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News and other information from Cook County

Gunflint Trail Fire Department begins fire hall expansions with help from community donations

Mon, 10/01/2012 - 11:45am

As summer came to an end, the Gunflint Trail Fire Department started seeing activity on its fire hall expansion projects. Fire Department spokesperson Michael Valentini also announced some great news. He said Paul and Carol Schaap, property owners on Clearwater Lake, have stepped forward and committed $250,000 to the project. “Needless to say, we are overwhelmed with the generosity and support,” said Valentini.
The Schaaps have had a cabin on Clearwater Lake since 1974, dividing their time between there and Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan. The News-Herald reached Paul Schaap there and asked if he had anything to say to others who may be thinking of donating to the project. Schaap said, “We recognize the importance of their work, not just the fire response, but the medical aspect of it. When you are up the Gunflint Trail, you’re a long way from everything. It’s critical to have these services.”
The announcement about the donation from the Schaaps came at the start of the Gunflint Trail Fire Department’s fund drive campaign. Barbara Graham, of Gunflint Lake, started the community fire department off with a $20,000 contribution. Valentini said the fire department also received $15,000 from an anonymous donor and numerous other contributions. “To reach our goal we still need to raise another $100,000 so we can't rest on our laurels,” he added.
As fundraising continues, work is underway for renovation of the fire stations and community space.
Schaap said another reason his family supported the project is because of the community center piece. He said it will be good for the community to have a place to hold meetings.

Highway 61/London Road lane restrictions in Duluth begin Oct. 1

Mon, 10/01/2012 - 8:04am

DULUTH, Minn. - Motorists traveling on Highway 61/London Road near the Lester River Bridge in Duluth will encounter daytime lane closures today and tomorrow.
The work requiring the lane closures is expected to be completed in two days; however it is possible the work and lane closures may extend into Wednesday.

Flaggers will control traffic. Both lanes will reopen each evening at dusk. Crews will be working beneath the bridge using bridge access equipment mounted to a truck parked on top of the bridge.

This project will complete the Lester River Bridge rehabilitation project that began in 2010. The project, which included approach grading and new pavement, was done to help maintain and preserve the historic bridge.

DNR moves into temporary office at School District 166

Sun, 09/30/2012 - 9:52am

As the Grand Marais Public Library did while its building was 
being reconstructed, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 
Grand Marais office will be leasing space at School District 166 
during its upcoming renovation. As of today, DNR staff was moving into 
the west end of the school building.
DNR Northeast Region Facilities Manager Roger Erickson said requests 
for bids also went out last week and it is hoped that reconstruction 
of the DNR building on Highway 61 at the east end of Grand Marais will 
start October 1, with asbestos abatement. The rest of the work will 
begin as soon as the DNR has a contract with the successful bidder, 
likely in mid-October.
A state architect did the design work and consultants were hired for 
the electrical and mechanical schematics. It is anticipated that the 
work will be done in June 2013. The estimated cost of the renovation 
is $600,000.
Erickson said when the project is finished, it will be “an all new 
office.” The project will include an approximately 28-foot addition 
where there used to be a modular trailer.
The modular trailer, which had been in use for 14 years, was removed 
in 2008 because it had been deemed unsuitable for habitation. The 
trailer was intended to be a temporary solution to the lack of office 
There were several attempts to get a new building in the interim, so 
it is nice to see this happening for those DNR folks.
Erickson said the renovated space would be opened up to include a 
couple of offices, workstations and a dispatch area. “It will 
definitely make it more efficient for our staff and will make it 

County pledges $25,000 support for construction of mountain bike trail system

Sun, 09/30/2012 - 9:48am

At the request of Tim Kennedy of the Superior Cycling 
Association, the Cook County board agreed to allocate $25,000 for 
enhancement and construction of a mountain bike trail system, 
providing a Legacy Trails grant is approved. The project has the 
widespread support of the West End communities and city of Grand Marais.
At the county board meeting on September 18, Kennedy said the project 
has been scaled back a bit due to concerns about being able to 
complete the 52 miles of track within the required two-year period.
The money won’t be needed unless the grant is approved, said Kennedy, 
and even then probably won’t be spent until 2014-15.

County board sets preliminary levy

Sat, 09/29/2012 - 9:27am

Complying with state statutes, the Cook County commissioners 
set the preliminary 2013 tax levy for the Cook County – Grand Marais 
Economic Development Authority (EDA) at their Sept. 18 meeting, but 
that figure—which was left unchanged from the current rate—is far from 
a done deal.
The discussion was sparked when Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers told 
the board that the preliminary levy has to be set and turned in to the 
state for certification before Oct. 1. “That means you have to either 
set it this week, or at your meeting next week.” However, he added, 
the number can be changed—up or down—any time before the end of the 
year when the budget is finalized. “All you have to do today is give 
me a number to plug in and send to the state.”
“This is something we’re going to have to have a meeting with them 
for,” said Board Chair Jan Hall. “It needs some more discussion.”
As there were many unknowns, Commissioner Jim Johnson suggested the 
EDA’s levy amount remain at $148,566. “This obviously needs more 
discussion. We can add to it later if we need more for the bond 
At Hakes’ suggestion, that discussion will take place with a joint 
meeting of the county board, city council and EDA board. “They (EDA) 
can come to us and present their plans and tell us how they’re going 
to spend the money, and answer our questions and concerns,” she said. 
A date for that meeting will be announced soon.

County and school reach agreement in negotiations for attaching Cook County Family YMCA to school

Fri, 09/28/2012 - 5:17pm

When representatives of School District 166 and Cook County met last week to negotiate the lease or sale of the west wing of the school building for the construction of the Cook County Family YMCA, the two entities seemed far from agreement. However, on Tuesday, September 25, the two government bodies found common ground and shook hands on the deal.

The matter was still up in the air just days before at the school board meeting on September 20. The school board considered the appraisal completed by Dawn Cole of Cole Appraisal and Consulting, Eveleth. (No relation to the county’s consultant Wade Cole of ORB Management). As reported last week, the appraisal valued the building and the .98-acre of land around at $160,000, or about $7/square foot.

Superintendent Beth Schwarz said she had contacted another appraiser to ask his opinion on the first appraisal.

At the subsequent September 25 negotiations meeting, attended by School Board members Leonard Sobanja and Jeanne Anderson; Superintendent Schwarz; County Commissioners Fritz Sobanja and Sue Hakes; Community Center Director Diane Booth and a handful of community members, Superintendent Schwarz reported on her conversation with John Vigen of Ramsland & Vigen, Inc.

Schwarz said the school did not seek a full appraisal, but she said it was felt that a second opinion would be a good idea. Vigen was coming to Grand Marais for another matter, so Schwarz said he agreed to do a walk-through the school and to review the appraisal done by Cole Appraisal. She said he looked at some additional property comparisons and he arrived at an average square price per foot of $6.66, for a total of $156,749. “If you round that up, it comes to $160,000,” said Schwarz.