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Bergman returns to County Board

The Lake County Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday with a familiar face returning after a three-month hiatus. Commissioner Paul Bergman had been sidelined with health problems since January, when he left for Pittsburgh to receive a lung transplant. With one new lung, he reported that he is doing much better and his lung capacity is almost back to normal.

"It's really, really good to be back. I want to thank you for all of the work you did on my behalf," Bergman told the board.

"(The transplant) is the greatest gift I could ever have. It's life-changing," he said.

After the commissioners welcomed Bergman, they began to tackle their agenda. Vickie Thompson, director of health and human services, was the first to speak to the board, offering a brief explanation of a resolution regarding the contract of a public health nurse.

Thompson also provided an update on the newly-named Waterfront Center, formerly the Harbor Center. The drop-in center is a location for people dealing with mental illness to find support and companionship. The county took over operations of the center earlier this year and it is largely run by the people it serves.

"They're just doing fantastic. Things are going along there really well. It does not take a lot of work on our part," Thompson told the board.

Nate Eide, the Lake County land commissioner, then spoke to board. He brought two issues to its attention for future discussion. First, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is planning a land swap with Lake County. The purpose of the exchange is to consolidate lands for both the county and the DNR.

"I've had everybody look at it (in the department) and it's not something to get excited about but it's a step in the right direction," Eide told the board.

Next he presented the board with a quarantine proposal from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The MDA wants to quarantine wood originating in Lake and Cook counties to reduce the spread of the gypsy moth, an invasive species. The wood could still be transported within the county and other quarantined areas, including most of Wisconsin. Eide said the biggest concern is that the quarantine would affect wood-related businesses in the area. Commissioner Rick Goutermont agreed.

"My concern will be the guy on the ground, the logger," Goutermont said.

The quarantine is proposed beginning in spring 2014. Members of the public can learn more and take a survey about the proposed quarantine at

County Administrator Matt Huddleston then addressed the board. He first updated commissioners on the Blandin Broadband Community project, a partnership between Blandin Foundation and the county to increase creative use of the broadband services soon coming to the area. A $10,000 grant proposal has been submitted. If the grant is awarded, the money will be used to pay for the creation of a YouTube channel and informational videos to help residents utilize broadband.

As part of the project, Lake Superior School District has also submitted a grant proposal for $18,000 to purchase mobile devices for students. Community Education hopes to secure $17,000 for digital literacy training for seniors.

"I'm happy to see this (and) to get more people involved with it," Bergman said.

Huddleston also spoke about two contracts that were slated to be approved during the meeting. Lake View Memorial Hospital previously performed these duties for the county, but has opted out. Nurses at LVMH will be trained to perform some of the more basic duties, with more intensive work to be performed by Lakeland. The board approved the contract.

The board also approved a contract with Lockridge Grindal Nauen Attorneys at Law based in Washington, D.C. The office will perform lobbying duties on behalf of Lake County at a base cost of $1,500 per month.

The board approved all of its consent agenda and resolution items before adjourning.

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.
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