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News and other information from Cook County

City council grants requests A-Z

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 2:48pm

Grand Marais city councilors approved a number of varied requests at their April 10, 2013 meeting, ranging from A (air conditioning) to Z (zip line).
First on the list was a request for a letter of support from the Cook County Historical Society to the Minnesota Historical Society backing the local agency’s pursuit of a grant to purchase and stabilize the Bally Blacksmith Shop in Grand Marais. Hal Greenwood of the Historical Society was in attendance to present the letter from museum director Carrie McHugh, and council gave its support.
Bev Wolke of the local Chamber of Commerce appeared next with a request for a permit to hold the annual car show on Wisconsin Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 15; Wisconsin Street will be closed beginning at 7 a.m. Wolke said the event will be the same as last year’s and include music in the park and a Girl Scout booth. The permit was approved.
Sally Nankivell of the Cook County Visitors Bureau made the next request, for installation of an air conditioner for the Visitor Information Center on Broadway, adjacent to City Hall. The Visitors Bureau leases the space from the city, which owns the building. Nankivell said the office seems to be getting hotter and hotter every summer, and presents an uncomfortable environment for both visitors and employees. Council approved the request, with an estimated price tag of about $500. Kim Linnell has inspected the building and researched what type of equipment is needed (a free-standing unit with a window vent).
The American Legion was granted a request for a Club On-Sale Sunday Liquor License, effective immediately. Laura Powell-Marxen made the request, stating that it would be a re-instatement of the Legion’s prior license.

Portage to perform at North Shore Care Center Saturday

Thu, 04/25/2013 - 11:50am

The classic county band Portage will perform their monthly gig at the North Shore Care Center on Saturday, April 27 at 6:30 p.m. As always, families, friends, and community folks are welcome to attend.
There are volunteer opportunities for all ages at the North Shore Care Center. For more information about the activity calendar or volunteer programs, please contact the Activity Dept. at 218-387-3518 or visit our website

Local runner invited to Down Under Sports tournament

Thu, 04/25/2013 - 11:47am

Senior runner Sarissa Falk has been invited to participate in the 25th annual Down Under Sports tournament hosted on the Gold Coast of Australia this summer. Falk is only one of six high school runners in Minnesota to be invited. Only 300 runners across the U.S. have been invited.
In Australia Falk will run for the North Central Conference Team on a 5.7k (3.5 miles) cross country course. She will compete against thousands of runners from around the world.
Two years ago Darren Waha from Grand Portage ran in the Down Under cross country race and he said it was an awesome experience, one that he will never forget.
But for Falk to get there she will need to raise some money—she has less than a month to raise funds for the trip. If you would like to donate or need more information, call Sarissa Falk at (218) 387-2849.
Sarissa is the daughter of Mark and Sue Falk of Grand Marais. She plans to attend Hamline University after graduation and while she is unsure of a major, she plans to run track and cross country. In addition to competing in Australia, Sarissa is also entered in Grandma’s Garry Bjorklund half marathon this summer.
“This is a once in a lifetime chance for me,” said Falk.  “It would be awesome to go to Australia to run and to meet new people.”

Cook County revising septic ordinance to meet February 2014 deadline

Thu, 04/25/2013 - 11:46am

At the county commissioner’s meeting on April 16, Planning & Zoning Director Tim Nelson said that the state of Minnesota changed its rules regarding septic systems in 2008, 2010, and 2011, with the new rules placing more responsibility on counties without more funding.  Nelson testified before legislators in St. Paul regarding a bill that would have given counties more flexibility in determining their own septic standards.  The state finally allowed counties to keep their old standards, adopt new ones, or adopt a combination of old and new.
Each county now has until February 2014 to get its own septic ordinance in place.  In the meantime, counties must enforce the state’s rules. Cook County Planning & Zoning Department has revised a septic ordinance it drafted several years ago in accordance with state law and will be seeking comment on it from the county board and the public.
Cook County’s previous draft ordinance would have required property owners to have their septics pumped every three years whether they needed it or not.  The currently proposed ordinance allows people to postpone pumping as long as their septic tanks pass an inspection, which must be done every three years.
Commissioner Bruce Martinson asked if the county could extend the inspection period to four or five years instead of three.  Nelson said the state allows only inspections to remain valid for three years, except for newly installed systems, which can remain valid for five years before requiring another inspection.  After that, they would need their tanks inspected every three years.
County Attorney Tim Scannell wondered if the proposed ordinance includes any standards more stringent than the state’s.  Nelson said no, although it outlines the process of working with contractors more specifically than state rules do.

Hwy 53 reroute is DOA

Thu, 04/25/2013 - 7:35am

No one liked it, and it was called dead on arrival a month ago, but just to make sure, several Iron Range lawmakers this week took steps to formally kill the western reroute option for U.S. Highway 53 in Virginia.

The Duluth News Tribune reports Sen. Dave Tomassoni of Chisholm, added an amendment killing the west option onto the Senate Omnibus Transportation bill that passed on Tuesday. State Rep. Jason Metsa, of Virginia, said he will add the amendment to the House version scheduled for a vote yesterday.

The western route would have taken motorists around dozens of businesses and bypassed Eveleth and Virginia altogether.

Highway 53 has to be rerouted between Eveleth and Virginia because Cliffs Natural Resources gave notice in 2010 that it would terminate its easement for the road in May 2017. MnDOT must have a new road open by then.

Cliffs wants to mine taconite iron ore under the road’s current location and, because of a 1960 easement negotiated between the state and the previous owner of the mineral rights, the state apparently doesn’t have the option to say no.

Some local officials have suggested using the state’s right of eminent domain to acquire land from Cliffs for the highway. MnDOT officials said that would only be a last option if no other alternatives were workable.


Cook County to use Clean Water Legacy grant to inspect septic systems on east end of Cook County

Wed, 04/24/2013 - 1:34pm

Cook County has been awarded Clean Water Legacy Grant funds that will allow it to inspect 162 lakeshore septic systems on three lakes on the east end of Cook County.  Since 2001, inspections have been done on lakeshore septic systems in the West End, just north of Grand Marais, and up the Gunflint Trail.
Properties along McFarland, Greenwood, and Tom lakes in Hovland will be inspected. 
The grant is for $126,125, with the county providing a match of $31,531 in the form of in-kind services.  This amounts to an inspection cost of $973 per system.
On April 9 County Planning & Zoning Director Tim Nelson told the county board that to help homeowners come into compliance, property owners with noncompliant septic systems will be able to obtain low-interest loans from the county that can be paid back over time with their property taxes.
The county currently has a two-page septic ordinance that is being revised to conform to new state septic requirements.  Only two things automatically trigger septic inspections at this time:  the addition of a bedroom (a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency rule) and permit requests on shore land (a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources rule).
If a system is found to be noncompliant, the state gives property owners two years to come into compliance.  If they do not, they can be referred to the County Attorney’s Office for enforcement.