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Carlton County Board adopts new public hearing rules

In order to standardize the public hearing rules across all committees, the Carlton County Board of Commissioners adopted new rules, including that anyone who wishes to speak needs to sign in and comments are limited to four minutes.

FILE: Carlton County Transportation
The Carlton County Transportation Building. Izabel Johnson / 2021 file / Pine Journal
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CARLTON — The Carlton County Board of Commissioners approved new rules of decorum for its public hearing process during a meeting Tuesday, May 10.

The new rules are meant to standardize public hearing rules across different committees throughout the county, according to county coordinator Dennis Genereau.

"I think it is wise to have, county-wide, a consistent set of rules," he said.

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Some of the new rules include requiring those in attendance to sign in if they wish to speak, having four minutes to speak and asking speakers to refrain from using staff names.

The original proposal had the speaking time limit at five minutes, but after some discussion among board members and input from zoning and environmental services administrator Heather Cunningham, the board lowered the time to four minutes.

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Cunningham said that the average time for public comments during planning and zoning meetings was around three minutes at one of the last meetings

"Out of the 16 or 17 people that provided testimony only one went over four minutes, the average was under three minutes," she said.

Board Chair Gary Peterson asked that when hearings are being conducted that someone signals to a speaker when they have a minute left, so their time doesn't sneak up on them.

Tax levy could rise 4%

In other county business, Genereau gave the board an early idea of what the tax levy could look like at the end of the year.

Genereau said with the newly negotiated staff contracts and health insurance, the county could see a 4% increase to the levy.

Some other notable increases could be a 1.5-2.5% increase for any costs that arise with the justice center project.

Genereau said the justice center levy increase was adopted onto last year's levy as a safety net and will be recommended again this year as, but it is up to the board to decide if they want it.

While the county is working on efforts to secure funding from the Minnestoa Legislature for the project, Genereau said there is no guarantee state funding will come.

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Finally, inflation is another aspect that could increase costs across departments.

Genereau said the sheriff's office and transportation department are having to deal with the rising costs of fuel and will have to include that in their proposed budgets.

"I have to expect that our department heads, despite their best efforts to keep costs low, are going to have to increase some budget lines," he said.

An early estimate would be that the levy will increase by 6%, but clearer details will emerge as the budgeting process moves forward through the summer and initial budgets are presented in September.

"Unless things come down we have already committed 4% (increase) for the wages and benefits," he said.

As the plans move forward, Genereau, as part of the budget policy committee, asked the board to consider what kind of direction they want to go this year.

"This could be a very challenging year from a budgeting standpoint," he said.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICSCARLTON COUNTYCARLTON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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