Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

Uncertainties in the county remain if Voter ID amendment passes

Tue, 07/24/2012 - 11:50am

Braidy Powers isn’t certain what all will happen in Cook County if the proposed Voter ID constitutional amendment passes in November. But he is pretty sure it will be expensive.

As Auditor-Treasurer, Powers is also the county Election Supervisor and he says the consequences of Voter ID will probably mean the end of mail-in balloting.

“All voters, including those not voting in person are subject to ‘substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification’ prior to a ballot being cast and counted. To put that into effect – ‘substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification’ – depending upon how they actually write that… but the way you read it essentially puts same day registration and mail balloting to an end.”

Powers said voters in the City of Grand Marais will have the opportunity to cast a provisional ballot at the polls while waiting for a valid ID to eventually make their vote count. Powers said it’s likely the entire county would need to return to voting at a polling place as is the case in the city.

“Yeah, we would have to go back to polling places. The towns have town halls that are fairly modern, not too much difficulty there, for the two city precincts we use the courthouse and community center – but the other precincts are going to be problematic.”

He said some of the previous polling places no longer exist and most probably do not meet current Americans with Disabilities Act standards. In addition, polling sites would require expensive equipment.

Live election forum on WTIP Thursday, July 26 for Commissioner District 4

Tue, 07/24/2012 - 9:49am

There will be a live candidate forum on WTIP for Commissioner District 4 on Thursday, July 26. Incumbent Jim Johnson has announced that he will not run for re-
election. Running for his seat are Gail Anderson, Rick Austin and 
Heidi Doo-Kirk.

WTIP’s Jay 
Andersen and Rhonda Silence of the Cook County News-Herald will share 
the questioning, with the public invited to call in or e-mail 
questions before or during the broadcast.
Tune in to WTIP at 90.7 Grand Marais; 90.1 Grand Portage; or 91.7 
Gunflint Trail on the night of the forums to hear from the candidates and call (218) 387-1070 or e-mail questions to 
Questions for candidates may also be e-mailed in advance of the broadcast 
to the Cook County News-Herald at

Commissioners consider power to Hovland tower

Tue, 07/24/2012 - 9:44am

The Cook County commissioners’ room was full of people on July 10, 2012 during an extended conversation on how to power a communications tower on state land at the end of Tower Road in Hovland.  The State of Minnesota has agreed to pay for power lines to be brought to the tower as it gears up its Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response (ARMER) communications system, which will create a common communication vehicle for a host of governmental agencies.  The system will enable better coordination during emergencies and disasters.  Getting easements across private property has become an issue, however.
Sheriff Mark Falk told the commissioners that having power to the site is important for public safety, including Hovland First Responders, the Hovland Fire Department, the Cook County Emergency Management System, and ARMER. 
The tower is currently powered by batteries that are charged by a solar panel array and a generator.
If electrical lines were brought to the tower, fiber optic broadband lines would be, too, and Hovland could be connected to the communication system used by the Cook County Law Enforcement Center throughout the rest of the county.  If power were not brought to the tower, the state would put a propane-fueled generator there, County Attorney Tim Scannell said.
“Our paging in Hovland is problematic at best,” said John Barton of the Hovland Fire Department.  He said they suffer outages that affect the ability to page people several times a year.  “To us, it’s intolerable,” he said.  “It’s really, really important for us to get this taken care of.” 
The entity needing easements is Arrowhead Electric Cooperative Inc. (AECI), which sent out “boiler plate” easement documents that give them as much as 40 feet of leeway and do not specify exactly where the line would go. 

County Assessor Mary Black resigns

Mon, 07/23/2012 - 8:41am

The county board authorized Personnel Director Janet Simonen to advertise for a new county assessor.  Mary Black turned in her resignation on July 10 but will stay as long as September 14 if a new assessor has not been hired by that time.
“While it has been a pleasure serving the taxpayers of Cook County,” she wrote, “I am moving in a new direction as an entrepreneur and business owner, fulfilling a passion of helping people.”  She and her husband Mark Black own and operate The Pump House Fitness Center and are distributors of Isagenix nutrition products.
“I wish you luck in your new venture,” said Commissioner Sue Hakes.
“We’re going to miss you,” said Commissioner Fritz Sobanja.  “Thank you for your good work.  We appreciate it.”
“I’m going to miss everyone,” said Black.
The board accepted her resignation with regrets.  They followed Janet Simonen’s recommendation to open the position to the public in order to get the widest applicant pool possible, which she said is her standard recommendation to department heads.

County commits loan funding to zip line project in Grand Marais

Mon, 07/23/2012 - 8:40am

A new zip line with a big view of Lake Superior looks like a go.  After asking a lot of questions and with the full support of two businessmen on the Cook County Revolving Loan Fund Committee, the county board agreed on June 17, 2012 to write a letter committing $250,000 from the Revolving Loan Fund for Matt Geretschlaeger and his new business, Superior Zip Lines, with a few contingencies.
Geretschlaeger recently purchased 20 acres of land from the City of Grand Marais on the west side of the Gunflint Trail.  It extends about a quarter of a mile up from the city’s water tower.  The business plan calls for two lines, one offering a “high flight” experience and the other designed for children and “the faint of heart.”  The big zip line will be 1,440 feet, descend 20 stories, and involve speeds up to 45 miles per hour.  The smaller line will be 300 feet, descend three stories, and involve speeds up to 20 miles per hour.
“Canopy tours started in Central America as a way for naturalists to traverse the canopy of forests in a way that didn’t disturb the wildlife,” says the business plan.  “Then tourists began to pay to use the naturalists’ lines and courses specifically for tourists were built.  …Canopy tours and zip lines first made their appearance on the continental United States in 2005 and have continued to grow from there. ….”
Geretschlaeger is planning to build a lodge on the property, with a deck overlooking the lake.  Log ceiling beams and siding will be made from wood harvested on the property, although only 5 percent of the 20 acres will be disturbed. “It is in my opinion the most passive development we could put here,” Geretschlaeger told the board.   The lodge will be built with local labor and the “secondary market” will be tapped for furnishing it. 

Registration open now for Fisherman's Picnic Tennis Tournament

Sun, 07/22/2012 - 5:21pm

The Cook County Tennis Association is once again hosting a 
Fisherman’s Picnic Tennis Tournament. The tournament at the Cook 
County tennis court will once again feature junior and adult events on 
August 1-5.
Junior events (Level 6) include: 18, 16, 14, 12, and 10 singles and 
doubles for boys and girls. Junior events begin at 1 p.m. Aug. 2 and 
finish on Aug. 3.
Adult (age 16 and over) events include Men’s 70 doubles, Men’s 60 
singles, Men’s 50 singles/doubles, Women’s 50 singles/doubles, Mixed 
50 doubles, Men’s NTRP 4.0 singles, Women’s 3.5 singles, NTRP combined 
men’s 8.0 doubles, NTRP combined men’s 7.0 doubles, NTRP combined 
women’s 7.0 doubles, NTRP combined mixed 8.0 doubles, NTRP combined 
mixed 7.0 doubles, Open men’s singles/doubles, Open women’s singles/
doubles, and Open mixed doubles.
Senior/Master (ages 50 and over) events begin at 1 p.m. Aug. 1 and 
finish up on Aug. 2. All other adult events will be played Aug. 3 – 5.
There are five courts, three with lights, available for play.
Registration is open now and the entry deadline is Friday, July 27.  
For online registration, draw information and schedule, go to the CCTA 
website: and click on Tournaments.  Draws 
will be posted at the tennis courts and on the website the night 
before the tournament begins, or call 218-387-2198.
Online registration fees are: junior singles, $17; doubles, $17 per 
player; adult singles, $20 per event; doubles, $20 per player. Paper 
registration fees are adult singles $30 per event, doubles $30 per 
player. Registration may be made with a credit card.