Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

North Shore Housing & Community Dialogue at North House on Monday, Sept. 19

Thu, 09/15/2016 - 12:55pm

Community members interested in the housing situation in Cook and Lake counties are invited to attend the North Shore Housing & Community Dialogue on Monday, September 19 from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. in the Red Building at North House Folk School.

Representatives of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and Minnesota Housing will be at this meeting, along with local and statewide stakeholders.

At the Tuesday, September 13 meeting of the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA), Director Mary Somnis said that representatives from the offices of Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Rick Nolan will also be on hand.

The purpose of the meeting is to engage a broad network of stakeholders for discussion about specific housing needs on the North Shore.

The event will start with introductions and information on housing trends, followed by a Local Perspectives panel at 11 a.m. The event continues after lunch with working sessions and wraps up with discussion of the next steps toward finding solutions.

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register or for more information, contact Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) Director Mary Somnis at or 218-387-3112 by Friday, September 16.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Rhonda Silence to join WTIP news staff

Thu, 09/15/2016 - 11:30am

Long time print editor Rhonda Silence is joining the WTIP North Shore Community Radio news staff. Most recently, Rhonda has edited the Cook County News Herald and prior to that, the Cook County Star. She has covered county news and events for over 15 years.

WTIP station manager Deb Benedict said, “It’s been part of our mission as a local radio station to improve our citizen’s access to information and involvement in community issues. We’re pleased to bring Rhonda on board to help us establish WTIP as a primary news resource.”

No stranger to WTIP, Rhonda has co-hosted many of the station’s election forums and election night coverage. She also has appeared weekly to review upcoming news and events published in the newspaper.

Rhonda said, “I am excited at the opportunity to expand my journalism skills into the multi media platform of WTIP and to join the staff that I have come to know.”

She will be joining the WTIP news team on October 10th.

Weekend weather begins to feel like fall

Thu, 09/15/2016 - 9:45am

It’s starting out to be a nice fall. Temperatures should be moderate over the weekend, maybe a little rain, but all-in-all good weather to wait for the leaves to turn.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service Meteorologist Amanda Graning about the autumn onset.


Affordable housing discussed by county board

Thu, 09/15/2016 - 4:30am

The local Economic Development Authority obtained five county owned tax forfeit lots in the city of Grand Marais that will be the site of affordable housing projects.

The EDA obtained the lots for $8,400.

EDA Director Mary Somnis says the houses built on the property will range from $140,000 to $215,000.

Commissioner Garry Gamble says the issuing of affordable housing is an ongoing issue in Cook County and one that will not likely be solved easily or quickly.

On Monday, Sept. 19th there will be an open-house forum held at North House Folk School focusing on specific affordable housing needs in communities in Cook County and along the North Shore.   That event begins at 10 a.m. and goes to 3 p.m. in the Red building at North House.

Full audio for story on commissioners’ discussion about affordable housing found below. 



Do you want to be in pictures?

Wed, 09/14/2016 - 11:40am

Want an inside look at movie making? Rushaway Pictures is filming scenes for its upcoming feature Virginia, Minnesota again today and they need extras.

Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Director Mary Somnis announced that the movie company will be shooting its big festival scene tonight, September 14 at 6 p.m. at the west end of Wisconsin Street.

The film company needs people milling around, walking down the street. Some extras will be in plain clothes and some will be provided costumes. 

Head downtown for your chance to be in pictures. As Somnis says, “Break a leg!”


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Empty Bowls Make-a-Bowl days scheduled

Wed, 09/14/2016 - 10:01am

The annual Empty Bowls dinner and silent auction will be held Nov. 10 at St. John’s Catholic Church in Grand Marais.

Those interested may help make bowls to donate to this event while learning the basics of pottery and fused glass. The Make-a-Bowl schedule has been changed this year and sessions are now condensed into two different weekends. The activities are open to all levels and ages; kids 6 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

Make-a-Bowl: Clay will be held Sept. 17-18 and Oct. 15-16; Make-a-Bowl: Glass will be held Oct. 25-26; and Paint-a-Bowl will be held Oct. 29.

It is estimated that 12 percent of Cook County residents go hungry every month, and the Art Colony organizes the Empty Bowls event to address those needs.

For more information contact the Art Colony at (218) 387-2737.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Plan presented for assisted living facility

Wed, 09/14/2016 - 9:52am

The Joint Economic Development Authority received a proposal from Spectrum Health for assisted living in Cook County as well as goo news from the county to acquire work force housing property.    WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with EDA President Howard Hedstrom.


Commissioners struggle with high levy numbers

Wed, 09/14/2016 - 9:52am

The county commissioners are grappling with high levy figures and how to make a half-percent sales tax increase for transportation.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with the board’s chair Heidi Doo-Kirk.


Commissioners continue to discuss sales-tax increase

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 1:29pm

Though no action was taken by the Board of Commissioners regarding a proposed sales tax increase in Cook County to be used for projects by the highway department, the topic was again discussed during a regular meeting of the commissioners Tuesday, Sept. 13. 

There was the possibility the board would take action on the sales tax increase during Tuesday’s meeting. However, Commissioner Jan Sivertson was out of town and the board felt it was of value to have all districts represented on the vote to increase the sales tax. All the same, new or improved facilities for the highway department appear to be the largest obstacle in moving the sales tax forward with complete or perhaps even a majority of the board’s approval. 

A vote on the proposed sales tax by the county board is expected before the end of the month, likely during their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Sept. 27. 

Full story in audio below. 



"Walk to School Day" on Wednesday, Sept. 14

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 12:03pm

Last week, “Slow Down” lawn signs, an additional speed feedback sign, and school zone speed enforcement are all at work reminding our community that school has started and to drive carefully to keep students safe. Wednesday, Sept. 14, will be the first “Walk to School Day,” with three routes of Walking School Buses in Grand Marais.

Law Enforcement officials (Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Minnesota State Patrol, U.S. Border Patrol) and community members will accompany students on the safe routes to school.

Walking School Buses are groups of students and adult volunteers walking to school together. Officers from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and members of the Active Living Steering Committee will accompany the groups on the first day. Each Walking School Bus stops at ISD 166 and GES in time for school to begin. If your student normally gets a ride to school, come in a little early and walk or bike with the Walking School Bus from one of the starting locations: the Cook County Courthouse (7:30 a.m. departure), Birchwood Apartments (7:40 a.m. departure), or County Road 7 and Seventh Avenue East (7:40 a.m. departure). Students are welcome to join along the route or meet at the starting location.

For more information about Safe Routes to School, to volunteer, or for a Slow Down lawn sign, contact SRTS Coordinator Maren Webb at (218) 387-2330 or


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Forest Service hosts open house to provide information on upcoming prescribed burns

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 12:02pm

Superior National Forest managers are hosting an open house regarding prescribed fires planned for the fall season on the Gunflint Ranger District. These prescribed burns include the Lux Lake Unit and the Duncan Lake Unit, both within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). The open house will allow the public to view maps, prescribed fire planning documents, and ask questions concerning the prescribed fires.

The open house will be September 15 at the Gunflint Ranger District – 2020 West Hwy 61, Grand Marais from 4 – 6 p.m.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, prescribed burning improves public safety by reducing the potential for high-intensity wildland fires to spread from the BWCAW into areas of intermingled ownership, which include areas containing homes, cabins, resorts, other improvements and areas across the international border into Canada.

The Forest Service plans prescribed fires in advance, with involvement from specialists in all of the resource programs on the Forest and prescribed fires are designed to be implemented under specific conditions (prescription) to meet management objectives. Several considerations go into planning a prescribed fire including fuel types, presence of sensitive plants or animals, visitor use, fuel moisture, winds, relative humidity, and projected weather. Prescribed fires are rescheduled if weather conditions are unfavorable.

More information will be posted on the Superior National Forest website soon, including maps regarding the upcoming fire activities on the forest.


This local news is provided by the Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Boreal welcomes a season of change in fall 2016

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 6:29am

Boreal Community Media a local nonprofit that most Cook County residents associate with two words: The Internet. Boreal has provided a range of services to northeastern Minnesota over the past two decades, including providing Internet and email access, posting classified ads, news content and designing web pages for local businesses. And there are some changes coming to Boreal this fall, including a new location for the business and a new Boreal website. 

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with staff from Boreal about these changes.


Fall could arrive as frost in the area this week

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 5:19am

The leaves are just barely starting to turn, but fall could come with a first frost mid-week.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service Meteorologist Carol Christenson about the autumn onset.


Trial date set for Tofte shooter Bigby

Mon, 09/12/2016 - 2:11pm

A trial date has been set for the man accused of murdering a blackjack dealer during a holiday Christmas party at Bluefin Bay Resort last December.

The trial in the case of Kirk Lee Bigby is scheduled to begin Jan. 9 in the Cook County Courthouse. Cook County Attorney Molly Hicken said the trial could last five to seven days. A pre-trial date is set for Jan. 6. The announcements came during a delayed omnibus hearing that was held Monday, Sept. 12 in Grand Marais.

This was Bigby’s fifth court appearance in Cook County since the shooting took place in the early morning of Dec. 9. He was arrested for shooting and killing 35-year old Marcus Lee Roberts, a resident of Bloomington. Monday’s courtroom proceedings in the Bigby case lasted approximately 15 minutes.

At this point, it appears Bigby will continue his plea of not guilty by reason of self-defense. However, more evidence is still being processed, so no official plea will be issued until the final omnibus hearing which is scheduled for Oct. 21.

Duluth-based Judge Eric Hylden agreed to postpone the hearing until all of the DNA evidence is available in the case. Both Hicken and Public Defender Brent Olson agreed forensics in the case are still being processed. However, Hylden took a firm stance that all evidence needs to be submitted prior to the Oct. 21 hearing and explained his frustrations that such evidence gathering was not yet complete. By the pre-trial date of Jan. 6, Judge Hylden made it very clear any potential delays with a jury pool or evidence submission need to be sorted out.

And so it will likely be up to a jury to determine the fate of Bigby. In August, the Cook County Attorney's Office added an unintentional second-degree murder charge against Bigby. This charge is supplemental to the intentional second-degree murder charge he has faced since the day after the shooting last December.

Grand Marais Art Colony Plein Air begins today

Mon, 09/12/2016 - 11:26am

The Grand Marais Art Colony Plein Air event began today with a lunchtime artist talk with Sue Wipf, an award-winning plein air painter. Look for artists taking part in the plein air event all over the county this week and consider checking out the exhibits.

On Tuesday - Wednesday, Sept 13-14 from 1 – 4 p.m. see some of the first paintings of the week on display at the Grand Marais Art Colony as part of the “Red Suspender Competition.”

On Thursday, Sept 15 from 4 - 5:30 p.m., head out to The Point to watch the Quick Paint competition.

On Friday, September 16, at 11 a.m. there will be a Juror Lecture with Dan Wiemer at the Art Colony and that evening the exhibit opens with a reception at Johnson Heritage Post from 5 – 7 p.m.

On Saturday, Sept 17 from 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Hazel Belvo will guide a discussion on art viewing. The Art of Seeing with Hazel Belvo will be at the Johnson Heritage Post. There is a $5 suggested donation.

The Plein Air Open Class Exhibit will open for display at the Grand Marais Art Colony and Johnson Heritage Post at noon on September 17. The plein air works will be on display until November 13.