Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

Winter weather continues

Mon, 04/08/2013 - 12:17pm

All the wet snow and there’s still more in the forecast. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with meteorologist Mike Stewart about this slow spring.

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Open House to review Temperance River Wayside Rest improvements

Mon, 04/08/2013 - 8:30am

At the Tofte annual meeting on Tuesday, March 12, Supervisor Paul James said a design consultant is working with Temperance River State Park officials and the Minnesota Department of Transportation on increasing safety at the Temperance River wayside rest.  The design they are working on would help prevent pedestrians from crossing the highway in so many places.  An open house to discuss the plans will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 11 at the Schroeder town hall.  James said travelers want wayside rests that they can access directly off the road.

Town Clerk Barb Gervais volunteered to work with the park and cemetery committee on restoring or replacing the pavilion in the town park.  She said she would like to see a timber frame structure put up and would be willing to apply for grants to get the necessary funding.  The group talked about how the structure could be built to shelter people from the cold and how lighting could discourage vandalism.

North Shore Care Center to celebrate April birthdays

Sun, 04/07/2013 - 7:35pm

The monthly birthday party at the North Shore Care Center will be celebrated on Wednesday, April 10 to honor Lorraine Duininck, Earl Anderson, and Delores McLean. Cake and ice cream will be served at 3:00 p.m. along with piano classics performed by Doug Sanders.

There are volunteer opportunities for all ages at the North Shore Care Center. For more information about the activity calendar or volunteer programs, please contact the Activity Dept. at 218-387-3518 or visit our website


Cook County Soil & Water seeks water monitors

Sun, 04/07/2013 - 10:10am

If you are interested in learning about water monitoring and using some great equipment, an opportunity is available – Cook County Soil & Water is still in need of water monitors. Volunteers are needed to fill in as substitutes and to possibly be responsible for one water body for a season. The season runs from May-September.A mandatory training will be held Tuesday, April 16 from 9 to 11:45 a.m., rain or shine. If you are interested in learning more and attending the training, contact Ilena Berg at 218-287-3648 or before Friday, April 10.

Cook County Local Energy Project biomass representatives meet with Grand Marais Public Utilities

Sun, 04/07/2013 - 10:08am

On March 28, Paul Nelson and George Wilkes of the Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP) met with the Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to discuss the possibility of the PUC being the fiscal agent for a biomass district heating plant grant of $200,000-$250,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The grant requires a significant amount of work to have been done already.  Nelson said the biomass district heating project CCEP has been pursuing on behalf of the city of Grand Marais appears to be tailor-made for this grant, with all of the required background work already completed.

The PUC has agreed to be the owner of the proposed plant if it proves to be feasible.  CCLEP has been working through a series of steps to determine the project’s feasibility, but for this grant, a fiscal agent with a more significant financial history, such as the PUC, is required.

CCLEP has retained the services of FVB Energy Inc., which has estimated that a biomass plant, underground infrastructure, and hookups to the first customers would cost about $9 million. 

New billing options for Grand Marais PUC customers

Sat, 04/06/2013 - 11:24am

Grand Marais Public Utilities (PUC) customers have undoubtedly noticed a new format to their monthly bills.  The new format was recommended by the city’s energy cooperative, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA) with the hope that a new feature comparing energy use with other customers will inspire people to reduce their use of energy.

The new format shows residential customers how their own energy use compares with that of people with homes of similar size, age, and heat sources.  Grand Marais has been divided up into numerous groupings.

According to the SMMPA website, “The Household Energy Comparison is aimed at giving you a better understanding of your electric consumption and provides additional ways to use energy wisely. Similar programs across Minnesota have found that customers save an average of 1.5 percent on their monthly electric bills.

Industrial Arts Trust Fund established at Cook County High School

Sat, 04/06/2013 - 11:22am

The Cook County High School Industrial Arts Trust Fund doesn’t have a fancy name and the one who inspired it won’t let it be named after him, but it is in place and awaiting support from the community.
Last November, the ISD 166 school board decided to establish a fund to promote the industrial arts program and gave Leonard Sobanja, a long-time advocate of vocational education, the discretion to determine how it would be used.
Sobanja is a retired ISD 166 teacher, principal, and school board member.  At the March 21 school board meeting, he thanked the board for motivating him to develop the Industrial Arts Trust Fund.
In a letter to the board, Sobanja wrote that he had given the fund’s guidelines a lot of thought.  He decided the fund should be used not for scholarships but for building the CCHS Industrial Arts Department. 
The guidelines state, “The fund is dedicated to help build and furnish the space needed to meet the requirements of an up-to-date industrial arts facility that will allow students to experience the techniques needed in today’s labor market.” 
The fund is open to donations from the community and funds raised will be placed in the school’s trust fund so they can enjoy the interest raised by that fund.  Expenditures must be approved by a committee comprised of the superintendent, a school board member who advocates for technical education, the CCHS industrial arts teacher, the school counselor, and any teachers who have vocational education certificates.
Sobanja said he would like to see the fund grow and pointed out that new machinery is needed. 
Hands-on learning is vital, Sobanja said.
The board unanimously passed a motion formally establishing the CCHS Industrial Arts Trust Fund.


Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation of Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell under review

Fri, 04/05/2013 - 4:27pm

The investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) into the circumstances surrounding Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell’s relationship with a 17-year-old has been completed, according to a county official. According to a Sixth Judicial District Court order issued March 25, Thomas B. Heffelfinger has been appointed to act in the place of the Cook County Attorney for purposes of reviewing the BCA documents “for potential prosecution and, if appropriate to conduct a prosecution.”
The BCA began the investigation in December 2012 at the request of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the Sixth District Court document, Heffelfinger will take an oath required by law of county attorneys and may perform all duties of the county attorney in relation to this BCA investigation.
Heffelfinger, who ius a fomer U.S. Attorney for the state of Minnesota and who once served as the Hennepin County Assistant County Attorney,  will be compensated $230 per hour and reasonable expenses for travel. Upon completion of the duties of the order, it states that Heffelfinger shall submit an invoice to the Cook County Attorney’s Office, to the attention of Assistant Cook County Attorney Molly Hicken.

Reached by phone on April 5, Heffelfinger would not comment on the matter, other than to say that he had been retained by the court to review a case when it is presented to him. He would not give a comment on the possible time it would take to conduct the review and when asked what the next step in this process was, Heffelfinger replied, "That depends on my decision. I am not going to speculate."

New cell tower in Grand Marais

Fri, 04/05/2013 - 1:31pm

The county, through Information Systems Director Danna MacKenzie, County Attorney Tim Scannell, and the county board, has been working out agreements with Verizon Wireless for a new cell tower above Grand Marais that will provide 4G service. 
Verizon will build the new tower, but the county will own it and the land it is on.  Verizon will also take down the old WDIO-TV tower it has been leasing space on.  In exchange for this, Verizon will receive an abatement of 50 percent of its rent for 20 years.  It will pay $990 a month ($11,880 the first year) and 3 percent more each year thereafter.  After expenses for insurance, electricity, and plowing, MacKenzie expects the county to have a net gain of about $10,000 a year.
Verizon hopes to have the new service available by the end of the year.

Traffic safety concerns over downtown Grand Marais parking area

Fri, 04/05/2013 - 1:30pm

Warren Anderson, chair of the Cook County Council on Aging and other members of the Cook County Senior Center Board and staff members attended the March 27 Grand Marais City Council meeting to share safety concerns about the parking lot that the senior center and the city share.
Both Anderson and Senior Center Director Bev Green said the parking area creates a dangerous situation due to the high volume of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The vehicles often travel through at a reckless and high rate of speed, and the elderly people going into and out of the building—many of whom use walkers or canes—are increasingly in danger of being run over, according to Green.
The two-way drive-through is wider than Broadway Avenue, which seems to make drivers view it a street rather than a parking area.
Suggestions offered included installation of temporary speed bumps or other barriers (which could be removed in winter to facilitate snow plowing), addition of signs and closure of the entrance to vehicles altogether.
Mayor Larry Carlson and City Administrator Mike Roth said they would set up a meeting with Senior Center board members and administrators, and interested councilors to talk about possible safety improvements, and also to consider ways to more efficiently cooperate and manage the municipal lot.

Weekend News Roundup for April 6

Fri, 04/05/2013 - 10:16am

Each weekend WTIP news produces a round up of the news stories they’ve been following this week. Tall ships return to Duluth, Rep. Nolan faces gun advocates, No sign of Asian carp yet, and Lake Superior is way down…all in this week’s news.

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Law Enforcement to participate in active shooter training at courthouse

Thu, 04/04/2013 - 10:55am

Cook County Sheriff’s Department personnel will participate in an active shooter training with the U.S. Border Patrol at the Cook County courthouse this weekend, April 5-7.  Participants will have hands-on training with simulations in the courthouse on Saturday and Sunday of that weekend.

As law enforcement trains for all contingencies, county commissioners continue to wrestle with balancing security concerns with fiscal responsibility as they consider recommendations for security improvements at the courthouse and other county buildings. The recommendations came from a security committee that was formed after the December 2011 courthouse shooting.  After working with a consultant, the committee formulated a list of improvements they considered of highest priority. 

Recommended were security cameras in the courthouse, Community Center, and Highway Department buildings, duress buttons in all offices and meeting rooms, an intercom system, a keycard access system that would be programmed by computer to allow various levels of access, a walk-through x-ray machine and a metal detector like those at airports, and two full-time entry-level bailiffs to staff the x-ray machine and metal detector during normal courthouse business hours.  The total cost of the equipment would be just over $164,117 and the cost of two new employees was calculated at $119,100 a year.

At the March 12, 2013 meeting, the board voted to purchase the recommended equipment except for the x-ray machine and the metal detector.  They will discuss purchasing that equipment and hiring the staff to operate it during their regular meeting on April 9.


DNR announces fishing closures to protect spawning walleye

Thu, 04/04/2013 - 10:44am

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced this week that there will be several fishing closures in Cook County during the beginning of the 2013 fishing season to protect concentrations of spawning walleye. Closures on Minnesota-Ontario waters are made in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and affect both sides of the border.
The following closures took effect April 1:
* Sea Gull River from Sea Gull Lake through Gull Lake to Saganaga Lake approximately 1/3 mile north of the narrows, closed through May 24.
* Saganaga Falls on the Minnesota‑Ontario border where the Granite River enters Saganaga Lake, closed through May 31.
* Maligne River (also known as Northern Light Rapids) on the Ontario side of Saganaga Lake, closed through May 31.
* Channel between Little Gunflint and Little North Lakes on the Minnesota‑Ontario border, closed through May 31.
* Cross River (inlet to Gunflint Lake) from the Gunflint Trail to Gunflint Lake, closed through May 24.
The following areas will be closed to fishing from May 11 through May 24:
* Tait River from White Pine Lake to the Forest Road 340 crossing, including a portion of White Pine Lake.
* Junco Creek from the first log dam above County Road 57 downstream to Devil Track Lake, and including a portion of Devil Track Lake near the river mouth.
Closures apply to fishing only; travel is permitted through these areas. All closed areas will be posted.
The closures are intended to protect concentrations of walleye that may be vulnerable to over-harvest in what is expected to be a year with relatively late ice-out and delayed spawning.  Questions can be directed to the DNR fisheries office in Grand Marais at 218-387-3056, or to the Grand Marais area fisheries supervisor, Steve Persons at

Superior levels drop below average

Thu, 04/04/2013 - 6:48am

Lake Superior dropped two inches in March, a month it usually drops only a half-inch. The Duluth News Tribune reports the International Lake Superior Board of Control made the announcement late Tuesday.

The lake now sits 13 inches below the long-term average for April 1 and 3 inches below the level at this time last year.

The board said water supply to the entire Lake Superior basin was down from usual, even though snowfall in some areas was up.

Lake Superior will begin its annual, seasonal increase in April as ice and snow melt and rains become more frequent. The lake will rise into September and then begin to fall again.

Lakes Michigan and Huron, meanwhile, rose an inch in March, a month the lakes usually rise 2 inches. That’s not good news for shipping and boating interests worried about low water levels, as the lakes now are 27 inches below their long-term average and 15 inches lower than April 1, 2012.

Northland News Center reports Maude Barlow, national Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chair of Food and Water Watch's board is embarking on a seven-city speaking tour in Canada and the United States in an effort to protect the Great Lakes.

She will be touring regions of the Great Lakes to talk about threats such as low lake levels, pollution, over-extraction, climate change and invasive species. The tour kicks off today in Duluth.


Beekeeping course offered in Prior Lake this spring

Wed, 04/03/2013 - 7:12pm

A 15-week experiential, intensive beekeeping course will be offered this spring and summer by staff from Wozupi, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s organic garden, orchard, honey, maple syrup, and organic egg producing enterprise. Open to the public, this course will be held Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon from April through October. The course will cover all phases of beekeeping, including extracting and bottling honey.
The course is designed for those interested in gaining guided, hands-on experience for a season without investing heavily in the initial startup costs. Many backyard beekeepers quit due to lack of experience and know-how after investing in expensive equipment and beekeeping supplies.
Students will be able to learn and observe 20 hives in the tribe’s teaching apiary, while managing their own personal hive with guidance and support from trained SMSC beekeeper Victoria Ranua. Students will provide their own personal gear (veil, hive tool, honey bottles, etc.) while the instructor will provide bees, hives, and honey extracting equipment.
“This is a hands-on course for those who are ready to become successful beekeepers in the backyard or beyond. Participants will manage their own hive with guidance, and we will also have in depth discussions on a number of topics,” said Ranua.
Topics covered in this course will include how to package a new hive; how to split a wintered hive; spring management techniques, disease management, and wintering a hive; and managing honey and extracting/bottling techniques.
The course costs $585 with an additional $50-$200 for supplies, based on participant’s equipment preferences.
The Wozupi Cabin in Prior Lake will host the class on these dates: April 13, 20, and 27; May 4 and 18; June 1, 15, and 29; July 13 and 27; Aug. 10 and 24; Sept. 7 and 28; and Oct. 19. Wozupi is owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.