Around Cook County
Cook County Higher Education will feature Judy Siegle, who
will present Witnessing a dream become reality: Building houses in
Haiti at the first Guest Lecture Series of the season on Thursday, May
17 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Cook County Higher Education North Shore
Campus in Grand Marais.
Siegle will share information about the cultures she has visited and
highlight her work in Haiti, where she plans to return in November 2012.
Siegle states, “I have always had an interest in international
travel, with the bottom line toward learning a lot about the cultures
I visit. So, I have been to Nicaragua and Honduras with the Center for
Global Education at Augsburg in 1991; Chiapas, Mexico to carry
monetary and spiritual support to our sister church in Amantenengo in
2008; and to Haiti with Habitat for Humanity’s Carter Work Project in
2011. Each one of those adventures has been transforming and filled
me with humility, sorrow, and joy. I look forward to sharing just a
portion of those experiences with the community on May 17.”
Siegle does not consider herself a “normal” higher education
student. For two years she worked her way through the University of
Minnesota, and took two quarters off to go to Europe with two other
women. She came back to go to school for another quarter and summer
session, got married, and became the mother of two daughters. As they
grew, Judy attended night courses until she had earned enough credits
to need only one more year of school when she finally returned in
Siegle retired in 2002, and she and her husband live in Grand Marais.
There’s no doubt the weather in the Great Lakes Region has been off. In fact, there seems to be a new trend we can rely on, and that’s that you never really know what to expect. There’s a growing consensus that extreme storms and generally unpredictable weather may be the new normal.
The City of Grand Marias has signed a purchase agreement with former Economic Development Authority director Matt Geretschlager for 20 acres along the Gunflint Trail. Geretschlager intends to construct a zipline on the steeply graded land.
The nature of the sale has raised a number of questions in the community. Chief among them is the question of a conflict of interest with Geretschlager. City Administrator Mike Roth said ‘no.’
“The Cook County-Grand Marais EDA is its own separate entity. It has its own board, its own budget, it doesn’t take direction from the city, does not receive funding from the city. Matt is not an employee of the city. There’s no conflict of interest there.”
In the meantime, the EDA board and Geretschlager mutually agreed his last day as director would be June 12.
Another citizen concern has been the method of sale, but Roth said the city operated within state statute.
“A lot of the questions the councilors had about that is, what is our required process here? It was addressed by the city attorney early on when Matt made his request. There is no public hearing requirement for the sale of city-owned property. It’s just as simple as it happened. Someone can come in and say, ‘I’d like to buy that piece of property,’ and the city council goes through some process to decide what it’s worth and whether they’re willing to sell it, and the can offer it for sale.”
Even though a purchase agreement has been signed, the process is far from over. Roth said the price is $75,000 but the sale has not yet closed. He added that the appraised value is not public information at this time.
Just days after the Minnesota Legislature approved a plan to trade state land in the Boundary Waters for federal land outside the wilderness, U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack has introduced the deal in Congress.
The Duluth News-tribune reports Cravaack introduced the bill Tuesday. It would order the U.S. Forest Service to trade for about 86,000 acres of state land locked inside the 1.1 million-acre federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
In exchange, the state would get a similar amount of Superior National Forest land outside the wilderness -- acres that could then be mined, logged and otherwise managed for state revenue, primarily to stock the state's public school trust fund.
The bill would direct the U.S. secretary of agriculture, who oversees the Forest Service, to conclude the exchange within one year.
Supporters say the proposal will end a decades-long dispute over what to do with the state land tied up inside the BWCA since the current wilderness boundaries were adopted in 1978. They say newly acquired federal lands outside the BWCA now can be transferred to the state, which will allow mining and logging.
Opponents say that's exactly the problem -- that the exchange drastically would reduce the overall size of the Superior National Forest outside the wilderness -- opening potentially sensitive lands to less-strict state regulations for mining and logging. Critics say the deal is being rushed to promote mining in areas near Ely that would transfer from federal to state control.
At the April Tofte meeting, Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) Housing Coordinator Nancy Grabko presented a proposal from Robert Bremer of Bremer Properties to build a 12-18-unit senior housing development near Birch Grove Community Center. The proposal says that Bremer has developed numerous properties in southeastern Minnesota and that he is planning to relocate to the North Shore.
Nancy Grabko said Dick Grabko, her husband, would be the project manager.
Tofte Supervisor Paul James expressed excitement at this prospect. “We’ve been working on this project as a board for years,” he said.
The township was awarded a $29,000 grant from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation for an engineering study of the property the housing development would sit on.
Two representatives from Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA), Leah Hall and Barb Ackerson, talked about how AEOA could help low income seniors access this kind of facility.
The board passed a motion authorizing Nancy Grabko to set up a meeting with Bremer Properties.
The next meeting of the Tofte town board is Thursday, May 10 at 7 p.m. at the town hall.