By Ben Karkela



The Itasca County Board of Commissioners received an update on the county’s new jail facilities and preceding demolition that begins this week.

County Administrator Brett Skyles provided information regarding demolition and partial closure of Fifth Street at the County Board of Commissioners regular session on Tuesday.

Hazmat and asbestos cleanup has been completed on the downtown buildings scheduled to be demolished and the county is waiting on permits from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to begin demolition, which is expected to take three to four weeks. Debris will be taken to the county landfill. 

“We actually hope that demolition will start next week, maybe as soon as Monday or Tuesday,” Skyles said. 

One lane of Highway 2 is expected to be closed temporarily. Fifth Street will also be closed off for safety while demolition is completed. Dirt and foundation work will follow before the new jail facilities will begin construction. 

Commissioners raised concerns about road closures affecting nearby businesses and traffic in downtown Grand Rapids.

“If there is an opportunity to open even one lane, it helps that business,” Commissioner Terry Snyder said. “Any help is much appreciated.”

Skyles assured 

commissioners every effort will be made to prepare businesses and motorists for the road closures.

“I know everybody is very concerned about letting the public know when the road will actually be closed. As soon as I have an absolute date, we’re going to get it on Facebook. The city is going to do all their PR, I’ll go to each business again and individually talk to them, then we’ll get it out in the newspaper,” Skyles said.

4-H impact report

University of Minnesota Extension Regional Director Susanne Hinrichs; Regional Extension Educator Jan Derdowski; and Extension Educators Allison Hansen, Courtney Johnson, and Rebecca Rasmussen provided a 4-H Impact Report.

The youth development organization was forced to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic, but its leadership programs kept youth connected and engaged in skill building. 

“Across the state, we’ve welcomed over 6,000 new members. In spite of a pandemic, we are still engaging young people with our programs,” 4-H Regional Extension Educator Jan Derdowski said. The pandemic forced us to look at what we are doing and to adapt and to do things a little bit differently. Because of that, and because of our online presence across the state, 9,000 kids were reached in virtual programs. We wanted to ensure that kids were engaged and that they did not feel isolated.”

In Itasca County, nine chartered clubs met regularly. 4-H saw a 30 percent increase in social media audience reach in 2020. 

Deer River Safe Routes to School project

Commissioners motioned to authorize the required signatures on the sponsor agreement with the City of Deer River for the construction and construction engineering for a 2021 Trail project.

The City of Deer River applied for and secured federal Transportation Alternatives (TA) funds and state Safe Routes to School (SRTS) funds through the Minnesota Department of Transportation grant programs for a non-motorized trail in Deer River. Total estimated project cost is $365,665.

Itasca County has no financial commitment in the agreement, but acts as the fiscal agent and contract administrator for the State of Minnesota in administering TA and SRTS funds for the project. 

County Highway Engineer Karin Grandia presented information to commissioners.

“We took previous action before agreeing to be their fiscal agent, this is just basically formalizing what our duties are compared to theirs,” Grandia said.

COVID-19 update

Public Health Division Manager provided a situational and informational update regarding COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) in Itasca County, including information regarding vaccination roll-out.  If you have questions or concerns regarding COVID-19, please call the Public Health Hotline at (218) 327-6784, visit Itasca County’s website, or contact First Call for Help/211 at (218) 326-8565

Consent agenda

Approve and accept the State of Minnesota, Department of Human Services Multi-County Grant Contract between Itasca County Health & Human Services and the State of Minnesota for the Fraud Prevention Program.

Authorize entering into Mn/DOT Agreement No. 1045700 for Bridge Funding and adopt the Resolution Re: Agreement to State Transportation Fund (Bridge Bonds) Grant Terms and Conditions for SP 031-598-021.

Adopt the Resolution Re: Sale of Tax-forfeited Land to the City of Keewatin, which approves sale of Lot 12, Block 14 Plat of KEEWATIN under the terms provided in Minnesota Statute 282.01, Subd. 1a para. (d) for a price of $100.00 plus all associated costs.

Award the 2021 TSI Contract to Dale Steinert in the amount of $6,300.00 to be paid from Forest Resources Fund 12 and authorize necessary signatures.

Authorize application for a 2021 Firewise grant of $16,828.61, and if granted authorize necessary signatures.

Adopt the Resolution Re: Sale of Tax-forfeited Land to the City of Calumet for a Public Purpose, which approves sale of Lots Nineteen (19) and Twenty (20), Block Seven (7) of the Original Townsite of the Village of Calumet under the terms provided in Minnesota Statute 282.01, Subd. 1a para. (b) for a price of $500.00 plus all associated costs.

Approve amendment change to MnDOT Contract 1045769A01 -Phase I Archaeological Survey for Balsam Creek Bridge Replacement and authorize necessary signatures.

Accept the 2021 Minnesota Annual County Boat and Water Safety Grant Agreement between the State of Minnesota and Itasca County and authorize Board Chair Burl Ives and County Administrator Brett Skyles to sign the agreement and conflict of interest disclosure form.

Recognition of County Employees

Farewell to Cindy Palkki, whose last day as a Child Support Officer, Health and Human Services Department was June 4, 2021 after 21-plus years of service. Farewell to Grant Gerlach whose last day as a Mechanic/Welder was April 15, 2021 after 14-plus years of service. Farewell to Lena Schaefer whose last day as a Assessor/Appraiser II, Assessors Department will be June 11, 2021 after 5 years of service. Farewell to Anne Kruger whose last day as a Probation Agent, Probation Department will be June, 18, 2021 after 2-plus years of service.

Welcome Carolyn Randall, Clerk Treasurer, Auditor/Treasurer Department, effective June, 7, 2021.

Congratulations to Lindsey Staydohar who was promoted from Office Support Specialist, Family Services Division to Medical Support Specialist, IMCare Division, Health & Human Services Department effective May 31, 2021. Congratulations to Shane Troumbly who was promoted from Data/Project Coordinator, IMCare Division to Public Health Educator, Public Health Division, Health & Human Services Department effective May 30, 2021. Congratulations to Andrew Furman who accepted a job transfer from Mechanic/Welder Sub-foreman to Purchasing/Equipment Maintenance Technician, Road & Bridge Division, Transportation Department effective June 1, 2021.

Commissioner comments

Commissioner Tinquist provided comment and concern regarding another tragic accident in Itasca County. At the time of the board meeting, official details about the accident were not yet released. 

The Minnesota State Patrol said on Tuesday about 10:21 a.m., an ambulance was heading south on County Road 336 when a dump truck going eastbound on County Road 57 collided with the ambulance in the intersection.

“Another tragedy within our EMS community today,” Commissioner Davin Tinquist said. “Keep all those people in your thoughts in prayers, those that are directly and indirectly affected by it.”


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