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County approves courthouse security measure

Carlton County’s aging courthouse in Carlton might be a landmark of historic significance, but it lacks the type of up-to-date security required to guarantee the safety of its employees and the records stored there.

In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, commissioners approved spending up to $30,000 for the purchase and installation of a key card system for staff who work in the court system, including the judges’ chambers, spaces utilized by other court officials, the court administrator’s offices and the probation office.

County Coordinator Dennis Genereau explained that although a touch pad system is already in use in some of those areas, the new key card system will be more efficient, flexible and secure. He added that some of the funds required to implement the system may be eligible for reimbursement from the state, which would cut back on the amount required of the county.

“We want to make sure we provide adequate security for our employees but remain as fiscally responsible as possible,” said Genereau.

He said when the county’s new Community Services Building was constructed in Cloquet, security measures to protect records and staff were built into the original plan. Now, he wants to make certain that the rest of the county’s facilities and employees are equally protected as well.

In other business to come before the Board, commissioners endorsed a number of new county policies, including a lactation support policy for breastfeeding employees. The policy, which will be administered through Carlton County Public Health and Human Services, states that the county will provide certain benefits for employees who choose to continue with the breastfeeding of their children after returning to work. This will include:

  •  Milk expression breaks during work hours using employees’ normal breaks or meal times, or as negotiated with their supervisors;
  •  Lactation rooms that are shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public to breastfeed or express milk;
  •  Advice on accessing breastfeeding equipment, if necessary;
  •  Prenatal and postpartum breastfeeding classes and informational materials for all mothers, fathers or partners provided by public health nurses at work or on a home visit during the employee’s personal time.

Genereau said the policy was developed in accordance with recently amended Federal law and Minnesota Statute 181.939 and recognizes the well-documented health advantages of breastfeeding for infants and mothers.

A policy providing reimbursement to specified county employees for use of their personal cell phones in the line of business generated some discussion regarding when it would go into effect and if it would be reciprocal to the time the policy was passed if an employee should qualify in the future. An amendment to the policy clarified those points and it was passed unanimously by commissioners.

In further action, the Board approved a measure that will make the use of burn barrels illegal in Automba and Split Rock townships. Heather Cunningham, Zoning and Environmental Services Director, explained that burn barrels have been illegal in the rest of the county since 1995, but since garbage service was unavailable in those two townships up until now, residents were allowed to continue home garbage incineration. Cunningham said now that garbage pickup service has expanded to those two townships, however, it would be appropriate for them to abide by the burn barrel ban as well in an effort to reduce air pollution containing potentially dangerous carcinogens and reduce the risk of wildfires.

Commissioners passed a motion acknowledging the receipt of a petition requesting the Board take no action on a proposed assembly ordinance that would require a permit for large events held on private land in the majority of the county’s townships. County Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert said the non-legally-binding petition contains 150 signatures and states the proposed ordinance “hinders the constitutional right to assemble.”

The Board also signed off on a number of applications for conditional use permits, including:

  •  A request from Andrew Omar to conduct gravel operations on land owned by Douglas and Barbara Omar at 1575 Highway 73, Cromwell;
  •  A request from the Soil and Water Conservation District to repair flood damage within the shore impact zone of Skunk Creek;
  •  A request from Faulk and Foster/Verizon Wireless LLC of Grand Rapids, Mich., to erect a cell phone tower on land leased in Moose Lake.

A rezoning request from Robert Selness for 40 acres of land he owns in Holyoke Township was approved by commissioners. The measure will change the zoning of the property from an A-1 (agriculture/forest management) district to an A-2 (agriculture/rural residential) district. This will allow Selness to create an administrative subdivision/lot line adjustment utilizing two differently zoned parcels of land he owns to create a separate 20-acre lot.  

Finally, the Board voted to approve the acceptance of a $290,058 grant from the Iron Range Resource Rehabilitation Board to recapitalize the county’s economic development revolving loan fund.