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News and other information from Cook County

DNR advises homeowners to plan open burning before snow is gone

Sat, 04/13/2013 - 9:30am

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) 
encourages homeowners to complete necessary open burning now, as 
restrictions will take effect shortly after snowmelt occurs.
"Warm temperatures will continue to erode the snowpack in the next few 
weeks," said Larry Himanga, DNR fire prevention coordinator. "This 
will expose last year's leaves and other yard waste. The safest way to 
dispose of this vegetation is to recycle or compost it."
Homeowners who choose to burn should do so under the safest 
conditions, which is when snow is still on the ground. In addition, a 
DNR burning permit is not required when there are three or more inches 
of continuous snow cover. This cover drastically reduces the chance a 
fire will escape and burn unintended areas. Check local city and 
municipal regulations as many are more stringent.
Spring fire restrictions will soon take effect and will severely limit 
open burning until summer green-up occurs. Traditionally, most 
wildfires occur in April and May. More than 95 percent of these fires 
are caused by human error. Due to the high fire incidence during this 
period, the DNR initiates burning restrictions to coincide with this 
annual "fire season."
The restrictions are weather dependent, but normally last from four to 
six weeks until sufficient green vegetative growth occurs. 
Historically, spring fire restrictions dramatically decrease the 
number and size of accidental fires.
By burning prior to snowmelt, homeowners can reduce the potential for 
an escaped fire, which could endanger homes and property. And, if the 
DNR or a fire department has to respond to an escaped fire, the 

County debates hiring security personnel for courthouse

Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:22pm

Balancing safety concerns with fiscal responsibility continues to be a contentious issue for the Cook County commissioners.
In March, the board approved the installation of security cameras, duress buttons, and an intercom system at all county buildings and a computerized keycard access system at the courthouse.  The board postponed a decision on purchasing additional security equipment and hiring bailiffs to provide security at the courthouse as recommended by the Cook County Security Committee, which was commissioned after the December 2011 courthouse shooting.
The discussion continued on April 9, 2013 and resulted in several split votes after impassioned speeches by Cook County Sheriff Mark Falk and County Attorney Tim Scannell.
Sheriff Mark Falk, chair of the security committee, recommended to the county board either of two options—one for a full-time deputy to screen people entering the courthouse during court hours and during “any other highly charged events or high-risk events,” plus the equipment needed to screen them. The other recommendation was for two full-time deputies to screen people entering the courthouse during regular courthouse hours, plus the equipment needed to screen them.
The total cost to the county for each deputy, if they were entry-level, would be $60,000.
Commissioner Garry Gamble said, “It appears we are using more and more of the public’s money to protect ourselves from the public. We must ask ourselves, should we who serve the public, using the public’s money to do so, be entitled to everything we want or say we need when those we serve are not afforded the same option?”

County attorney threatens county with lawsuit over courthouse shooting

Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:20pm

On April 9, 2013, the county board spent about an hour and a half with its Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust attorney, Dyan Ebert, in a closed meeting.The county board agenda distributed last week said simply that the meeting was to be closed for “threatened litigation.”
Cook County News-Herald Associate Editor Jane Howard contacted Minnesota Newspaper Association attorney Mark Anfinson, who confirmed what the News-Herald believed, that the mere "threat" of litigation is not sufficient to close a public meeting. Anfinson said the threat must be effectively imminent or in some reasonably clear and tangible form, such as a demand letter from an attorney. 
When Howard shared this information with the county’s attorney, Dyan Ebert, Ebert then issued the following statement: “The purpose of the closed session is to discuss the litigation that has been threatened against Cook County by Tim Scannell relating to the December 2011 shooting.
“The discussion will not be for purposes of general legal advice.  The litigation has been threatened and appears imminent based on direct conversations that I, as well as some of the individual commissioners and other county employees have had with Mr. Scannell and his attorney, Baiers Heeren. 
“The lawsuit has also been threatened in a demand letter that was sent to me at my request to provide the county with specific details regarding the claim and the basis for the lawsuit.”
Ebert said, “It is my belief that a closed session is necessary so that I can consult with the board in a private, confidential setting, and it will also provide the board with the opportunity to discuss the defense strategy and possible reconciliation or settlement options relating to the threatened lawsuit.”
The Cook County News-Herald continues to work to obtain a copy of the demand letter.

"Ellie the Elephant" presentation at Grand Marais Library cancelled

Fri, 04/12/2013 - 12:56pm

The presentation of "Ellie the Elephant" at the Grand Marais Public LIbrary has been cancelled due to inclement weather. The library hopes to reschedule this delightful original adaptation of the fable of the elephant and the blind men by Sarah Ruth Diener. The free performance is best for children pre-school through grade 3.

For more information call Patsy Ingebrigtsen at the library, 218-387-1140.

Senior Center offers Grand Portage Lodge & Casino trip aboard the Bingo Bus

Fri, 04/12/2013 - 10:37am

The Cook County Senior Center has planned another Grand Portage Lodge and Casino trip on “Lucky Tuesday,” April 16. Leave the Senior Center at 9:45 a.m. and play Bingo Bus on the way. Return to at approximately 3:30 p.m.

Transportation is free for those that board the bus at the senior center. In-town pickup is available for $1 fee. Call the Senior Center at (218) 387-2660 for more information.

Open houses on Father Baraga Cross and Temperance Wayside Rest postponed

Thu, 04/11/2013 - 11:12am

Two public meetings scheduled for this evening regarding the Father Baraga Cross area and the Temperance River wayside rest have been postponed due to pending inclement weather. The meetings will now be held next Tuesday, April 16 at the Schroeder Town Hall. 

At 4 p.m. the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission and citizens will meet to review plans for the Father Baraga Cross area. 

At 7 p.m ARDC and citizen and local government representatives will consider design concepts for the Temperance River Wayside.