained budget we have,” Goutermont said.

At the heart of the disagreement is how much the county gains from the airport. McDonald touted the positives, handing out a list of over 50 ways that Two Harbors benefits from the operation. He said that the loss of funding from the county would have to be passed on to the city or those who rent hangar space at the airport.

“What the county is doing is abandoning these mostly blue collar workers,” McDonald said of the airport users. He said half of the renters are Lake County residents. “You’re taking the issues you have and putting them on the City of Two Harbors.”

Mike Busch, a Duluth pilot who owns a hangar at the airport, said he hopes the county reconsiders.

“We believe in the airport. We’re there for the long haul. We want it to work,” he said.

Commissioner Pete Walsh said he would have a hard time convincing his constituents in Fall Lake that the Two Harbors airport is a benefit to them. The Ely Municipal Airport is much closer to their area.

Commissioner Jeremy Hurd urged the board to consider offering the airport at least some funds. The commissioners agreed and said they would discuss an amount to put on the list of action items for next week’s meeting.

Other county board actions 

 • The county is still working on its septic system ordinances as ordered by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Administrator Matt Huddleston said the county hopes it can wait until after this summer to implement the new rules so as not to affect construction in the middle of the busy season.

• The county is planning to establish the existence and size of wetlands on part of its proposed data center site in the western part of the county. The wetland delineation will be useful for potential clients who are considering the land for a data center, which is a large information storage site for companies. Wetlands fall under many state, federal and local regulations that can affect construction. The county has been working for at least three years to bring a large company to Lake County to store its data, which could bring millions of dollars and dozens of jobs to the area.

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