Around Cook County
The investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) into the circumstances surrounding Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell’s relationship with a 17-year-old has been completed, according to a county official. According to a Sixth Judicial District Court order issued March 25, Thomas B. Heffelfinger has been appointed to act in the place of the Cook County Attorney for purposes of reviewing the BCA documents “for potential prosecution and, if appropriate to conduct a prosecution.”
The BCA began the investigation in December 2012 at the request of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the Sixth District Court document, Heffelfinger will take an oath required by law of county attorneys and may perform all duties of the county attorney in relation to this BCA investigation.
Heffelfinger, who ius a fomer U.S. Attorney for the state of Minnesota and who once served as the Hennepin County Assistant County Attorney, will be compensated $230 per hour and reasonable expenses for travel. Upon completion of the duties of the order, it states that Heffelfinger shall submit an invoice to the Cook County Attorney’s Office, to the attention of Assistant Cook County Attorney Molly Hicken.
Reached by phone on April 5, Heffelfinger would not comment on the matter, other than to say that he had been retained by the court to review a case when it is presented to him. He would not give a comment on the possible time it would take to conduct the review and when asked what the next step in this process was, Heffelfinger replied, "That depends on my decision. I am not going to speculate."
The county, through Information Systems Director Danna MacKenzie, County Attorney Tim Scannell, and the county board, has been working out agreements with Verizon Wireless for a new cell tower above Grand Marais that will provide 4G service.
Verizon will build the new tower, but the county will own it and the land it is on. Verizon will also take down the old WDIO-TV tower it has been leasing space on. In exchange for this, Verizon will receive an abatement of 50 percent of its rent for 20 years. It will pay $990 a month ($11,880 the first year) and 3 percent more each year thereafter. After expenses for insurance, electricity, and plowing, MacKenzie expects the county to have a net gain of about $10,000 a year.
Verizon hopes to have the new service available by the end of the year.
Warren Anderson, chair of the Cook County Council on Aging and other members of the Cook County Senior Center Board and staff members attended the March 27 Grand Marais City Council meeting to share safety concerns about the parking lot that the senior center and the city share.
Both Anderson and Senior Center Director Bev Green said the parking area creates a dangerous situation due to the high volume of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The vehicles often travel through at a reckless and high rate of speed, and the elderly people going into and out of the building—many of whom use walkers or canes—are increasingly in danger of being run over, according to Green.
The two-way drive-through is wider than Broadway Avenue, which seems to make drivers view it a street rather than a parking area.
Suggestions offered included installation of temporary speed bumps or other barriers (which could be removed in winter to facilitate snow plowing), addition of signs and closure of the entrance to vehicles altogether.
Mayor Larry Carlson and City Administrator Mike Roth said they would set up a meeting with Senior Center board members and administrators, and interested councilors to talk about possible safety improvements, and also to consider ways to more efficiently cooperate and manage the municipal lot.
Each weekend WTIP news produces a round up of the news stories they’ve been following this week. Tall ships return to Duluth, Rep. Nolan faces gun advocates, No sign of Asian carp yet, and Lake Superior is way down…all in this week’s news.
Cook County Sheriff’s Department personnel will participate in an active shooter training with the U.S. Border Patrol at the Cook County courthouse this weekend, April 5-7. Participants will have hands-on training with simulations in the courthouse on Saturday and Sunday of that weekend.
As law enforcement trains for all contingencies, county commissioners continue to wrestle with balancing security concerns with fiscal responsibility as they consider recommendations for security improvements at the courthouse and other county buildings. The recommendations came from a security committee that was formed after the December 2011 courthouse shooting. After working with a consultant, the committee formulated a list of improvements they considered of highest priority.
Recommended were security cameras in the courthouse, Community Center, and Highway Department buildings, duress buttons in all offices and meeting rooms, an intercom system, a keycard access system that would be programmed by computer to allow various levels of access, a walk-through x-ray machine and a metal detector like those at airports, and two full-time entry-level bailiffs to staff the x-ray machine and metal detector during normal courthouse business hours. The total cost of the equipment would be just over $164,117 and the cost of two new employees was calculated at $119,100 a year.
At the March 12, 2013 meeting, the board voted to purchase the recommended equipment except for the x-ray machine and the metal detector. They will discuss purchasing that equipment and hiring the staff to operate it during their regular meeting on April 9.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced this week that there will be several fishing closures in Cook County during the beginning of the 2013 fishing season to protect concentrations of spawning walleye. Closures on Minnesota-Ontario waters are made in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and affect both sides of the border.
The following closures took effect April 1:
* Sea Gull River from Sea Gull Lake through Gull Lake to Saganaga Lake approximately 1/3 mile north of the narrows, closed through May 24.
* Saganaga Falls on the Minnesota‑Ontario border where the Granite River enters Saganaga Lake, closed through May 31.
* Maligne River (also known as Northern Light Rapids) on the Ontario side of Saganaga Lake, closed through May 31.
* Channel between Little Gunflint and Little North Lakes on the Minnesota‑Ontario border, closed through May 31.
* Cross River (inlet to Gunflint Lake) from the Gunflint Trail to Gunflint Lake, closed through May 24.
The following areas will be closed to fishing from May 11 through May 24:
* Tait River from White Pine Lake to the Forest Road 340 crossing, including a portion of White Pine Lake.
* Junco Creek from the first log dam above County Road 57 downstream to Devil Track Lake, and including a portion of Devil Track Lake near the river mouth.
Closures apply to fishing only; travel is permitted through these areas. All closed areas will be posted.
The closures are intended to protect concentrations of walleye that may be vulnerable to over-harvest in what is expected to be a year with relatively late ice-out and delayed spawning. Questions can be directed to the DNR fisheries office in Grand Marais at 218-387-3056, or to the Grand Marais area fisheries supervisor, Steve Persons at firstname.lastname@example.org.