Firm costs from McGough Construction (the firm hired by Carlton County to oversee the project) for the new Barnum Transportation Garage came in at $11.3 million at the Adjourned Meeting of the Carlton County Commissioners on April 27. This figure is up from the planned $10 million initial anticipated figure.
Among costs for the project: $200,000 to run the sewage from the Garage into the Barnum Sewer system, $10,000 for a new well because the old well has a corroded pump that is unable to be removed, $50,000 for rock crushing to use as a base under the new building slab work to handle the weight of the large County equipment, and $225,000 for a new brine building. The brine building makes it possible to use less salt on the roads and is environmentally friendly.
Acting Auditor/Treasurer Kathy Korteum explained, “As a contingency the project can be funded short term from excess monies in the general fund. Our accrued excess funds are higher than many of the surrounding counties and can help cover costs of construction short term to be paid back over a number of years. At the same time we need to look closely at the project’s costs and see where we can save.”
The Auditor went on to say that projections for the ½% sales tax receipts for April will be just 3% lower than normal and May is projected to be lower by about 5% from traditional levels.
Chairman Marv Bodie added, “Duluth is having severe reductions in their sales tax revenue due to their dependence on the tourist and event trade and the impact of the COVID-19. Carlton County is not in the same situation and should see only small deficits.”
Part of the plan for a new Barnum Garage is the closure of the Kettle River County Garage. The grader housed in Kettle River will be based out of Barnum and will take a half hour of road time to show up for work in the Kettle River area and will deadhead back a half hour to Barnum at the end of the day.
Engineer Neumann explained this will be a cost saving move. Costs of water, sewer, fuel tank maintenance, and insurance are all for one staff man. The Kettle River County Garage will be sold.
No meetings have been held in the affected area to hear citizen concerns.
For the first time in recent County Board action, Commissioner Mark Thell voted “no” to approve a ½% sales tax funded road construction project after a presentation by County Highway Engineer JinYeene Neumann.
The project under discussion was the upgrade of the St. Louis River Road between Hwy 33 and CSAH 1 awarded to Ulland Bros for $1,054,622 which is 17.20% under the engineering estimate. It is one of two roads left from the original list from the start of the ½% sales tax. The Commissioners voted 4 to 1 with Thell dissenting.
“I am concerned that the money will not be there,” commented Commissioner Thell. “I am not against this particular project. The COVID-19 impact to our budget and declining revenues makes me concerned that we will not be able to afford the County programs and the building of the Barnum Garage in the not too distant future. I need to know more.”
Zoning and Environmental Services Administrator Heather Cunningham reported that there has been periodic long lines for locals using the transfer station. Permission was given to hire part time cashiers to handle transfer station business during the COVID-19 period. No mattresses are being recycled due to possible COVID-19 contamination. Matresses brought in will be charged an additional fee of $2.
Land Commissioner Greg Bernu reported that the Soo Line Trail in Moose Lake Township between Hallgren Road on the East and the Split between the North Soo Trail and the Mainline just West of Moose Lake has been posted 15 MPH. That part of the trail from the North Road SW to MN 27/73 is posted 10 MPH.
ATV traffic has been heavy in the Soo Pit area north of Moose Lake. Bernu reported he saw about 300 ATVs last Saturday using the area and said the local game warden estimated the participants at about 500. Bernu had been out last Saturday and found ATV damage to the seal covering of the old landfill. Signs and taping have been installed to keep ATVs away from that area. State officials have been notified of the potential damage to the sealed landfill since it was sealed under their guidance.
The Cloquet Forestry Station is to be closed all summer and perhaps fall. There are large dormitories on the property which could be used for homeless people during that period. A letter is being sent from the Carlton County Board and the Fond Du Lac Band to Governor Walz requesting the use of that facility for housing.