Around Cook County
The effort to reshape the forest along Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior is advancing, now with the U.S. Forest Service moving to help conifers reclaim their historic dominance along the lake.
The Duluth News Tribune reports Superior National Forest officials are preparing an environmental assessment of the so-called North Shore Restoration Effort. It’s part of the larger North Shore Forest Collaborative that includes private landowners, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, and county and tribal forestry agencies.
The Forest Service has scheduled a public open house on their plans for Jan. 10 in Grand Marais.
The problem is apparent to anyone who has driven along Highway 61 over the past 25 years. Acres of dead and dying birch trees are replaced by a sea of grass, shrubs and deer. An estimated 600 square miles of forest along the lake — from the shore to the top of the ridge, stretching from Two Harbors to Pigeon River — have been affected by the change in forest cover.
Unlike inland forests, about 70 percent of the North Shore forest is owned by private landowners.
The Forest Service part of the effort will focus on using selective logging and reforestation to restore white spruce, white cedar and white pine on nearly 40,000 acres (62 square miles) of federal land in the area, mostly along the upper ridge along the North Shore.
Nancy Larson, Gunflint District Ranger, said that experts from the NRCS, DNR and consulting foresters will be available at the open house to answer landowner questions about restoration activities on private property.
If all the 2014 budget requests department heads submitted to the county board this summer were granted and the fund balance was not touched, the county tax levy could increase by 11 percent next year. That’s not going to happen, however. The board decided to cap any potential levy increase at 2.9 percent. On September 24, 2013, the board tried to whittle the budget down further to minimize dipping into the fund balance and increasing the levy.
One tool the board used was suggestions made by department heads when they were asked how they would reduce expenses by 5 percent if they were forced to do so. The board spent well over three hours going through specific cuts that could be made department by department, but they didn’t make it all the way through all the departments and decided to pick up the task at another budget work session.
The board discussed—but rejected—eliminating the telephone booth at the end of the Gunflint Trail or postponing equipment purchases for the county highway department,
They accepted a recommendation from Information Technology Director Danna MacKenzie who suggested a couple of different expense-cutting options including delaying equipment purchases. The board went with one of the suggestions, which will save $36,721.
The preliminary budget called for using $513,241 from the fund balance. Commissioner Bruce Martinson said he would like to use half that amount and keep the levy increase to half of 2.9 percent. Commissioner Garry Gamble said he wanted to eliminate any use of the fund balance and have no levy increase.
The Crossing Borders Studio Tour and Sale is going on now through Sunday, October 6. (Click on link to WTIP below to hear a feature story on this year's tour.)
The 2013 Crossing Borders Studio Tour features 23 artists in 8 locations between Duluth and the Canadian border, along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The tour is self-guided and runs from Friday, Sept. 27 through Sunday, Oct. 6. Studios are open from 10 a.m .to 6 p.m. each day.
To learn more about the Crossing Borders Studio Tour, visit www.crossingbordersstudiotour.com.
The nice fall weather will continue for a couple more days, then rain and cooler weather will make it seem more like October usually feels. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Stewart.
Mark Quello of Grand Marais is well known to community members as the driver of “the bus.” He was recognized recently for 20 years of dedicated service with Arrowhead Transit. Quello starting driving for Arrowhead Transit on February 8, 1993.
Quello doesn’t normally attend the Cook County Transit Advisory Committee meeting, but comes in if needed. His supervisor Katy Keranen called him at the meeting on Wednesday, September 4 and Quello stopped work on his home improvement project to see what was needed. It turns out that nothing was needed, it was just time to recognize his hard work for Cook County.
Associate Director of Arrowhead Transit Joe Gentile presented Quello with a plaque in recognition of his dedicated service.
An honor well-deserved said Cook County Senior Center Director Bev Green. “Mark is just loved by all his people. He’s such a gentle driver and he is always willing to go the extra mile,” she said.
Arrowhead Transit covers all eight counties within the Arrowhead – the largest rural transportation service in the United States.
Arrowhead Transit serves Grand Marais and Cook County with scheduled bus services with Dial-A-Ride service work routes to Grand Portage and routes to Duluth. To see a ride schedule, visit www.arrowheadtransit.com and click on Grand Marais.
Or call Dial-A-Ride at (218) 370-1515. Dial-A-Ride services are provided Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 1 - 4 p.m. Dial-A-Ride is also available on Sundays from 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Riders are asked to please call at least a half hour in advance to schedule a pick up time.
Early in the county’s process of hiring a county administrator, there were 39 interested applicants. On Friday, Sept. 13, the board of commissioners interviewed six semi-finalists. Each candidate was interviewed for one hour, and after a discussion the county board selected two finalists: Mike Roth, Grand Marais city administrator, and Jay Kieft, executive director of human services for Wright County in Buffalo, Minnesota.
County Board Chair Janice Hall said, “We were pleased with our pool of applicants and we had six very qualified semi-finalists.”
The two candidates for the recently-created county administer position will be meeting with Cook County department heads this week. The department heads will be writing down their impressions of the applicants to share with the county board.
The county is hosting an opportunity for the public to meet the two final applicants at a “Meet and Greet” at East Bay Suites Stone’s Throw Room on Wednesday, October 2 from 6:30 – 8 p.m.
The final interviews—and possibly a decision will be on October 3.