Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

Beach advisory for Kadunce Creek beach removed

Wed, 08/01/2012 - 1:50pm

The Minnesota Department of Health beach monitoring program continues and another North Shore beach received a “no water contact” advisory last week. However, the warning, issued on Tuesday, July 31, was lifted the next day. On August 1, the Department of Health gave the “all clear” for the beach at Kadunce Creek in Colvill.

Water samples collected July 31 at the Kadunce Creek beach east of Grand Marais contained elevated levels of E. coli bacteria, indicating the possible presence of fecal contamination. However, the re-testing the next day found that the water had returned to acceptable levels and the Kadunce Creek beach now has a “water contact acceptable” rating.

Other beaches that received advisories on July 31 include Agate Bay Beach in Two Harbors; 20th Street/Hearding Island Canal Beach at Park Place, Duluth and Sky Harbor Parking Lot Beach in Duluth. The advisory was lifted for the Two Harbors beach on August 1, but the advisory remains in place for the two Duluth beaches.

Math and reading assessment results are mixed

Wed, 08/01/2012 - 1:01pm

The Minnesota Department of Education released statewide assessment results today showing that students in grades 3 – 8 are making gains in reading and math. Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius said the increase in reading scores comes just two years after adoption of the more rigorous reading and math standards in 2007 and 2010.

Statewide students at all grade levels scored 62 percent proficient in math and 76 percent in reading. Charter schools state-wide showed 51 percent proficiency in math and 65 percent in reading.

Locally, Cook County Schools ISD166 had an overall proficiency rating in math of 40 percent and in reading of 75 percent.

Breaking down the numbers, Middle School students were 28 percent proficient in math and 68 percent proficient in reading. The 6th grade scored lowest with just 20 percent proficient in math and 60 percent in reading.

Senior High scores 91 percent proficient in reading at the 10th grade level and 44 percent proficient in math at the 11th grade level. Both were gains over the previous year.

At Sawtooth Elementary, 56 percent of the students were math proficient and 79 percent proficient in reading. The 5th graders did the best of the three grade levels with 61 percent proficient in math, 92 percent in reading.

Birch Grove Community School students were 71 percent proficient in math and 93 percent in reading. Third graders scored 100 percent in both tests.

Great Expectations students scored 65 percent proficient in math and 95 percent in reading. Fourth graders scored a high 73 percent in math proficiency and shared 100 percent proficiency in reading with grade 6 and 7.

Oshki Ogimaag Charter School administered tests in grades 4 and 5 in reading where 21 percent of the students were proficient

In the Lake Superior School District, overall students posted 56 percent proficiency in math and 71 percent in reading. At Minnehaha Elementary the proficiency scores in math were 73 percent and 86 percent in reading.

This year, 88 percent of students in grades 3-8 took their math MCA test online. Compared to paper tests, online assessments use adaptive technology that customizes tests based on a student’s answers.

A recently convened assessment task force is examining the state’s testing system and will be providing recommendations to the Minnesota Department of Education for better testing and accountability.

Some area non-profits are eligible for disaster aid

Wed, 08/01/2012 - 12:29pm

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced today that certain Private  Non-Profit Organizations in Minnesota that do not provide critical services of a governmental nature may be eligible to apply for low interest rate disaster loans.  These loans are available as a result of a Presidential disaster declaration for Public Assistance resulting from damages caused by severe storms and flooding that occurred on June 14-21 of this year.

Organizations located in Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties as well as the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa are eligible to apply

Examples of eligible non-critical organizations include, but are not limited to, food kitchens, homeless shelters, museums, libraries, community centers, schools and colleges.

Tour School District 166 and learn about community center planning

Wed, 08/01/2012 - 11:49am

Each year during Fisherman’s Picnic, School District 166 offers tours of the Grand Marais campus. Alumni and community members are invited to see the changes that have taken place over the years. This year, in addition to the campus tour, the school is giving the public the opportunity to learn more about the planning underway for the Cook County Community Center. Plans currently call for the community center/aquatics facility to be attached to the west wing of the Grand Marais school.
Tours will be offered at 2 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, August 2 -3. Anyone wishing to join the tour is asked to meet at the main high school/middle school doors, the “Eagle” entrance.
People with questions about the community center process are invited to visit with steering committee members at the Jane Mianowski Conference Center(JMCC) from 2- 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. The JMCC is at the Community Education (old gym) entrance to the school. 
Participants can take the tour or learn more about community center planning—or both.

County board hears Community Center Steering Committee recommendations

Wed, 08/01/2012 - 10:34am

Plans for the Cook County Family YMCA, as the new community center is currently being called, continue to move along.  At the July 24 meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, consultant Wade Cole of ORB Management reported that last year’s expenditures totaled just under $500,000, leaving about $9 million for the rest of the project, which includes the building and amenities inside it as well as recreational amenities on county property adjacent to Cook County High School, such as a new ball field and hockey rink.
Commissioner Sue Hakes, on the Community Center Steering Committee, said they’ve been trying to cut expenses whenever possible.  They scaled back on the roof system, so it won’t have a rounded roof to match the school gymnasium roof that will be incorporated into the new facility.  Putting more money into the amenities inside the building was more important, she said.
The plan is now within the parameters of the budget, Cole said, so they can start the more detailed design process. 
The project will require the removal of a silo and a concrete block building behind the school at a cost of $25,000-$30,000, Hakes said.  Commissioner Fritz Sobanja said the agreement with the school to replace its west wing with the new community center should include a statement requiring the school to pay for the demolition if the community center project does not go forward.
An invitation for bids on the hockey rink is going out, and bids will be accepted until August 27.  Cole said he anticipates seeing the completion of the community center by September 2013.

County commissioners hear biomass report

Wed, 08/01/2012 - 10:30am

Obtaining enough biomass from the forests of Cook County would be possible if a biomass heating plant were built for the bulk of the public and commercial buildings in Grand Marais.  This was the word at an update on a study funded by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources for Cook County and Ely held July 10, 2012 at the U.S. Forest Service in Grand Marais.
Howard Hedstrom, president of Hedstrom Lumber of Grand Marais and on lumber industry boards at the state and national level, said the pulpwood industry—which manufactures paper—is on the decline, and new markets are needed for the wood in Cook County.  If it isn’t harvested, it will rot and die.  He said a lot of the big logs leaving the woods are hollow in the middle –all rotted out.
Dennis Becker of the University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources, one of the study’s researchers, had good news:  new markets are looking for clean wood chips.  He is expecting the logging industry to respond by re-tooling for this new market, and the equipment they will be using could also be used to supply biomass for a local biomass plant.
According to the study, when the cost of the system is spread out over 20 years, a district wood-chip-fueled heating plant for the public buildings along Fifth Street in Grand Marais, the North Shore Dairy and Laundromat, and the courthouse would cost less within the first year—including payments on the system and the price of the biomass fuel --than the current cost of fossil fuel.  “The annual fuel costs savings are so substantial, in fact,” said Becker, “that it’s enough to cover the annual capital investment of a new heating system for the public buildings in the first year….”