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St. Louis County Board considers 2019 budget, emergency warming shelters, new contract for Camp Esquagama management

The St. Louis County Board met this week in Biwabik. Shown L-R, front row, are Commissioners Pete Stauber, Frank Jewell and Keith Nelson, Budget Analyst Bre Graber, Auditor Don Dicklich, Auditor-elect Nancy Nilsen, and Assistant County Attorney Kim Maki. Back row: Commissioner-elect Paul McDonald, Commissioner Patrick Boyle, Deputy Administrator Brian Fritsinger, Commissioner Mike Jugovich and County Administrator Kevin Gray. Submitted / St. Louis County
The St. Louis County Board has given initial approval to several resolutions leading up to its final meeting of the year, which will be held Tuesday, December 18.

During Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, commissioners authorized spending up to $65,000 to fund emergency warming shelters in Duluth and on the Iron Range. Specific details on the shelters are still being finalized, such as what weather conditions would result in opening one, but tentative plans involve the City of Duluth providing space at no charge in the City Center West building, with CHUM or other non-profit agencies responsible for staffing. Similar partnerships are being explored on the Iron Range.

“This is just a pilot program at this point, but we are committed to helping those in need in our communities ” said Commissioner Patrick Boyle, who chairs the County’s Health and Human Service Committee. “With our region’s harsh winters, we can’t turn our backs. I applaud the leadership at CHUM and the City of Duluth for their willingness to partner and try to find new solutions.”

Commissioners also gave preliminary approval to a new management contract for Camp Esquagama. Following a re-organization in recent months, the Camp Esquagama 501(c)(3) with its own Board of Directors, is now in place. St. Louis County, which owns the 83-year-old camp, will contract with the 501(c)(3) for strategic leadership, property management and operational services. The camp’s executive director, Steve Popowitz, and other key staff will continue in their current rolls.

“Steve and his staff have shown tremendous dedication and vision for rebuilding Camp Esquagama into an even more vibrant summer youth experience,” said County Board Chair Keith Nelson. “Attendance and programming continues to grow, and we are excited to begin this next chapter with them.”

Commissioners also listened to a brief presentation on the 2019 budget, which, at $394.7 million will be slightly smaller than this years budget. The Board will cast a final vote on the 2019 budget, as well as the resolutions on the emergency warming shelters and Camp Esquagama contract at its meeting December 18, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the County Board room at the Courthouse in Duluth.