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News and other information from Cook County

County board approves construction to extend sidewalk on County Road 7

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 10:57am

The Cook County commissioners’ room was packed on March 18, 2014 for the public comment period that precedes the board’s business meeting.

More than 30 people showed up to advocate for the county board approving funds that would allow a sidewalk to be built from County Road 7 from the old Gunflint Trail (5th Avenue West) to Birchwood Apartments.

The area has the 24-unit Birchwood Apartments and the 24-unit Sawtooth Ridges for seniors, as well as the care center and the hospital. It is a high traffic area for kids and seniors to walk in, especially during times before and after school.

Speaking in order were Jay Arrowsmith Decoux, who presented names of people from Sawtooth Ridges apartments in favor of building the sidewalk; Great Expectations Administrator Peter James; Sawtooth Elementary Principal Gwen Carman; Danny Garcia, caretaker at Sawtooth Ridges; Jennifer Schulz, a public health nurse who lives across the street from the hospital at the corner of the 5th Avenue and County Road 7; Kristine Bottorff, resident of Birchwood apartments; Debbie Benedict, representing the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic Board of Directors and Active Living Steering Committee (ALSC) and Moving Matters Coordinator Kristin Wharton.

 Garcia summed up everyone’s sentiments when he said, “We see a lot of folks that use that area. We see a lot of foot traffic. We’re definitely in favor of seeing the sidewalk put in.”

Wharton said the Safe Routes to School program had named this area for a sidewalk to be built as its number one priority in 2010 and that discussions for its construction had been ongoing since then with the county board, city of Grand Marais, the two schools in town, and Grand Portage. She urged the board to pass a motion calling for the construction of the sidewalk, making the area a safe and accessible place for people to walk, bike and exercise.

County Attorney's criminal sexual conduct case to continue Thursday, March 27

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 10:55am

The hearing in the fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct case of Cook County Attorney Timothy Scannell that was postponed in January 2014 will be held this week, on Thursday, March 27 at 1:15 p.m. at the St. Louis County courthouse in Duluth.

At the hearing, a contested omnibus hearing, Judge Shaun Floerke will consider if the matter will continue to trial and if so, what evidence can be used at trial.

Reached at his office on March 18, Thomas Heffelfinger, Special Prosecutor for Cook County said the attorneys in the case—Heffelfinger for the county, Joseph Tamburino of Caplan & Tamburino for Scannell—submit motions to the judge in advance of the hearing.

Tamburino filed on motion on Scannell’s behalf on February 28, 2014, arguing that the grand jury empaneled in October 22, 2013 based its indictment “upon inadmissible evidence and inaccurate law.”

Although supporting documents for the motion are not public because they pertain to a juvenile, Tamburino said in his motion, “No probable cause exists to indict the defendant, and therefore the indictment should be dismissed.”

Heffelfinger said. “Our motion is the opposite of that.”

County Attorney Scannell has been free on his own recognizance since his October 2013 indictment with the condition that he has no contact with the alleged victim or with any of the witnesses in the case.

Scannell came under public scrutiny after a Cook County family concerned about the safety and wellbeing of their then-17-year-old daughter issued a harassment restraining order against him on December 4, 2012. An investigation and the grand jury indictment followed.

Scannell first became the center of media attention on December 15, 2011 when he was shot by a defendant he had successfully convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a teenaged girl.

Taxpayers can donate to help wildlife when submitting taxes

Sun, 03/23/2014 - 9:08am

 Taxpayers can once again help the state’s many wildlife species by donating to the DNR’s wildlife checkoff fund when they submit their taxes.

Donations made to the DNR’s wildlife checkoff fund are used by the DNR to help protect and manage the state's "nongame" wildlife species, which includes more than 800 kinds of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies and selected invertebrates that are not traditionally hunted or harvested.  This also includes conservation efforts for threatened and endangered species. 

Specifically, the species that have benefited from these efforts are loons, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, peregrine falcons, eastern bluebirds, Blanding's turtles, bats, timber rattlesnakes, great blue herons and other waterbirds like egrets and grebes.  The money raised also helps acquire land and easements to protect habitat, manage prairies, forests and wetlands, create buffer zones along lakeshores, assist to private landowners and local governments with habitat management, and fund nature educational programs.

Contributions to the nongame wildlife checkoff fund can be made on the 2014 Minnesota tax form, or online at

Grand Portage National Monument announces reduced hours

Sun, 03/23/2014 - 9:07am

The Grand Portage National Monument’s Heritage Center has reduced the hours it is open. The changes are necessitated by visitation and staffing concerns.

The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and closed Saturday and Sunday. Hours of operation will be extended to again include weekends on May 23.

However the site, which includes the historic depot grounds, Mount Rose Trail, and the Grand Portage Trail will remain open for snowshoeing and skiing daily from dawn to dusk. There will be park brochures available on the front porch of the Heritage Center. 

Grand Portage National Monument was established in 1958 to commemorate and preserve a premier site and route of the 18th century fur trade that led to pioneering international commerce and exploration in North America as well as cultural contact between Ojibwe and other native societies and the North West Company partners, clerks and canoe-men. The monument was also established to work with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe) in preserving and interpreting the heritage and lifeways of the Ojibwe people.

The site is of international and regional significance because it was the central hub of a once flourishing fur trade and here the bold economic strategy and exploration by the North West Company voyageurs and traders opened up a transcontinental trade route. Grand Portage was and remains a meeting ground of diverse cultures.

For more information about the historic site or programming, call (218) 475-0123.


Deer hunter association and DNR seeking input from deer hunters

Sat, 03/22/2014 - 11:15am

Deer hunters are invited to attend listening sessions hosted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA).

Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader said, “We’ve been hearing that deer numbers are too low and this year’s severe winter is exacerbating those concerns in many regions. These listening sessions will give deer hunters and the general public an opportunity to communicate directly with DNR staff who make deer management decisions.”

Mark Johnson, MDHA executive director, said, “We’re pleased to be able to offer these meetings so people regardless of their affiliation or interest can express their opinions on deer populations.”

 Sessions will be 7-9 p.m. Upcoming meetings are scheduled in:

* Bemidji - March 24, Bemidji High School, 2900 Division St. West, auditorium.

* Morris - March 25, University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center, 46352 Minnesota Highway 329, Ag Country Auditorium.

* Nicollet - March 27, Nicollet Conservation Club, 46045 471st Lane.

* Virginia - April 1, Mesabi Range College, 1001 Chestnut St. West, auditorium.

Online comments also will be accepted beginning Wednesday, March 19 at


Fond du Lac Band to spear fish in the Arrowhead region

Sat, 03/22/2014 - 11:12am

Some lakes in Cook County will have spear fishing allowed on them this spring, but just what lakes and how many walleye will be taken from them is still unknown.

The Fond du Lac of Lake Superior Chippewa recently announced that it will exercise its rights under the LaPointe Treaty of 1854 to allow its tribal members to spear walleye this spring in ceded territory lakes that lay in the Arrowhead region.

Fond du Lac spokesperson Ferdinand Martineau Jr., secretary/treasurer of the band said as many as 80 tribal members have asked to fish in the ceded territory.

There are over 2,500 lakes and nearly 5,600 miles of streams in the 1854 territory. Fond du Lac is working with the Boise Forte and Grand Portage Bands and the state of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish safe harvestable quotas for each lake it plans to fish.

Joe Mix, Minnesota DNR Assistant Regional Manager of Fisheries in Grand Rapids said, “The anticipated harvest is expected to be light.”