Around Cook County
The Lutsen Town Meeting on Tuesday, March 19 was fairly quick, as the township had just held its annual meeting the week before. As it was the last meeting for Supervisor Joe Buttweiler, who did not run for re-election, the board of supervisors wished him well. Tim Goettl will be sworn in as supervisor at the next town meeting.
At past meetings, changes to the town hall parking lot had been discussed, but supervisors decided to hold off on decisions about the parking area until the snow is gone and they can better assess the
parking situation. There was also discussion about landscaping around the town hall and a few minor interior things to be done.
Treasurer John Groth once again said, “We are really happy to be under budget.”
Lutsen Fire Chief Paul Goettl said there will be a wildland firefighting course in May and June with the classroom portion of the training taking place at the Lutsen Fire Hall.
Groth said the township had received three checks for the Lutsen Fire Department, each for $1,000 from the three Caribou Highlands property owners associations. The town board gratefully accepted the donation.
The next Lutsen Town Meeting will be Tuesday, April 16 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall at 116 Caribou Trail.
Plans for construction of a zip line on the Gunflint Trail
were green-lighted April 3 when the city’s planning commission
unanimously approved the developer’s request for both a variance and
conditional use permit.
The requests went to the Grand Marais City Council, at the April 10
for final approval and was approved unanimously.
The proposals comes from Matt Geretschlaeger of Superior Ziplines LLC,
who last year purchased a 20-plus-acre parcel of land from the city
off the Gunflint Trail east of the water tower on the hill overlooking
There were also several neighboring landowners in attendance, all of
whom spoke in favor. Only one letter in opposition to the project was
received –the letter writer said he believed the zipline towers would
negatively impact the landscape and natural beauty of the area.
There was some discussion about the visibility of the towers, but
Geretschlaeger presented a series of photos and maps which illustrated
that the towers would be only minimally visible; the new structures
will blend in and not be nearly as tall as other towers already in the
area, and there will be no lighting or nighttime use of the facility,
Geretschlaeger’s engineers said a stormwater runoff plan is not yet
fully developed, but when it is, it must be submitted to the Minnesota
Pollution Control Agency for its approval. Because of that and the
concern for the surrounding area, the planning commission granted the
conditional use permit, but with an added condition that the city be
sent copies of all the permits, plans and applications relevant to
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
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?”
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.