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Commissioners Reverse and Reappoint County Engineer

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 9:31am

As the final agenda item at Tuesday’s meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, Cook County Attorney Molly Hicken recommended the board make a motion reversing the action taken at a special session May 5.

At that time the board voted to reconsider an earlier decision and not to reappoint county engineer David Betts to another four-year term.
Citing threatened litigation and attorney-client privilege, Hicken recommended the discussion pertaining to Betts be continued in closed session.

Forty minutes later, the commissioners reconvened in public to consider a motion by Commissioner Jan Sivertson to void the decision of May 5, reinstate the original decision, and reappoint Betts as county engineer for a four-year term.

In the discussion which followed, Commissioner Frank Moe conceded he was in the minority, but stated his belief in the legality and correctness of the May 5 decision not to reappoint.

He also asked his fellow commissioners for their help in developing a plan to repair County Road 17 and sections of the Arrowhead Trail to a condition they would find acceptable for their own constituents.

The board voted 3-2 in favor of reinstating the original decision and reappointing Betts, with Moe and Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk opposing.

Comments sought on the future of Superior National Forest roads

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 1:04pm

Superior National Forest managers are still accepting public comment on a Roads Study that will help determine a sustainable road system which the U.S. Forest Service says will provide both safe travel for visitors and protect forest resources, such as water quality.

Road maintenance needs continue to grow across the Superior National Forest as funding for road maintenance continues to decrease. Nationally the Forest Service has more than 380,000 miles of roadways under its jurisdiction. Originally forest roads were constructed for loggers so they could harvest and truck wood to sawmills. Today roads are still used for timber harvesting, but many people use them for recreation purposes (hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, etc.) as well as for mining, and driving for pleasure.

In the year 2000 the Forest Service had a backlog of $8.4 billion in maintenance and reconstruction projects and was only receiving 20 percent of its annual maintenance funding needed to keep up roads to environmental and safety standards. Funding for road maintenance has been continually slashed. In 1988, the Forest Service received more than $297 million to plan, reconstruct, construct, and maintain roads. Ten years later it received $187 million to accomplish the same things.

According to the Forest Service, it also must deal with more than 60,000 miles of unauthorized roads on national forest lands that do not meet technical standards and may pose danger to the environment and pose potential safety threats to the users.

The Roads Study addresses these concerns. Recommendations for future roads management are displayed on 10 maps and in an accompanying summary table that identifies roads that may not be needed in the future (likely not needed) and describes possible changes to existing roads (likely needed with changes). Changes could include a different road classification or even a transfer of jurisdiction.

DNR to survey lakes and rivers in May

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 11:19am

Grand Marais area fisheries announces survey work

Fisheries staff from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Grand Marais area office will conduct surveys and assessments on several Cook County lakes and streams during the next few months.

The following lakes will be assessed in May:

* May 11 – survey lake trout in Greenwood Lake.

* May 18 – survey Tait River.

* May 25 – continue Tait River survey.

These survey plans are tentative. Lakes and streams may be added or dropped and timing may change. Questions can be addressed to the DNR’s Grand Marais area fisheries office at 1356 Highway 61 E., Grand Marais, MN 55604. Questions also can be submitted
by calling 218-387-3056 or emailing

Final reports on 2015 surveys will be available in the spring of 2016, but preliminary results for many lakes should be available in the fall of 2015. Final lake survey results will be available online at or from the Grand Marais area fisheries office. Contact the office if interested in stream survey results or preliminary lake survey results.

Fisheries surveys are performed on a regular basis to monitor changes in fish populations and to determine if management strategies have been effective. Survey methods and frequencies vary based on the types of information needed for ongoing management evaluations in individual lakes and streams. Large lakes with heavy use are surveyed more frequently than small, remote lakes. Stocked lakes are also sampled more often to better assess stocking success. Large trout streams are surveyed more frequently than small trout streams or warm-water streams. Most streams are surveyed using backpack electrofishing gear, while most lakes are surveyed using gill nets and trap nets.

Bike Commuting, Cook County Style, May 13

Mon, 05/11/2015 - 12:39pm

The Cook County YMCA hosts a Wednesday Night Wellness Series.  This month Moving Matters joins them for ‘Bike Commuting: Cook County Style’.  Folks that already commute by bike will share strategies and solutions.  RSVPs requested to the Y at 387-3386.  WTIP volunteer Mark Abrahamson spoke with Maren Webb of Moving Matters on North Shore Morning.


Schroeder defers ski team donation request

Mon, 05/11/2015 - 12:11pm

John Oberholtzer came before the Schroeder Town Board at its April meeting with a donation request for the Lutsen junior ski team. Oberholtzer told the board the ski team was in transition now that previous coaches Rick Backstrom and Charles Lamb are coaching the high school team. He asked the township to donate $1,000, noting that Lutsen had recently given $1,500.

With the change in leadership, Oberholtzer said the new parents who have taken over have learned there are unexpected costs in running the program, which is free to the children. With about 50 kids ages 4-13 on the team and 20-25 of those kids from the West End, Oberholtzer felt that this program would be something Schroeder would want to help support.

“Skiing builds a lot of confidence in these kids,” said Oberholtzer. “It’s also a lifetime sport, something they can do long after they are out of school.”

“It’s a wonderful program,” said Tina McKeever. “But I don’t think we can make this donation without bringing it to the town’s people for their approval at the annual meeting.”

Both Bill McKeever and Martinson agreed, and the decision was made to bring the matter in front of the townspeople at the continuation of the annual meeting to be held in August. They asked Oberholtzer to come to that meeting and make a presentation, which he agreed to do.

The May township meeting has been rescheduled to Monday, May 11 at 7 p.m. at the Schroeder Town Hall. The town board normally meets the second Tuesday of each month.


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

Working and living at business park?

Mon, 05/11/2015 - 12:09pm

The Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) has received inquiries from potential business owners who would like to purchase Cedar Grove Business Park lots if they would be allowed to have residential space upstairs or at the back of the business to serve as owner occupied housing.

At past EDA meetings, board members have expressed willingness to allow this to happen in a section of the business park, but doing so would require a change in the business park covenants as well as a zoning change.

Before proceeding the EDA polled current business park lot owners. Of the five businesses that own lots, one supported fully, two supported (with some concern); one did not support and one was not available.

Two business owners—Cook County Towing and G&G Septic—said they were in support of the concept as long as potential residents were aware that there is business traffic, and in the case of the towing business, that takes place round the clock as needed to respond to accidents.

Responding for Nordic Electric, Karen Kritta expressed concerns about how this would impact the electrical contractor’s property values. Kritta said because lot prices had been reduced by the EDA, Nordic Electric’s property value fell.

The Nordic Electric and Cook County Towing responses also included concerns about the wetlands on the proposed properties. Both businesses said they had encountered difficulty completing construction because of stormwater requirements and asked the EDA to be aware of this as they proceed.