Around Cook County
“I’m delighted to be here in Cook County on Lake Superior in the Gunflint District of the Superior National Forest,” new U.S. Forest Service Gunflint District Ranger Nancy Larson said as she introduced herself to the county board on January 22. She wondered what issues the board might be interested in discussing with her.
Commissioner Sue Hakes suggested that Larson might want to become familiar with issues related to the South Fowl snowmobile trail and to meet the members of the Arrowhead Coalition for Multiple Use (ACMU). “I feel like I’m on track a little bit,” Larson said, “because I know a little about both of those issues.”
Commissioner Bruce Martinson mentioned the potential trades of Forest Service land for state and county land in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Larson said she was glad to be here at this point in the process, “where the rubber meets the road.” She will be reviewing comments they have received on these potential trades with Forest Supervisor Brenda Halter.
Martinson said numerous people have told him the Forest Service’s new maps of the Travel Management Plan are very difficult to read. Larson said she has heard the same thing and has discussed this with her colleagues. The format of the map was prescribed by the Washington office, she said. “We have absolutely no delegated authority to change it.” If someone put a readable map together, she said, they would be happy to make it available.
The ATV Club is trying to address this but has no money to make a map, Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk said.
The purpose of a map is to be useful, Commissioner Garry Gamble pointed out. If the Forest Service had invited focus groups to provide feedback on the format of the maps, they would have realized it was not useful to the public.
Lodging tax revenues for the final month of 2012 were up compared to December of last year county-wide. According to the latest report from the Cook County Auditor-Treasurer’s office, the year-to-date totals were up 4.9 percent across the board for reporting tourism organizations.
Lutsen-Tofte revenues were up 3.1 percent from last December. Grand Marais revenues were up 9.1 percent from this time last year. The Gunflint Trail revenues for December were up 7.3 percent.
The Auditor’s office emphasizes that not all businesses report taxes at the same time each year and revenues are an “apples-to-apples comparison.” That means only businesses which reported lodging tax revenues both in December of this year and last year are included in the monthly accounting.
Alicia Nopola and Brandi Nopola each scored more than 20 points to lead the Silver Bay Mariner girls to a 74-30 win over the Fond du Lac Ojibwe on Monday night.
In the boys’ game at Silver Bay, Fond du Lac Ojibwe took an 87-46 win from the Mariners.
On their way to the win, the Mariners jumped to a 35-15 lead and held off the Ogichida 39-18 in the second half.
Alicia Nopola led all scorers in the game with 29 while Brandi Nopola had 22. Tara Dow was the other Mariner in double-figures with 14. Other scorers for Silver Bay included Rosie Sauerborn with three with Kayla Maleski, Aubrey Thun and Erika Ernest hitting two each.
Janessa Martineau led the Ogichida with 13 points.
The win upped the Mariners to 2-13 for the season.
In the boys’ game, Davonte Williamson and Trevontae Brown scored 27 and 26 each to lead the Ogichida to their 87-46 victory. Fond du Lac held a 44-27 lead after the first half before outscoring Silver Bay 43-19 in the second for the win.
Kyle Blood led the Mariners with 23 while Mark Harris had 12. Other scorers fro Silver Bay included Eben Fischer with six while Spencer Tiboni and Michael Fischer each scored two.
The loss dropped the Mariner boys to 0-13 for the season.
The Mariner girls travel to Aurora to meet the Mesabi East Giants on Tuesday night. Both the boys and girls host the Wrenshall Wrens on Friday night, February 8.
For the fourth year, Cook County Girl Scouts are hosting a Father-Daughter Dance, giving young ladies and their fathers (or other special adult family members or friends), the chance to dress up and have a delightful evening together. The dance will be Thursday, Feb. 7 at North House Folk School from 6 – 8 p.m.
The evening will include live music by Critter Du Jour. A keepsake photo by local photographer Bruce Johnson, snacks and beverages are included in the cost of the dance, which is $20 per couple. The price is the same for one daughter or more!
On January 29, the county board interviewed two people interested in serving on the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) board, Andrew Warren and Abby Tofte.
Warren has been managing East Bay Suites and recently was named general manager of Caribou Highlands (both of which belong to Odyssey Resorts). He has significant experience in nonprofit fundraising and construction. Tofte is young and identified herself as one of many tourist industry employees who want to be able to stay in Cook County but struggle to find affordable housing.
Both talked about the value of the tourist industry to Cook County’s economy, and both strongly supported the installation of broadband infrastructure throughout the county because it will expand career options and make the county more attractive to visitors and potential residents.
Commissioner Sue Hakes said people in the lodging industry were already on the board and recommended Tofte because of the “diversity” she would bring. Because of her difficulty finding affordable housing, Hakes said, Tofte has been “living the problem.”
Commissioners Heidi Doo-Kirk and Jan Hall agreed that the EDA was heavy on business and resort owners at this point. Hall said she believed having a non-managerial employee on the EDA was important.
Commissioner Bruce Martinson pointed out that Warren had a lot of experience and thought he might better represent the interests of the West End because he works for Caribou Highlands. Garry Gamble said he thought Warren would bring skills that would serve the current needs of the EDA.
It was a really hard decision, but the board unanimously passed a motion naming Tofte to the EDA but also encouraging Warren to apply for the next opening on the board.
At the last county board meeting on January 29, commissioners were informed that bids for the next phase of construction of the Cook County Family YMCA have come in higher than budget. Wade Cole and Mark Kragenbring of ORB Management and Dan Miller of JLG Architects talked to the county board about how $1,959,426 worth of amenities could be cut out of the project.
Wade Cole said he felt good about the level of competition in the more than 20 bids, which included bids for masonry, carpentry, roofing, flooring, painting, aquatics, plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and fire protection, among other things. At Cole’s request, the board authorized re-bidding the precast concrete portion of the work to reflect a design change that would lower the cost of the exterior panels without lowering the quality.
Cole said a lot of the overage was related to the outdoor amenities, such as the softball field. Commissioner Bruce Martinson said that the cost of the softball field was originally expected to be $250,000 but is now projected at $900,000.
The Community Center Steering Committee had met on January 25 to talk about potential cuts. They discussed options for reducing costs such as not building a soccer field or reconstructing the older tennis courts as planned. The committee looked at reducing the vestibule area in the community center, reducing window and door sizes and not installing bleachers in the gym. They believe other savings would be realized from costs not being as high as the amount budgeted, such as for furniture, fixtures, and equipment.