County appoints new planning and zoning directorFree flood debris collection, disposal to continue
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Carlton County will have a new planning and zoning administrator for the first time in 38 years. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Carlton County Board, commissioners unanimously endorsed the appointment of Heather Cunningham to fill the shoes of long-time director Bruce Benson.
Cunningham is already a familiar face around the county. She has been a county employee since 2007, most recently serving as recycling and resource coordinator and dealing with solid waste issues, recycling and wetlands.
County Coordinator Dennis Genereau, in recommending Cunningham to the board, described her as having “good common sense and knowledge and a willingness to think outside the box.”
“She’s very forward-thinking, which is extremely important as the county moves ahead into the future,” said Genereau. “She should be a very significant asset to the county.”
Benson announced in May that he will retire July 13, and this week was his last County Board meeting. Commissioner Marv Bodie thanked Benson for his 38 years of service to the county.
Another new hire approved by the board on Tuesday was Drew Digby as a temporary, part-time public information officer during the current flood recovery period, which is anticipated to last about 10 weeks. Digby, who works with the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) in Duluth, has been lending assistance to Carlton County since shortly after the flooding occurred. Genereau said Digby has demonstrated “exceptional skills in organization and addressing issues” and noted he was the one who set up Monday’s news conference to update area media on the flood recovery effort.
Genereau said having Digby on hand in coming weeks will be key to keeping the public up to date as disaster assistance and other support measures come into effect. Digby is expected to work 8-20 hours a week.
County Assessor Marci Moreland requested the board consider hiring temporary staffing for her office for the next eight weeks or so to help process all of the flood damage reports generated by the department after canvassing the county following the disaster. The board approved her request.
Benson asked the board to consider a reimbursement policy to address flood-related expenses. Benson explained that he has received numerous requests for refunds of tipping fees for flood-related debris prior to the free disposal program temporarily in effect. Suggested guidelines to qualify for the reimbursements include the following points: the debris must be from residential, non-commercial property; reimbursements will be made only for properly permitted facilities; self-haulers will be reimbursed for tipping fees, and those who hired a roll-off will be reimbursed for both the tipping fee and the cost of the roll-off, as well as transportation; refunds will not be provided for complete structure demolition; and reimbursements will only be awarded for waste hauled between June 20 and June 26.
The board voted in support of the program. Anyone interested in applying for a reimbursement can fill out a request form at the Carlton County Planning and Zoning Office in Carlton.
Benson also requested an extension of the free collection and disposal program for flood-related debris. Originally the program was slated to end this Friday, but upon board approval, the curbside collection will now continue for residents of the county up until Monday, July 16. Debris disposal will be free of charge for those who self-haul their debris to either the Shamrock Landfill or the Carlton County Transfer Station through July 28.
Finally, County Recorder Kris Bacilici asked the board to consider the waiver of fees for duplicate certified copies of deeds during the flood recovery period. Bacilici said FEMA is expected to request such documents if and when the county receives a disaster declaration to address personal property loss. The board approved the request.
Bacilici also informed the board that a company in St. Paul called the Public Records Office has been sending solicitations to county residents, offering to produce duplicate copies of their home deeds for $89. Bacilici said while the offer is not a scam, that price is considerably higher than the normal cost of $10 at the County Recorder’s Office.