Weather Forecast


County moves 'Toward Zero Deaths'--but with questions

The Lake County Board of Commissioners had many questions for county public health supervisor Michelle Backes-Fogelberg last week. The county received a grant from the state to participate in the 2013 Toward Zero Death initiative, a program to reduce driving deaths in the county. Backes-Fogelberg came to the board meeting last Thursday to answer questions about how the $19,000 grant would be spent.

The Lake County Toward Zero Deaths Coalition proposed that the county subcontract with the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission to coordinate the county's TZD campaign. About 85% of the grant, or more than $16,000, would go to ARDC.

"Lake County departments involved...(do not) have a staff position that could add hours to devote to performing the coordinator duties," Backes-Fogelberg wrote in a letter to the board.

Commissioner Tom Clifford questioned whether the Toward Zero Death initiative is worth the time and money.

"Are we going to get $20,000 worth of safety out of this? I want you to convince me that it is a good value," Clifford said to Backes-Fogelberg.

Backes-Fogelberg said the grant would provide funding for increasing awareness of road safety through advertising and education efforts in schools.

"It's a lot of PR and one-to-one types of things," she said.

The proposed plan also includes forming a committee to review fatal crashes in the county, identify the causes of the crash and release a public statement. Commissioner Rick Goutermont argued that this would be insensitive after a death in a small community. Additionally, Goutermont wondered if the reviews would be of benefit to anyone.

"You're going to look at all the same stuff that's already been looked at a million times and you're not going to get anything out of it," Goutermont said.

Backes-Fogelberg countered that it would be beneficial and that the committee could find ways to talk about the crashes in a sensitive way-- geared toward small communities.

"(We need to) those types of behaviors can be moderated so that it won't happen again," she said.

County Highway Engineer Al Goodman was also at the meeting, and Commissioner Clifford asked if he thought the TZD initiative was beneficial for the county.

"Oh, absolutely," Goodman said. "It seems, all told, it's helping."

The board approved the contract with ARDC but asked that Backes-Fogelberg and the TZD committee communicate regularly with the board on their progress.

Data center making progress

Lake County commissioners are nearing the end of the search for a marketing company to promote a data center to be located here. A request for proposals was issued last month, and the fiber optic committee reviewed three formal proposals last week.

I.T. Netcom, a Chisago City, Minn.-based company, did the initial feasibility study this spring, and the firm was a candidate for the county's primary marketing group.

At last Thursday's county board meeting, County Administrator Matt Huddleston said the decision was a tough one. One of the firms, CBRE, didn't offer what the county wanted, so the decision was really between I.T. Netcom and Duluth-based Apex.

"It really came down to two proposals that were kind of different directions," Huddleston said.

I.T. Netcom's marketing plan had a higher price tag, but Huddleston and the two commissioners on the fiber optic committee expressed appreciation for the company's enthusiasm and felt the project would be completed more quickly under I.T. Netcom's guidance.

However, APEX impressed the committee during its interview, also. Under their plan, the project would be on a longer timeline, but Commissioner Paul Bergman said the group presented a very strong marketing plan--at a third of I.T. Netcom's price.

"The breakdown from APEX was great," Bergman said.

The fiber-optic committee recommended that board chose APEX to market the data center, attract potential contractors to build it and tenants to fill it. They said they would consider a smaller contract with I.T. Netcom for other data center needs.

Data centers employ large computers that store information for companies They require massive cooling systems because the machines produce heat as the backup systems keep information flowing. The North Shore an ideal location for a data center due to its cool temperatures. The completion of the new countywide broadband network will make the area even more appealing.

Goodbye to Commissioner Clifford

At the end of last Thursday's meeting, the commissioners bid farewell to Tom Clifford. Clifford didn't run for reelection this year and Peter Walsh will take his place. Clifford said he won't cease involvement in the county, but he wants less commitment.

"These last years have been a lot of fun for me. I'm going to miss it," Clifford said.

The other commissioners thanked Clifford for his service.

"Every commissioner I've worked with I've learned from. You have a very unique way of teaching me and I'm really going to miss you on the board," Goutermont said.

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
(218) 834-2141