County garners praise for Ten Commandments stand
County leaders got some praise for their possible role in preserving a monument engraved with the Ten Commandments. By Monday, the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners could learn if it will be their fight to keep the replica on public propert...
County leaders got some praise for their possible role in preserving a monument engraved with the Ten Commandments.
By Monday, the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners could learn if it will be their fight to keep the replica on public property.
Facing a lawsuit by the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union (MCLU) to remove the monument from City Hall property, the Duluth City Council voted last month not to fight, but to seek a settlement and comply.
It was an action most county commissioners opposed, and in March the board voted to ask the city to give the county the monument and land.
And it was hardly a hollow gesture, according to Commissioner Mike Forsman. "It wasn't a lark," he said, repeating his views that the councilors were cowards for not taking on the MCLU.
He favored following through on taking ownership of the monument, but without any city strings attached.
"This county board is on record 6-0 requesting the city transfer the property along with the monument so that we can finish the fight," said Commissioner Bill Kron. "This is a Constitution question, a First Amendment rights question."
Kron feels the issue should be decided in court.
"I feel it is very important for us to pursue every avenue of keeping this plaque, every avenue there is," said Susan Roper, one of three residents who spoke on the subject at Tuesday's meeting. "I believe it is a moral issue. I'm here to encourage you to do the right thing."
Jim Hofsommer of Colvin Township also thanked the board for its stance on the issue. The City Council is expected to decide this month whether to transfer the monument to the county or have it removed and given to a nongovernmental entity.
In other action, the board approved a capital improvement Plan for the years 2004 through 2009. The plan lists about $175 million in projects. It now goes to the state for approval. If the state signs off, the various projects will come back for board approval before any final action is taken.
"It is very much a working document." said Board Chair Steve Raukar. "It is truly a wish list."
Commissioner Joanne Fay called it a "road map" and said they will not get everything on the list.
The board did not pass a capital improvement plan in 2003. Big ticket items in the new plan include a sheriff's facility, improvements to the Duluth Courthouse and the Government Service Center, and the Hibbing annex.
Hofsommer questioned spending $2.5 million on expansion of the Hibbing annex as compared to the cost of renting at about $100,000 a year.
Commissioner Keith Nelson said there is a difference between spending and investing.
Commissioner Dennis Fink labeled the plan conservative. He said that the county's current outstanding debt is $36.8 million, which is substantially below the $212 million authorized by the state.
The board approved rezoning and land use changes for about 1,600 acres in Unorganized Township 60 North. According to county planner Barb Hayden, the land is along five miles of Highway 65 and most of it is in public ownership.
Commissioners also welcomed new county administrator Dana Frey to his first regular board meeting.