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News and other information from Cook County

MnDOT to microsurface Highway 61 on east end of county this summer

Wed, 04/01/2015 - 11:18am

Todd Campbell, MnDOT District l assistant district engineer, gave an update on future Cook County road project and addressed commissioners concerns about the condition of Highway 61 in the Grand Portage area.

With no road overlay scheduled until 2022 for the Grand Portage area, commissioners recently wrote to MnDOT requesting that it review that deteriorating section of highway.

Campbell said he had taken a ride to Grand Portage on March 6 for a meeting and he saw and felt the bumpy road. He said he saw (and felt) firsthand how tenting has impacted the ride of the pavement along Highway 61 from Grand Marais to the Canadian border.

Tenting occurs when water freezes in cracks, lifting the pavement. This phenomenon doesn’t happen every winter, said Campbell, but occurs in warmer years when there are more rain events or freeze thaw cycles.

To alleviate some of the deterioration, Campbell said this summer MnDOT would lay a thin coating of tar [called micro-surfacing] from near Reservation River to the Canadian border, a stretch of five miles that is in especially bad shape. That work should help smooth the ride and alleviate the tenting until an overlay project is done in 2022, he said.

He said, “Additionally, MnDOT maintenance crews from Grand Marais have patching and joint mastic sealing on their work plan for the corridor between Grand Marais and the Canadian border,’ said Campbell.

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This local news is provided by Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at www.cookcountynews-herald.com

County seeks equitable way to provide funding for local nonprofits--public meeting Thursday

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 3:22pm

The Cook County Commissioners spent an hour discussing a way to develop a process that would allow it to allocate funds for non-mandated organizations in a more practical/business like fashion at their March 10 meeting. A work session has been scheduled for more discussion at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7 at 1 pm. Prior to that, Commissioner Garry Gamble is hosting a public meeting to discuss county non-mandated funding at the Cook County Community Center at 6 p.m. on April 2.

At the March 10 meeting, Commissioner Garry Gamble produced a 38-page book with a break down and maps showing where the county gives most of its non-mandated money. The pamphlet includes all of the non-mandated programs the county now funds, such as WTIP Community Radio, the Cook County Senior Center, Gunflint Horse and Dog Park, Cook County Community Center, Grand Marais Public Library, Birch Grove Foundation, etc.

The objective, said Gamble, was to determine an equitable approach to granting non-mandated funding requests. His fellow commissioners commended him on the pamphlet and agreed it was a good starting point.

Board Chair Heidi Doo-Kirk reminded the board that she wanted a finished guideline for non-mandated funding requests done by July 1, 2015. The board agreed to keep meeting until the work was done.

Auditor Braidy Powers said he would invite county department heads to the April 7 work session. Discussion at the April 7 meeting may include creation of a mission statement, goals, and criteria.

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This local news is provided by Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at www.cookcountynews-herald.com

Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge preparations continue

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 3:09pm

Excitement is building for the first-ever Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge at Lutsen Mountains on April 18 - 19, 2015. But along with the anticipation is a bit of concern—will there be enough snow? Organizers say yes, get ready to come out to watch the event with three race disciplines— hillclimb, hillcross, and short-course cross-country racing.

The Cook County News-Herald contacted Todd Myers with Cor PowerSports, which is presenting the Snowmobile Challenge and he said the event should go off as planned. “The crew at Lutsen Mountain have been making snow since October. They have about 10-12 feet stockpiled—in the shade.”

Myers said organizers are expecting over 500 riders and there is a projected purse of up to $40,000, which is based on the number of entries. One of the divisions, the King Class of Hillclimb is also a qualifying race for the 2016 World Championships in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.   

The two-day qualifying race is open to anyone that wants to enter on a first-come first-serve basis.

Jim Vick of Lutsen Mountains is among those excited about this new event.  Vick said, “ “Lutsen Mountains is the ideal location for snowmobiling this late in the season. We have been looking for an event like extreme snowmobiling to add some excitement here as we transition into spring.”

An awards ceremony will be held an hour after all the races have been completed. Top contenders will claim their portion of the purse and find out which racers qualify for the Jackson Hole event. 

Brown Bag lunch provides grant application information for nonprofits: April 1

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 3:09pm

During the month of April there will be a series of presentations, including tomorrow's Brown Bag lunch, providing new information and ideas to area nonprofits. WTIP volunteer Yvonne Mills spoke with Ann Possis of the Cook County Community Fund on North Shore Morning. 
 

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"Spring Dance" feaures Randy Sabien and the Unusual Suspects on April 4

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:14pm

You’re invited to put on your dancing shoes and come to the North Shore Music Association’s music and dance event on April 4. WTIP volunteer Barb Heideman spoke with NSMA's Kate Fitzgerald on North Shore Morning. 

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Contact: Kate Fitzgerald - North Shore Music Association, 218-387-1272
Email: music@boreal.org         
Web:  www.northshoremusicassociation.com/     
Event:  Spring Dance! Randy Sabien & the Unusual Suspects
Venue:  North House Folk School, 500 W. Highway 61, on the harbor in Grand Marais
Date:  April 4, 2015
Time:  7:30-10:30 PM
 

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Septic installers/designers say their situation is critical

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 8:44am
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Spring is sure to come and when it does, the county’s many septic installers should be digging in the dirt. But currently at least 17 of them are not happy with the county’s septic ordinance to the point of hanging up their backhoes.

According to one Gunflint Trail installer, the problems have reached crisis proportions. Three meetings with Planning and Zoning personnel have already be held, a fourth is scheduled for April 8.

At issue is the wording and administration of the ordinance. What installers refer to as “county regulatory overreach.” They also don’t like the way they’re being treated.

They argue that due to the geography of Cook County, to make septic systems work here requires flexibility and creativity, but the county regulations are often more stringent than state regulations. They also feel their credentials are being called into question. The county septic installers not only have years of experience, but hundreds of hours of continuing education.

Installers have several language changes they’d like to see in the county septic ordinance. The number and frequency of inspections, they maintain, slows down construction time. Also, design changes to accommodate unforeseen circumstances in construction are required during the short construction season rather than when the project is finished. A time as well as trust issue for the installers.

“Abandonment” is another big issue with installers. Often they are required to destroy old systems – typically outhouses -- before the new ones are complete, leaving no operating system. The county requires a certificate of compliance on a new installation, but while the certificate is issued to the landowner, the county holds the installer responsible for destroying the old system, sometimes holding up issuing a new permit until the abandonment issue is resolved. Installers also want the time for both compliance with destruction as well as for the valid construction permit to be lengthened.

Changes in the ordinance and the way it’s carried out are framed within what installers see as a lack of trust, arbitrary interpretation of the rules -- even alleged abuse of power. Their frustration is palpable and they’re at the end of their regulatory ropes. They’ve been working with the Cook County Chamber of Commerce to articulate their concerns. The Chamber’s goals include looking at regulations that unreasonably repress economic development.

Planning and Zoning administrator Tim Nelson is arguing that his office and the installers have “an overabundance of cases” pending. Suspending inspections for a time would help alleviate the backlog. Whether or not the septic crisis will be eased after the county board voted for a suspension of lakeshore septic inspections for as much as two years, remains to be seen.