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News and other information from Cook County

Townships respond to Birch Grove Community School funding request

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:50pm

Funding for the Birch Grove Community School (BGCS) in Tofte was a top topic at all three of the West End annual meetings on Tuesday, March 8.

Director Caroline Wood was present at the Lutsen and Schroeder annual meetings to represent the school and answer questions about their funding request. When the issue was taken up, there were plenty of questions for her to field.

A point of contention in Lutsen for the school’s funding request was the fact that though the number of students from Lutsen has doubled from 4 to 8, and the school receives roughly $7,000 for each student, the request for money isn’t decreasing.

Supervisor Larry McNeally said, “Last year you had 4 students, and this year you have 8.” He said he thought that at some point the number of students would be high enough that the donation request was reduced.

In response, Wood said that the school has a five-year plan that is meant to get it to a healthy fund and operating balance. Currently, there is no fund balance, but the community school is hoping to create a fund balance of 25 percent at the end of a five-year timeframe.

Wood explained that the budget being presented closes out the year $15,000 to the good. She said the school needs to get that to $112,000 to be in a healthy fund balance.”

Despite the concerns expressed, a motion passed with 21 voting to recommend that $20,000 be donated to the school, and 9 opposed.

At the Tofte Annual Meeting at the Birch Grove Center at the same time, there were very few questions and little discussion of whether or not to fund BGCS. 

Climate change and tourism workshops, March 15 - 16

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:45pm

Will warmer summers, shorter winters and possible changes in the types of plants, animals and birds found in the Northland affect visitors coming to Cook County?

And will an increase in risk of heat waves and wild fires throughout the region slow tourism to the North Shore?

These were some of the questions posed to Arrowhead visitors during the winter and summer of 2015 by researchers from the University of Minnesota, Carleton College and North Carolina State University.

Part of the data collected in tourist interviews centered on what type of activities they engaged in, how much money they spent here, and what their future plans might look like if the affects of climate change continue.

“We’ve combined the results of our tourist survey with past visitation and economic data to assess the potential economic impact of future tourism behavior on the North Shore,” said Mae Davenport, PH.D, associate professor, Department of Forestry Resources director, and Center for Changing Landscapes, University of Minnesota.

Using computers and complex formulas, a team of scientists from the University of Minnesota created future climate models for the North Shore region using variables such as heat index, snow depth, and wind chill.

All of these findings will be presented in two workshops. The first will be held on March 15 from 5-8 p.m. at Lutsen Resort and the second will be at Grand Superior Lodge in Two Harbors on March 16 from 5-8 p.m.

Space is limited and by invitation only. RSVPs are required.

The workshops are a culmination of the research, which was funded by Minnesota Sea Grant.


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

Cliffs to resume production at idled Northshore Mining

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 10:12am

SILVER BAY, Minn. (AP) — Cliffs Natural Resources says it will restart production at Northshore Mining by May 15.

Northshore's taconite mine in Babbitt and processing plant in Silver Bay employ around 540 people. The company announced the temporary shutdown of the operations in November.

In its announcement of the reopening Monday, Cliffs cites increasing orders for taconite pellets, which steelmakers use in traditional blast furnace mills. The Cleveland-based company also says that, when it restarts operations at Northshore, it will also produce higher-grade iron pellets destined for more modern electric arc furnace steel mills.

Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves says unfairly traded steel imports is starting are subside, so domestic demand for pellets is approaching more normal levels.

Cliffs-operated Eveleth Taconite remains closed, as does United States Steel's Keetac plant in Keewatin.

Some rain, then some measurable snow, then colder weather

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 9:37am

The weather will be a bit more like what we’re used to in March: rain and accumulating snow as well as slightly cooler temperatures.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service meteorologist Carol Christenson.


Growth management opens discussion for Cook County and Grand Marais

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 8:27am

As Cook County and Grand Marais seek to expand their populations and diversify their economies in the coming years, both are trying to figure out how they can do so in a way that works well for everyone. WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs brings us this story. 


North Shore Federal Credit Union to match donations to Food Shelf programs

Sun, 03/13/2016 - 12:46pm

With the new North Shore Hunger Hero initiative, North Shore Federal Credit Union (NSFCU) is asking 1,000 people to donate $1 a month or more with the goal of doubling the funding of anti-hunger programs in Cook and Lake counties. North Shore Federal Credit Union will match donations up to $5,000 during March (National Food Shelf Month) and other select periods throughout the year.

“Many people don’t know that hunger is a problem right here in Cook and Lake counties,” said Mark Summers, NSFCU president. “Our members have a history of supporting important programs, so we thought we’d call upon them and the broader community to band together and take a bite out of hunger.”

North Shore Federal Credit Union has promoted the cause of hunger relief for years as a primary sponsor of the Backpack Food Program, which provides kids in need in the Lake Superior and Cook County school systems food to take home each weekend. NSFCU has also provided seed money for Ruby’s Pantry, which has been a great success in Silver Bay and Grand Marais.

To become a North Shore Hunger Hero, stop into any North Shore Federal Credit Union branch and ask a Member Service representative for a North Shore Hunger Hero form. Once you designate a donation amount, NSFCU will handle the rest. To kick off the program, NSFCU will match donations up to $5,000 total during the month of March. Other matching opportunities will occur during each Member Appreciation Week, and during the annual Holiday Helper campaign, now called the North Shore Holiday Hero program.


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



Preschool parents asked for input

Sun, 03/13/2016 - 12:42pm

As the 2015-16 school year winds down, Cook County Schools – ISD 166 staff and community members are working hard to create a plan for preschool for the next school year that meets space and budget constraints and parental concerns.

On Monday, March 7, about 25 people—members of the Sawtooth Elementary preschool Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) and of the ISD 166 Early Childhood Coalition—heard more about potential options, which could include a limit to the number of children who could attend preschool at ISD 166. Other options for preschool outside of the Cook County Schools facility were discussed.

No decisions were made, but Superintendent Beth Schwarz said she hopes to have a plan in place to present at the March 17 school board meeting. The school board will be making a final determination at the April 7 meeting.

Cook County parents of preschool aged children are encouraged to complete the survey. Find it on the Cook County Schools website at


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


WTIP Weekend News Roundup for March 12

Sat, 03/12/2016 - 11:34am

Each week the WTIP news staff compiles a review of news from the previous five days. White nose syndrome strikes close to home. The city adjusts some zoning issues. The Gov. says “no” to copper mine exploration and the Chamber sets some bonding goals…all this and more in the week’s news.


Hearing delayed again in Bigby shooting case

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 3:46pm

Kirk Lee Bigby, the Finland, Minnesota, resident charged with second-degree murder in the death of a Twin Cites man as the result of a shooting in the parking lot of Bluefin Bay Resort late last year was back in court Friday, March 11.

This was Bigby’s third 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. Friday’s courtroom proceedings in the Bigby case lasted approximately five minutes.

Friday’s activity was what is referred to in the legal process as an omnibus hearing. This is typically where evidence is presented in the case and a trial date is set if the accused continues to plead not guilty. And while 61-year-old Bigby continues to plead self-defense in his case, the only action taken Wednesday was to delay this hearing until May 27 at 10:30 a.m. 

Duluth-based Judge Eric Hylden agreed to postpone the hearing until more of the DNA evidence is available in the case. Both Cook County Attorney Molly Hicken and Public Defender Brent Olson agreed forensics in the case are still being processed. An autopsy on Roberts was conducted at the St. Louis County Medical Examiner's office in December.

Again present during Bigby’s hearing Friday were approximately 18 family members and friends of Roberts. Many of these individuals were also in the courtroom for Bigby’s second appearance, which took place Jan. 13.

According to the original criminal complaint filed against Bigby, there was no altercation leading up to the shooting at Bluefin. Witnesses say they saw the victim walk up to Bigby and that is when he allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Roberts. Roberts was a blackjack dealer hired to work the resort's employee holiday party.

Alison Scott at the Arts Center Saturday

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 1:20pm

The North Shore Music Association will host Alison Scott at 7:30 p.m. March 12 at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts.

Scott sings timeless soul that transcends style and fashion. Youa Vang of Minneapolis' City Pages writes, "All artists hold a secret: the source of their creativity. Alison Scott hides hers under a controlled demeanor, but onstage comes alive as a soulful musician that shares original and astonishing personal music." Laura Bethel of Maverick Magazine raves, "Deep, raw, and very, very real. Alison Scott's new record is devilishly appealing, sultry and sexy."

Working with multi-platinum guitarist/producer Kevin Bowe (Paul Westerberg, Etta James, Jonny Lang), drummer Peter Anderson (Polara, Honeydogs), and bass player Justin Rieken (Diamondhead, Mick Sterling and the Irresistibles, Cate Fierro), Scott has become one of the most popular live acts in Minneapolis; she has sold out the Dakota Jazz Club over a dozen shows in a row and is now filling 500-seat theaters. Her releases have sold over 15,000 units and counting. Her 6th album, Stone Cold Love, released in August 2015, accompanied a sold-out weekend at The Dakota Jazz Club.

For more information contact the Music Association at (218) 387-1272.


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

Dog Days of Winter CANCELLED

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 12:33pm

The Dog Days of Winter (DDW) events planned for Trail Center on Poplar Lake on Sunday, March 13 has been CANCELLED!

The event was intended to celebrate the waning of winter with family-friendly outdoor events, however the fast arrival of spring and melting ice has caused the cancellation of dog sled and skijoring races.


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


County cuts funds for home health care

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 12:32pm


In an era when public money is getting harder and harder to come by, any cuts to a budget hurt, and it was against this backdrop that Cook County North Shore Hospital and Care Center (CCNSHCC) Administrator Kimber Wraalstad told the hospital board at its February 18 meeting that the county had cut $15,000 from its home health care funds.

Wraalstad said the county recently sent CCNSHCC the annual purchase of service contract from Cook County Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) and it was a reduction of 37.5 percent from past years.

Typical assistance provided under this contract is for skilled nursing, home rehabilitative and home health aide services.

“This amount [$25,000] is a $15,000 reduction from the $40,000 allowed in 2015,” said Wraalstad.

Hospital Board Member Tom Spence questioned why the cut was made. Wraalstad responded, “Several years ago it was the intent for the Cook County Public Health Board to ultimately eliminate this contract.

“In 2013, after further discussion and analysis, the Public Health Board reconsidered their intention and in 2014 and 2015 continued to fond this program at $40,000 per year. With budget constraints and the thought that more county residents are covered by some type of health insurance, it was the decision of the Public Health Board to approve the Public Health and Human Services budget including a $25,000 allocation for the home health care program.”

Spence asked for clarification, restating that the county decided that since more people were covered under health insurance, they didn’t have to contribute as much to this fund?

“Yes,” said Wraaslstad, adding that insurance plans rarely cover these types of visits.

“North Shore Home Care bills this sliding fee program only if no other payer is appropriate and it is used as the payer of last resort,” She said.

Spring-like weather to continue

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 11:48am

It’s beginning to feel a lot like spring…and more on the way into next week. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with National Weather Service meteorologist Carol Christenson.


Draft of Cook County Comprehensive Trail Plan available for review

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 2:12pm

A Cook County Comprehensive Trails Plan is being developed to outline strategic actions that the county and trail stakeholders can take to “create and maintain a quality system of trails for multiple uses in order to contribute to the quality of life for residents and the quality of experiences for visitors in Cook County and Grand Portage.”

Cook County is working with professional planners from the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC) to complete the planning process and a public comment period will open on March 7, 2016.

According to David Demmer, land use specialist with Cook County Planning and Zoning, draft proposed actions include policy changes, improved and expanded trail systems, improvements to trail affiliated public facilities, improving the efficiency of trail maintenance, and many other ideas. 

On March 7, 2016, residents and other interested stakeholders can review the draft document by going to:

The draft plan can also reviewed as a hard copy at the Cook County Planning and Zoning office and the Grand Marais Public Library. 

The public input period will give interested parties a chance to suggest changes or add recommended actions to the plan.  The committee responsible for drafting the plan will consider changes to the document after the public input period closes on March 18, 2016 and before the plan goes to an official adoption process with the Cook County Board of Commissioners. 

Comments on the draft plan should be sent to ARDC via email to Charlie Moore at or mailed to: Charlie Moore, ARDC, 221 West First Street, Duluth, MN 55812.

Additional comments will be accepted at a public presentation of the draft plan at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at the Cook County commissioners’ room at the courthouse in Grand Marais. 


Logging truck accident near Lutsen injures three

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 1:40pm

As reported live on WTIP March, 7, three people were injured Tuesday afternoon in an automobile accident involving a logging truck that spilled its cargo across Highway 61 near Lutsen and the Caribou Trail.

None of the individuals involved in the accident are from Cook County.

According to an incident report from the Minnesota State Patrol, Brandon Smith, 32, of International Falls, and Constance and Russell Almquist, both 80, of Bloomington, Minn., were taken from the scene by ambulance. Smith, the driver of the logging truck, and Constance Almquist were taken to North Shore Hospital and Care Center in Grand Marais. Russell Almquist was taken to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, where he is reported by the hospital to be in fair condition.

The couple had been traveling north in a Honda Accord on Highway 61 when it struck the spilled logs. The logging truck had come to rest on its side, blocking the northbound lane of Highway 61.

Smith had been traveling east on Caribou Trail and attempting to turn north onto Highway 61 when the truck overturned shortly after 1:30 p.m.