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Life in unorganized territory
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Where are we in November?

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 1:47pm

Cook County News-Herald staffers love to get out and about the county. So we decided, while we are traveling the highway and bushwhacking through the forest, to take pictures to see if our readers can guess WHERE ARE WE?

The October WHERE ARE WE? was a bit difficult. Only one person recognized the spot. We were in the Poplar Grove Cemetery in Grand Marais, just off Highway 61 near a grave marker from the 1800s. Sherrie Lindskog was the winner of a free subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the November photo. If you think you know where this photo was taken, send us your answer.

You don’t have to be the first to reply. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers.

Whoever is drawn from the correct entries will win a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $32 value). Good luck!

Answer to the November WHERE ARE WE? must be received by December 14, 2015.

Send your entry to:

Cook County News-Herald
PO Box 757
Grand Marais MN 55604

Drop it by our office at:

15 First Avenue West
Fax: 218-387-9500
Questions? 218-387-9100

Categories: Member Feeds

More than luck needed to lower levy

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 10:13am

Last week I wished Cook County commissioners luck in the quest to keep our tax levy from increasing drastically. They’ve done a pretty good job so far. From a 28 percent levy increase in April to an 11.2 percent increase in November, they’ve found a way to trim some expenses.

It would be nice if they could do more before the budget is finalized at the last county board meeting of the year on December 28. To do so commissioners need more than luck. They need the courage to make some tough choices and they need thick skin to face the inevitable criticism of those choices

But perhaps most importantly they need feedback from citizens on what can be cut and what the community can’t live without.

At a recent board meeting, Commissioner Frank Moe introduced an idea to reduce the county highway department budget by eliminating application of calcium chloride on the county’s gravel roads. Moe asked County Engineer David Betts if the $160,000 spent to keep dust down on unpaved roads was necessary.

The county engineer said yes, it is necessary. Calcium chloride is used for more than keeping vehicles dust free. Betts said applying calcium chloride reduces the amount of grading needed, saving money in labor and equipment costs. It also helps prevent washouts and ultimately decreases road maintenance costs.

So perhaps Moe’s idea is not feasible. But I admire the willingness to take a close look at county expenditures, to see if there are things we can live without.

This is where citizen feedback comes in. If you have an idea for a way the county could cut expenses, talk to your commissioner.

My husband Chuck has a pet-peeve that, if addressed could save the county some money. What is it that vexes him? The lights at the Cook County Community Center hockey rink—and more recently—at the tennis courts. Driving up First or Second Avenue West toward the school and YMCA late into the night, these arena lights are on. Often without a soul in sight.

If these lights were put on a timer or perhaps a motion detector to be used only when there were actually people using these county amenities, the county’s electric bill could be reduced. It’s a start.

I’ve heard from local business owners that the county could do more to make do with what they have. There are small business owners that are using desk chairs and file cabinets that they bought at yard sales years ago. There are entrepreneurs using hand-me-down copiers and telephone systems. And unfortunately, there are businesses that could use a new roof or windows or carpet, but delay those improvements because it’s not in the budget.

Perhaps the county could extend the time between replacing desk chairs and room dividers or between painting or changing window blinds. Not enough to reduce the budget alone, but every little bit helps.

I have a somewhat drastic suggestion. It’s not a novel idea, in fact, I’ve seen this budget cutting method numerous times in my working life. As an Army wife, I had a variety of jobs—library aide, retail sales associate, medical records clerk, cardiac rehab receptionist, secretary, customer service representative and more. In each of those jobs, at some point, management called for some kind of moratorium on spending.

At the library, when the end of the fiscal year was near, the librarian issued a directive— no new books or periodicals were to be ordered. The best sellers just had to wait. At the retail store, when sales didn’t meet goals, there were no new hires. Everyone pitched in to get the work done until finances improved. When the hospital I worked at reduced the cardiac rehab outreach budget, we temporarily halted our heart healthy education luncheon. As a secretary, there were times when a limit was put on office supplies. No, we didn’t need logo pens or fancy desk calendars.

The county board started down this path at the start of the budget process when it sat in meeting after meeting to talk about wants versus needs. Commissioners asked department heads to look for ways to cut their budget and some county staff found ways to do so.

The county board decided not to issue a mandate to department heads to make budget cuts. Commissioners noted that they didn’t want to micromanage or “nickel and dime” employees. I don’t believe they would have to. I think county staff, if asked to cut 2 percent or 5 percent from individual budgets could do so. It would take creativity, but it could likely be done.

There’s my idea. What do you think? What can the county do to keep our levy low? Let your commissioner know. As inflation rises and state and federal funding falls, they need all the help they can get. They need more than luck.


We must consult our means
rather than our wishes.

George Washington

Categories: Member Feeds

Fearlessly moving on

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 11:57pm

Fearless in summer 2014

For years I’ve shared stories about our golden retriever Fearless. Longtime readers— those who started reading Unorganized Territory more than 14 years ago—may remember that Fearless came to us as a Father’s Day gift from our son Gideon and his wife Sara.

The roly-poly puppy was to make up for the fact that they had taken our family dog— Gideon’s dog, Gizmo—away from us to their new home. The puppy had big paws to fill as we all adored Gizmo. But he quickly won our hearts with his silly antics, especially his anxious attitude. He was a nervous little pup, afraid of rustling garbage bags, balloons and of course, the vacuum cleaner.

For that reason, we decided to give him a strong name— Fearless. We thought he would grow into it. He eventually did, but not before I wrote a few columns about his fearfulness.

In April of 2002, when he was just a year old, I bragged that Fearless had easily slept through a major thunder and lightning storm. Of course there was a reason. He was tired from a terribly traumatic hike. We had taken our poor little dog, who trembled when you shook a trash bag before putting it in the garbage can, on a stroll on County Road 7. Unfortunately, some Good Samaritan had collected litter along the road. It started off as a very slow walk with Fearless cringing and pulling at the leash as we passed the first few bags. He eventually realized that the bags were inanimate and we were able to finish the walk, but not without a lot of laughter at his expense.

I wrote about his anxiety issues again in a column in January 2009, just after the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Because Fearless had so much energy, I thought he might be sled dog material. I decided to see if we could teach him to pull a sled around the yard to give the grandkids a ride. I started with something I thought would be simple—a little yellow toboggan left at our house by the kids. I carefully hooked the plastic sled to his collar and attempted to get him to walk beside me. It did not work. I forgot about the fear factor.

The sliding toboggan following him terrified him and he took off running, looking back frantically, his eyes filled with fright at the yellow thing chasing him.

It took several minutes to stop him and to get him untangled. It took several more minutes to get him to calm down. I decided he wasn’t cut out to be a sled dog. But it did make me laugh and it made for a good story for a mushing season column.

One year in a Halloween column I admitted that Fearless and I are both a bit cowardly. I shared my apprehension about being home alone. You would think having a big dog would help, but no, sensing my nervousness made Fearless skittish and he would bark at every little noise, scaring me even more. He would walk so close to me that the real danger I faced was tripping over him and breaking a limb.

I’ve mentioned Fearless in many more columns, telling readers about the difficulty of building a snowman with the grandkids when you are waylaid by a 70-pound dog who wants to roll around in the snow with you. I’ve written about his jumping on board Chuck’s four-wheeler and traveling the trails with us. I still chuckle when I remember writing a column about him stealing my mother’s walking stick.

The last time our old guy got a mention was last March, when he went for a nice long walk along County Road 7, where once a trash cleanup had scared him. I was amazed on that warm spring day that he made it as far as he did, huffing and puffing, but with a happy golden retriever grin on his gray muzzle.

I wondered, at that time, if we would be losing him soon. After all, he was almost 14 years old and that is old for a golden. He made it a few more months. On Halloween, we said farewell to our sweet old Fearless.

We knew it was coming, so all his human and canine friends came to say goodbye. He was too weak to jump up and bark in welcome, but he managed that happy golden smile as everyone— our kids, grandkids, my parents and friends—came to give him one last treat, to pet him and tell him one last time, “Good boy.”

At the end, he truly was fearless.


It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life, gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.


Categories: Member Feeds