August 1, 2003 Newsletter
THE CRANE LAKE CITIZEN
Issue No. 1 August 1, 2003
This is the first issue of the Town of Crane Lake Newsletter which is dedicated to inform interested parties of the happenings and plans for the township. It will be sent to every home/cabin in the township. It is the plan to send the newsletter once each summer when most of the people are in the area. We welcome comments, input and constructive criticism.
The Birth of the Township
First There Was a Plan
Impetus for initiating the Crane Lake Community Action Plan began in early 2000 when several government agencies expressed interest in the Crane Lake area for a visitor center. An open house was held at the Fire Hall and it was agreed that the agencies would postpone any action until the people of the community developed a plan for the future. It was decided by the people to develop a Community Action Plan with the assistance of the Economic Recovery Program (Subtitle G of the 1990 Farm Bill) administered by the Forest Service. To qualify for funding under this program a Community Plan is required which would make other grants possible. The process for this plan is to invite strong community participation and ownership with several meetings where community members identify their current situation, capabilities and future.
Two community meetings were held and one survey was conducted to develop a vision for the Crane Lake Community. The large community meeting held in April 2001 was attended by 101 people interested in Crane Lake. Strong community involvement was evident with only eleven outside individuals attending the meeting. The invited guests included 1 moderator, 6 Forest Service people, 1 DNR, 2 reporters of the press, and one county official. Their input was valuable. However, it was the Crane Lake people whose desires were documented and reported in the Plan.
The community identified a large list of potential projects. They then by vote determined the top six projects listed by priority:
Sewer and Water System
A Form of Local Government
Internet and Cell Phone Service
Connecting Multi-Use 4-Season Trail System
Other Identified Needs:
More land for private development
Expanded Youth Activities
The entire group unanimously empowered a steering committee to work toward development of the plan’s priorities. And it was by those efforts that in June 2002 by a vote of 78% in favor, the Town of Crane Lake was born.
Why a Local Form of Government?
- Without local government the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners in Duluth made communication difficult and costly.
- Change was coming, nothing stays the same. Local government would have some control over the direction of changes for the community.
- Existing entities such as the Crane Lake Water & Sewer District, Crane Lake Visitor and Tourism Bureau, Crane Lake Fire Department and Snowmobile Club continue to develop. However, the Crane Lake area did not have one united voice that can compete for project grants and address common issues to the community.
- Due to the large regulatory presence of Federal, State and County agencies in the area and the lack of a united community voice, establishing lines of communication between the Community and government agencies is difficult.
- Release of the Voyageurs National Park General Management Plan, the revision of the Superior National Forest Plan, the MN Department of Natural Resources Off Highway Vehicle System Plan for NE Minnesota raised issues that may have impacted sustainable community development.
- A Land Exchange with the Federal Government would answer one of the identified community needs for more land for private development.
- A government entity is allowed to acknowledge only another government entity in certain negotiations.
- Lack of communication between year-round and seasonal residents.
- Seasonal residents would have a voice and common platform to express issues.
Proposed Land Swap
Swap Process: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is in agreement to swap several parcels of land that they own and are within the boundaries of the Town of Crane Lake (Town). This land would be swapped for land that the USFS would like to acquire. A partnership of involved entities would be formed. Of primary interest to the USFS are three (3) 40’s in the East Bay area owned by Bill Congdon which adjoin the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The partnership would include the Town of Crane Lake, Bill Congdon, Arthur (Butch) Eggen and the USFS. Arthur Eggen would swap one (1) 40 which he owns on the Cemetery Road for the 40 which directly adjoins west of his homestead property, Bill Congdon would swap the three (3) 40’s in East Bay for two (2) 40’s west of the Gold Coast Road and one (1) other 40 to be agreed upon. This does not increase the land ownership of either Eggen or Congdon but is a simple land swap. The Town of Crane Lake as agreed by the USFS would swap two (2) 40’s (lying directly south of Handberg Road running north and south) for property which the USFS would deem as a suitable swap and which the USFS knows would be available for the Town to purchase for swap. The swap would be based on land value rather than acres. Legal council would be obtained to represent the partnership and members of the partnership. This process takes about two years.
Town of Crane Lake Land Use: Of primary importance to the Town would be to use the land to its best ability for the purposes answering the needs of the community as defined in the Community Action Plan of 2000 which includes town growth, adequate housing, and the need for a community building.
Fire Hall Buildings: The Crane Lake Volunteer Fire Department (CLVFD) has buildings situated on the northern most area of the land. This land could be parceled off and sold to the CLVFD for a minimum amount. The only stipulation would be that it always remains a working volunteer fire department or the land would revert back to the Town.
Telephone Building: The land that houses the telephone building would remain in Town ownership and would be leased (rented) to the Telephone Company generating income for the Town.
Remainder of Land: It would be proposed to hire a professional land planner who would design a plan for the land in an esthetic, practical, useable way. Preserving an area for a community building with playground/picnic capabilities would be dedicated for future plans. The remainder of the land would be divided into lots to be sold to individuals who wish to build quality housing. The lots would need to be developed in X number of years or the land would revert back to the Town. No person/persons would be allowed to buy more than one lot. These stipulations would discourage land developers from buying land and holding it without any development for years, as some of the privately held landowners are now doing. The land would remain off the tax rolls until sold to private individuals. The results would be; growth for the Town, expansion of our tax base, increased housing, easing the employee housing shortage and provision of a site for a future community building.
Cost: There will be expenses for the legal work and government paper work with the USFS. The USFS will absorb 50% of the cost, with the Partnership of Eggen, Congdon and the Town sharing the remainder. Estimates are about $30,000.00 split among the four partnership principles. There will be the cost of the land purchase to swap to the USFS. The Town’s portion of expenses will be covered by the sale of the lots to individuals so eventually it will be at no cost or perhaps even a profit for the Town.
Community Input: Citizens of the Town will have an opportunity to discuss and vote on this proposal at the Reconvened Town Meeting on August 12, 2003 when the Town budget will be approved. A line item of $10,000.00 will appear in the budget for the year 2004 to finance the beginning of the land swap process (legal, filings and survey fees). The budget as proposed in March has since had a $5,000.00 request for fireworks withdrawn and the savings from hiring an independent assessor should compensate for this item. If it is the wish of the voters to move forward with the land swap, they will vote to approve the line item for expenses to begin the land swap process.
Final Results: A Win-Win situation. The USFS would acquire the land in East Bay, Congdon and Eggen would acquire land that they desire by giving up land they already own. The CLVFD would own the land housing their structures, which is a need expressed prior to the forming of the Township. The Town of Crane Lake would have land available for private ownership for quality housing and land set aside for a future community building/playground at no cost to the Town. This would satisfy some of the wishes expressed in the Crane Lake Community Action Plan of 2000.
Visitors Center/Community Building/Town Hall
A Community/Visitors/Town Hall Center was identified as a need for the community. The Town is not in the position to begin such a healthy project at this time and may not be for many years. However before any planning for such a complex could begin the main problem would be land to house the facility. With a successful land swap a portion of land could be set aside for the day when such a project is feasible. This land would be paid for by the sale of the remainder of the land so eventually it is at no cost to the Township. What a legacy for future generations.
The Town Board is working on cell phone service. St. Louis County, owner of the tower at the Solid Waste Site is willing to rent space on the tower to a cell phone provider; however, the tower was not acceptable for the cell provider’s purpose. A tower had been planned to be built in the area by a cell phone provider; however, September 11th changed many of the provider’s plans due to massive destruction of equipment and immediate need for replacement. The board will continue to work on this project.
Phone calls can now be made between Orr, Buyck and Crane Lake without a toll charge. This was the result of a co-operative effort among the three communities and good old door knocking on many doors.
Internet service is available and The Town of Crane Lake has a web site. Not up and running yet but will be within the month. The site will carry the board meeting minutes, archives of all past minutes, a map of the Township, meeting notices and other pertinent news with links for the Fire Department, Tourism Bureau, and Snowmobile Club if they wish to participate. It will keep the public informed and stay connected. The Town of Crane Lake web site is www.cranelaketownship.com or www.cranelaketwp.com.
The Town Board has adopted an ordinance which empowers the town to issue the licenses to sell tobacco. This function had been the duty of the County. It will be a break-even venture for the town. It will help the businesses that sell tobacco as the price of licenses will be considerably lower than the current charge by the County and they will be dealt with locally.
Speed Limits and Signage
Safety is a number one concern for all residents and visitors in the Town. Signs with new speed limits will be posted by the County as soon as the road work is done. This will slow down traffic at Anderson’s and Pine Ridge Motel and also the Gold Coast Road.
The Visitor and Tourism Bureau has erected a beautiful Crane Lake sign and refurbished the Voyageur statue. The sign also gives recognition to the Town of Crane Lake – Established 2002. Thank you to the members of the bureau for their many years of dedicated work.
Like the other elected officers of the fledgling Town of Crane Lake, I have found my office, that of Clerk, to be challenging. The obvious duties of the Clerk are attending meetings and recording and transcribing minutes. Beyond the obvious are the many “behind the scenes” responsibilities.
Before each meeting bills are reviewed and claims for payment are prepared, correspondence is processed and dispensed to the Board. An agenda is prepared and financial reports are generated and compared with those of the Treasurer. Meetings and notices are posted and published when required. The Board is kept informed of any issues that arise between meetings and the budget is monitored on a regular basis. Research is a responsibility in which all Board members participate. The Clerk is also the administrator of elections.
The education/training sessions provided by the Minnesota Association of Townships and St. Louis County have been extremely beneficial in helping us with these challenges of a new Township. The Minnesota Association of Townships staff is always available to offer assistance and the advice of other township officials has been invaluable.
It has been an interesting challenge to learn the financial details of running a township, When our Township was officially formed in June of 2002, it had no funds to operate until the first half of the 2003 levy was to be received in July of 2003. Consequently, the Town had to come up with interim financing to meet its expenses, both know and unknown. Thanks to a grant from the IRRRA, a donation from the Voyageurs Snowmobile Club and two loans – one from the Sanitary District and one from the Visitor and Tourism Bureau, we have been able to meet our expenses and pay for fire protection for our first year and a half of operation.
Another challenge has been, and continues to be, the income the Town receives from federal and state government payment in lieu of taxes (PILT). The Board has been working hard to ascertain the amount to which we are entitled.
We are learning. As we plan our budget for 2004, we are facing the challenges of not knowing our exact income, the possibility of unexpected expenses which we have not yet experienced, paying off the debt we have incurred, and the time factor of when our levy and PILT payments come in.
We plan to have a copy of the budget posted for your review at the regular posting places before the Reconvened Annual Meeting on August 12, 2003. We had planned to include the budget with this newsletter; but unfortunately, we are still waiting for more information concerning our income.
“Fireside Chat” With the Fire Department
Congratulations to the newly elected Fire Chief Jeff Sanborn of the Crane Lake Volunteer Fire Department and First Responders. Chief Sanborn will be an excellent leader providing continued great service for fire and first responder calls. Chief Sanborn replaces John Klaysmatt. The Town thanks John for his many years of dedicated service. In April the First Responders answered a call which resulted in saving a life. Citations of Commendation from the Town Board were sent to Jeff Sanborn, Jerry Pohlman, Amy Ulen and Kalie Klaysmatt for the excellent job done. In a spirit of cooperation the Town Board has invited the Fire Department, which contracts with the Town for fire protection and first responder service, to join in our newsletter. Fire Department Treasurer Deena Congdon has submitted these remarks:
“I joined the fire department in October of 2002 as a general member after the township meeting vote on the budget. I thought it would be good to become a member so I would know where the tax dollars are going. As it worked out I became the new treasurer. In the last few months I have seen how much time your neighbors and friends donate to this community. They are at monthly meetings, endless training hours and respond to calls at all times of the day. This means they must leave their places of business and families at some of the most inconvenient times.
I ask the community to whole heartily support the fire department as well as the township. I also suggest that you become a fire fighter or first responder. In this small community we would all step up and help the person next door if their house was on fire or is they were hurt. So let’s do it with knowledge.”
Please feel free to call 993-2269 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Keep In Touch
The Town Board of Supervisors meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 7:30 P.M. at the Fellowship Hall – Crane Lake Chapel. The Board welcomes citizen attendance and participation. The next Board meeting is August 12, at 7:30PM followed by the continuation of the Annual Meeting. The August 12 meetings will be held at the Groomer Garage. Join your neighbors and friends in grass roots democracy and an opportunity to help lead Crane Lake into the twenty-first century.
The Town of Crane Lake Board
Jo Ann Pohlman