City considers pound, precinct changes, and Climate Action Plan
WTIP file photo

City considers pound, precinct changes, and Climate Action Plan

The Grand Marais City Council met on March 9 and in addition to the planned update on the city’s Climate Action Plan, the council considered two matters that were not on the meeting agenda—a funding request for a new animal shelter in the city and the changed boundaries of the city’s election precincts.

Funding allocated for new animal shelter

The need for a new animal shelter has been on—and off—the city’s agenda since at least 2018, when it was determined that the former shelter, the “Found Pound,” a small cinderblock building on the waterfront at the Grand Marais Recreation Park needed to be removed to make way for improvements to the boat launch.

All parties involved in the care of stray or abandoned animals agreed that the community needs an animal shelter, but just who was responsible for building a structure was debated at not just the city council, but at county board meetings. Ultimately it was decided that since Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen is the county’s animal control officer, the sheriff’s office should take the lead on developing a new animal shelter. Listen to Sheriff Eliasen explain the county’s role in caring for animals in this March 17, 2012 interview. However, just what entity—the city or county should pay for the shelter was debated for some time.

The animal shelter was removed from the recreation park in 2021 and lost or surrendered pets were temporarily housed at the garage at the Cook County Law Enforcement Center.

At the latest city council meeting, representatives from Arrowhead Animal Rescue, a nonprofit that helps with care of animals in the county facility, asked the city council if it would match some funds allocated by Cook County to construct a new shelter in the Cedar Grove Business Park in Grand Marais. The county earmarked $25,000 in its budget for this project. Arrowhead Animal Rescue has been raising funds for many years and they have about $50,000 to contribute to the project.

Discussion of whether or not the city should contribute to the animal shelter project was added to the agenda and after brief discussion, the council passed a unanimous motion to support the project with $25,000. Councilor Tracy Benson made the motion, noting that “this has taken way too long.”

It is hoped that the new animal shelter will be constructed this spring in the business park. A stormwater management plan needs to be developed before construction can begin.

Census changes precinct boundary with little voter impact

The city council heard from the county’s election official, Auditor Braidy Powers, who informed the city that the 2020 census led to a minor change in the city’s precinct boundaries. Powers told the council that 59 voters need to be moved from one city precinct to another. To make that change, Powers suggested moving the precinct line from 4th Avenue West to 5th Avenue West.

The changed precinct does not affect the election for city councilors, who are elected at-large. The only change for those 59 voters is that when they go to the polls on election day, they will go to another location. City voters go to the polls at either the Cook County Courthouse or the Cook County Community Center.

As it had very little impact to voters, the council also unanimous motion to approve the change to precinct boundaries. The council asked Auditor Powers to ensure that voters are nominated of the change, but also noted that voters who go to the wrong polling place are easily directed to the other location.

Climate Action Plan update

Shane Steele, the city’s Sustainability Coordinator, gave an update on the city’s Climate Action Plan, noting that the city’s power provider, the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Association, has recognized the concerns of climate change. Steele said SMMPA plans to reduce their emissions by 80 percent by 2039. They are also working on transportation issues. He said SMMPA is now an ally in the city’s work toward reduction of carbon emission and greenhouse gases. He said many of the tactics identified in the city’s Climate Action Plan are now tactics that SMMPA is addressing.

Steele talked about the installation of electric vehicle charging stations at city hall and the municipal campground. He said the charging stations were given to the city by SMMPA and the city now operates them. The EV stations have seen 676 charges since coming online in June 2021, which is the 4th  highest in the SMMPA system.

Steele said the city has become a resource for area businesses who want to know how to get EV stations installed.

He reported on the “decarbonization” work of the Grand Marais Public Works Facility with the 20KW solar installation there. Steele also noted that the solar array was installed by a local contractor, Shem Falter. Steele said Falter participated in a grant program for the training for solar installation. As a local contractor, Falter was able to submit a lower bid than a metro-area company. Steele said it is good to have a local contractor and said the city hopes that relationship will continue.

He said attention has now turned to the Grand Marais Public Library and its heating system to see if it could be made more efficient.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence learns more about these city council actions and more in this conversation with the mayor.