St. Louis County Board returns to live meetings Tuesday

Meeting at Voyagaire Lodge in Crane Lake begins at 9:30 a.m.

Voyagaire Lodge Crane Lake.jpg

After three months worth of meetings conducted online for health precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Louis County Board will meet live on Tuesday in Crane Lake.

The meeting, more than 130 miles north of Duluth, will be held at the Voyagaire Lodge, 7576 Gold Coast Road, Crane Lake.

"I want to get back to normal," Board Chair Mike Jugovich, of Chisholm, said. "I know we'll have to take proper steps as far as social distancing, but it's important we get back to normal."

Commissioner Keith Nelson, of Virginia, agreed, saying city councils across the Iron Range have continued to conduct meetings in public throughout the pandemic.

"It's about time," Nelson said. "We can't meet at seven different locations and be an effective board."


Patrick Boyle, representing eastern Duluth, thought it was time for commissioners to "see each other eye to eye."

"I truly believe it's within the realm of what the governor has been doing in terms of dialing it back," Boyle said. "But do I think it's going to last? No. When and if the next wave happens, we'll go back to virtual meetings."

The last time the full board met together was March 10 , followed by a March 18 emergency meeting at which some commissioners began to participate electronically. Commissioners are still able to do so, Administrator Kevin Gray said. It's not known if any will.

"The majority of the board felt strongly about having a meeting," Gray said.

Face masks will be "strongly recommended" but not required, and the layout of the room will be suited for social distancing, Gray said. Visitors wishing to address the board may be "metered" into the room should arrivals begin to stress the social-distancing capacity.

The Crane Lake meeting was established in January during the board's annual organizational meeting. The meeting will be recorded and aired later on Public Access Television Duluth. It will not be livestreamed on Webex or Facebook in the manner of recent meetings due to technological limitations at the site.

The July 7 meeting at the courthouse in Duluth is also expected to be live, but a July 14 meeting scheduled for Brevator Township has been moved to Duluth due to the small capacity at the town hall.

"We’ve been committed for a number of years to visit all parts of St. Louis County and that has been well-received," Gray said.


To Boyle's point about returning to virtual meetings, Gray added that the situation was fluid and will be based on monitoring the public health situation. To date, the county has experienced 143 cases of COVID-19 and 14 deaths.

The agenda for Tuesday's meeting doesn't feature any topics that figure to draw large crowds. The board will address its use of up to $24 million in federal CARES Act funding — rescue dollars aimed at recouping expenses related to the COVID-19 response.

That funding has yet to be released to Minnesota's 87 counties. A special legislative session which ended Saturday failed to reach agreement on how to distribute what will amount to statewide funding of up to $841 million.

Gray said no additional county staff will be employed to ensure safe distancing at the meeting, but left the door open that bailiffs or other personnel could be used in Duluth and going forward.

"I have high confidence in our citizens," Gray said. "I assume people won't attend if they have any COVID symptoms."

"Common sense should be good enough," Nelson added. "I don't think we have to enforce other than to be very respectful of people keeping their distances."

What To Read Next
Get Local