Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

No rate increases for Grand Marais PUC customers

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 12:08pm

In October, Grand Marais City Administrator Mike Roth presented the Grand Marais Public Utility Commission his budget recommendations for 2013.  He recommended no rate increases and reported that capital improvements funds are healthy.
Helping keep costs down was the fact that the city has not replaced Steve DuChien in the Public Utilities Department after his retirement.  Roth said he would like to see how it goes being down one member of the crew.
No large water infrastructure projects are being planned for the next five years, Roth said, but money is being set aside for a new public works facility that would be used for utility staff headquarters, storage, and working on equipment.
Roth told the PUC board that the wastewater treatment plant is one of the city’s biggest customers.  Its September electric bill was about $6,000.
The sewer fund has about $1 million and the plant is healthy, Roth reported.  The city has not always had healthy fund balances, Commissioner Tim Kennedy said.  “It’s a good position to be in.”
Roth concurred, saying that five years ago, the Utilities Department had no reserve fund.  They could pay cash for projects at this point, but borrowing money is really cheap right now, he said.
Water revenues for 2013 are expected to exceed expenses by $39,385.  Sewer revenues are expected to exceed expenses by $93,790, and electric revenues are expected to exceed expenses by $109,000.
Factors influencing the positive budget figures include reducing staff by not replacing DuChien, refinancing bonds at lower interest rates this year, and Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA), the city’s electric cooperative, not increasing its rates for 2013.  SMMPA does expect rates to go up 7 percent over the next three years, however.
The commissioners approved the proposed budget on October 24.

Empty Bowls offers delicious soup in beautiful bowls for a good cause

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 12:05pm

Every month over 100 families in our community experience hunger, for this reason, annually, the Grand Marais Art Colony organizes the Empty Bowls Dinner and Silent Auction, an art-full fundraiser for the Food Shelf. The community is invited to Empty Bowls at the First Congregational Church at 300 West 2nd Street on Thursday, November 8.
There are two seatings—lunch from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. and dinner from 5 – 7 p.m. With 18 local restaurants and businesses donating 50 gallons of homemade soups with all the fixings homemade bread, juice, butter and coffee it is assured to be a delicious event. Among the choices are Chicken Wild Rice, Fish Chowder, various stews and chilies, exotic vegetarian/gluten-free soups and more—a little something for everyone!
Over 500 ceramic bowls have been made by potters, community members and youths. The beautiful bowls will be filled with delicious soup made by local restaurants.  Bowls will be refreshed every hour so all attendees will be able to choose a wonderfully unique bowl.
The silent auction with an amazing array of items, including many great gift cards to local businesses and some particularly lovely bowls, will run from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. sharp.
Organizers are looking for a few more volunteers to help with the event on Wed, Nov. 7 between 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. for set-up and Thursday, Nov. 8 between 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
In 2011, Empty Bowls raised $6,200 which covers about two months of food shelf operating costs. As food prices continue to fluctuate and the need increases, this event continues to be an important part of the food shelf’s sustainability.
For more details about the Empty Bowls event visit: or contact the Grand Marais Art Colony at (218) 387-2737 or by e-mail to

Cook County reports high voter turnout

Wed, 11/07/2012 - 10:18am

With many Cook County precincts turning out in the high 80 and 90 percentages, registered voters came out in droves to cast their ballots in all precincts.  They gave President Barack Obama a wide margin of victory over challenger Mitt Romney.

District 2 voters favored Garry Gamble over incumbent Fritz Sobanja for county commissioner, and elected Heidi Doo-Kirk to fill the District 4 position over Rick Austin.

Grand Marais voters returned Mayor Larry "Bear" Carlson to office over Adam Harju.  Uncontested city council members Tim Kennedy and Jan Sivertson were re-elected.

Cook County voters overwhelmingly chose U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar over challenger Kurt Bills and returned Senator Tom Bakk and Representative David Dill to their District 3 and 3A jobs.

In the 8th District race, challenger Rick Nolan beat Representative Chip Cravaack.

Local voters voted down both the Voter ID and Marriage amendments.  Uncontested ISD166 school board candidates Ed Bolstad and "Sissy" Lunde won without competition.  In the only contested hospital board race, Kay Olson won over Lynn Parish.

Cook County had 3,841 voters show up at the polls for a turn-out of 87% of registered voters.  Precinct turnouts ranged from 80 percent in Grand Marais East and West to a high of 93 percent in the Gunflint and Maple Hill precincts.

Community excited about Active Living Summit

Tue, 11/06/2012 - 2:52pm

Organizers of the November 14 Cook County Active Living Summit promise that the event won’t be your “average meeting.” The Grand Marais Active Living Steering Committee is hosting the event and 62 people have already signed up.
Kristin Wharton, Active Living Steering Committee coordinator, explained that the summit is an opportunity for community leaders, elected officials, business leaders, transportation professionals, citizens, walking and biking advocates, seniors, and health leaders to share a conversation about active living in Cook County. Wharton said the meeting begins with an optional “Walk to School” event with former-Congressman Jim Oberstar and will include “good food, toe-tapping music, stretch breaks, and discussions,” ending with pie from the Pie Place Café.
Speakers at the summit include former 8th District Representative Jim Oberstar, a national champion of active living; Matthew Dyrdahl, a certified planner with the Minnesota Department of Health who works with communities on active living projects, and Charles Marohn, planner with the non-profit Strong Towns, which helps communities navigate decisions over how to use limited land and resources for maximum benefit to the community.
In addition, the North Shore Hospital’s Charlie Butter and Margo Furcht will speak on a panel about the hospital’s exciting new worksite wellness program.
Registration is required by November 7 to attend the Cook County Active Living Summit on November 14 at the ACA, so call or click to signup now.  There is no cost to attend, and a lunch will be provided by the Pie Place Café. 

Efforts to save mosaic mural continue

Tue, 11/06/2012 - 2:47pm

At the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op Annual Meeting on Tuesday, October 30 members learned that the current store will close on November 11. The co-op will be moved temporarily to Gunner’s, two miles west of Grand Marais on Highway 61. The co-op hopes to re-open for business there on November 16. The move led to the question— what about the four-season mosaic on the exterior wall of the co-op?
Co-op General Manager Jennifer Stoltz said once they are out of the building a demolition crew will begin to tear down the current structure. That is expected to take five days, which would give the “Save the Mural” group four days to remove the mural and find a home for it.
Save the Mural committee member Jeff Kern has been working with Dick Gilyard, a Twin Cities architect and preservationist, on a plan to move and store the 71 ½-foot long by 12- to14- foot high structure if enough money can be raised in time.
Edwin E. Thoreson Inc. has volunteered manpower and equipment to help take down the mural and a local storeowner is considering the feasibility of attaching it to their building.
Speaking at the end of the meeting, Ann Mershon thanked the co-op board for its support.
“We have a loosely organized group here, but it looks like it can happen. We have four days in November to take down the wall and move it. We think it is enough time.”
Fundraisers continue to try to raise the estimated $25,000 it will take to remove the mural. On October 23, the Save The Mural committee held a Halloween fundraiser upstairs at Betsy Bowen’s studio and raised $940.
So far the group has raised $3,400 and is seeking further donations and grants.  If you’d like to help out in some way, contact Save the Mural coordinator Ann Mershon by e-mail at

Hundreds of water birds die in U.P.

Tue, 11/06/2012 - 1:02pm

GULLIVER, Mich. (WWJ/AP) - Authorities say they’ve found the bodies of about 700 water birds along a stretch of northern Lake Michigan shoreline in the Upper Peninsula.

The Mining Journal of Marquette says authorities suspect that the birds died of Type-E botulism.

The dead birds were found in Schoolcraft County near the unincorporated village of Gulliver. They include 247 common loons, 152 horned grebes, 98 red-necked grebes, 73 long-tailed ducks and 64 white-winged scoters.

Authorities say there also were smaller numbers of ring-billed gulls, double-crested cormorants, red-breasted mergansers and herring gulls.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says Type-E botulism bacteria cause a toxin that paralyses birds and fish. Similar die-offs happened in the UP in 2007 and near Sleeping Bear Dunes National lakeshore in northern Lower Peninsula in 2006.