City of Grand Marais plans for law enforcement staffing changes and discusses spring projects
WTIP file photo

City of Grand Marais plans for law enforcement staffing changes and discusses spring projects

Housing and law enforcement staffing were the two main topics discussed during the Sept. 27 city council meeting. 

Leading up to the city council meeting, Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen met with the Cook County Board of Commissioners during a special meeting to discuss changes to a longstanding arrangement between City Hall in Grand Marais and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department. 

Eliasen then attended last week’s city council meeting to discuss the staffing arrangement with the city councilors and the changes taking place the first week in Oct. 

“Unfortunately, the hiring woes have hit Grand Marais now and Cook County,” Eliasen said during the meeting.”This has been a trend going on across the nation for several years now.”

The city of Grand Marais has had an agreement with the county to contract nearly three full-time employees for law enforcement in city limits since 1998. However, to address some of the staffing challenges, Eliasen is proposing to change the agreement with Grand Marais by withdrawing the designated city officers and incorporating them into the larger county rotation. 

Eliasen assured that law enforcement will continue to respond to calls within city limits, and the change does not mean that law enforcement is abandoning Grand Marais. 

Following the city council meeting, Grand Marais Mayor Tracy Benson said this change would not affect ambulance, fire department, or other emergency service calls. As this change takes effect, Benson said the city will brainstorm alternative options for law enforcement coverage. During the meeting, the councilors discussed the idea of peace and community service officers to fill the staffing gap. 

Benson explained that the city will meet with the county on Oct. 10 to discuss the law enforcement staffing change and other joint contracts. “Our joint contracts need a lot of rework and look at and freshening up. And this was one of them.”

Housing is one of the many factors contributing to the law enforcement staffing challenges in Cook County. During the Sept. 27 city council meeting, the Director of the Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA), Jason Hale, attended the meeting to provide an update on city and county housing projects. 

Groundwork on the anticipated 51-unit apartment complex on the inside curve of the Gunflint Trail will not move forward before frost sets in this fall.

Due to a lack of bids, the groundwork was delayed nearly a month, ultimately setting the project back to next spring. “Everything else is ready to go. Now it is just up to mother nature, so that could be May, it could be June, it depends,” Hale said. 

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Grand Marais Mayor Tracy Benson following the Sept.27 city council meeting about law enforcement staffing, housing projects, and more. Audio from the interview is below.