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Auditor-treasurer and recorder ballot questions approved

The Lake County Board of Commissioners approved the language to appear on November ballots regarding the auditor-treasurer and recorder positions in the county.

The two positions have long been filled by the electoral process, with residents voting on who should have the positions. In March, the board voted to hire the positions instead, after the state legislature passed special legislation allowing them to do so.

Then, over 1,300 Lake County residents signed a petition opposing the change, which pushed the issue to ballot and ensured that, at least for this year, the two positions will remain elected. On Tuesday, the board approved the language that will appear on the ballot this November regarding the positions.

Members of the board discussed the wording, with Commissioner Rick Goutermont taking particular issue with the phrase reading the positions would be filled through “appointment (hiring) by the county board.”

"It's a hiring process as opposed to an appointment,” Goutermont said.

County attorney Laura Auron recommended that the county board keep “appointment” in the question, because that is the word the state legislature used in its documents. Goutermont said he would like the word “board” to be removed, as well, to avoid the perception that the board is hand-picking a candidate.

Commissioner Rich Sve said there will be a job description posted and a committee made up of county department heads, one industry expert, the county’s personnel committee and one commissioner, will interview candidates and recommend a hire. That recommendation will then be approved by the board.

Auron recommended keeping “board” in the questions, but the board ultimately voted to strike out the second reference to the board.

The board approved two final questions to appear on the ballot -- one each for the auditor-treasurer and recorder. The wording is as follows:

“May the Lake County Board of Commissioners implement the resolution that the office of the county auditor-treasurer be filled through appointment (hiring) by the county board after the expiration of the next term on January 6, 2019 or a vacancy?”

The recorder question reads the same, with “recorder” replacing “auditor-treasurer.”

In other county board news:

- The county is moving forward on a conservation easement on more than 500 acres of land near Finland. The county-owned land is currently used for commercial logging, and that use would still be allowed under the conservation easement. The easement protects the land from mining (excluding sand, gravel and rocks), development and other significant alterations.

The state will pay the county more than $160,000 for the easement, which is expected to be officially approved in August.

- The board approved a resolution stating that no new land may be acquired by state or federal agencies, a resolution aimed to keep private land private. Currently, 83 percent of the land in Lake County is publically owned. The resolution said that the board must approve any agreements that put private land in public hands and requests that state and federal agencies take an inventory of all the lands they currently own and evaluate each parcel for possible sale back to private ownership.

Publically owned land is usually untaxed and therefore reduces the tax base of the county.

- Brian Hanson, CEO and President of Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) in Duluth addressed the board regarding their data center marketing plan. The Duluth-based business development firm has been working with the county for more than a year to market a potential data center site in the southwestern part of Lake County off the Ives Road.

Data centers are buildings that house large computers that store information for companies. APEX and the county are trying to bring a company to the county to build a facility and store their data.

The board had been working with Elissa Hansen, APEX's director of business development, but she recently left APEX. Hanson said the firm recently hired two new employees and he wanted to assure the commissioners that the change would be "seamless" from the county's perspective.

- Curt Gadacz, longtime solid waste officer for the county, submitted his request to retire. The board approved the action, which set his retirement date at Dec. 31, 2014.

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