Around Cook County
The investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) into the circumstances surrounding Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell’s relationship with a 17-year-old has been completed, according to a county official. According to a Sixth Judicial District Court order issued March 25, Thomas B. Heffelfinger has been appointed to act in the place of the Cook County Attorney for purposes of reviewing the BCA documents “for potential prosecution and, if appropriate to conduct a prosecution.”
The BCA began the investigation in December 2012 at the request of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the Sixth District Court document, Heffelfinger will take an oath required by law of county attorneys and may perform all duties of the county attorney in relation to this BCA investigation.
Heffelfinger, who ius a fomer U.S. Attorney for the state of Minnesota and who once served as the Hennepin County Assistant County Attorney, will be compensated $230 per hour and reasonable expenses for travel. Upon completion of the duties of the order, it states that Heffelfinger shall submit an invoice to the Cook County Attorney’s Office, to the attention of Assistant Cook County Attorney Molly Hicken.
Reached by phone on April 5, Heffelfinger would not comment on the matter, other than to say that he had been retained by the court to review a case when it is presented to him. He would not give a comment on the possible time it would take to conduct the review and when asked what the next step in this process was, Heffelfinger replied, "That depends on my decision. I am not going to speculate."
The county, through Information Systems Director Danna MacKenzie, County Attorney Tim Scannell, and the county board, has been working out agreements with Verizon Wireless for a new cell tower above Grand Marais that will provide 4G service.
Verizon will build the new tower, but the county will own it and the land it is on. Verizon will also take down the old WDIO-TV tower it has been leasing space on. In exchange for this, Verizon will receive an abatement of 50 percent of its rent for 20 years. It will pay $990 a month ($11,880 the first year) and 3 percent more each year thereafter. After expenses for insurance, electricity, and plowing, MacKenzie expects the county to have a net gain of about $10,000 a year.
Verizon hopes to have the new service available by the end of the year.
Warren Anderson, chair of the Cook County Council on Aging and other members of the Cook County Senior Center Board and staff members attended the March 27 Grand Marais City Council meeting to share safety concerns about the parking lot that the senior center and the city share.
Both Anderson and Senior Center Director Bev Green said the parking area creates a dangerous situation due to the high volume of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The vehicles often travel through at a reckless and high rate of speed, and the elderly people going into and out of the building—many of whom use walkers or canes—are increasingly in danger of being run over, according to Green.
The two-way drive-through is wider than Broadway Avenue, which seems to make drivers view it a street rather than a parking area.
Suggestions offered included installation of temporary speed bumps or other barriers (which could be removed in winter to facilitate snow plowing), addition of signs and closure of the entrance to vehicles altogether.
Mayor Larry Carlson and City Administrator Mike Roth said they would set up a meeting with Senior Center board members and administrators, and interested councilors to talk about possible safety improvements, and also to consider ways to more efficiently cooperate and manage the municipal lot.
Each weekend WTIP news produces a round up of the news stories they’ve been following this week. Tall ships return to Duluth, Rep. Nolan faces gun advocates, No sign of Asian carp yet, and Lake Superior is way down…all in this week’s news.
Cook County Sheriff’s Department personnel will participate in an active shooter training with the U.S. Border Patrol at the Cook County courthouse this weekend, April 5-7. Participants will have hands-on training with simulations in the courthouse on Saturday and Sunday of that weekend.
As law enforcement trains for all contingencies, county commissioners continue to wrestle with balancing security concerns with fiscal responsibility as they consider recommendations for security improvements at the courthouse and other county buildings. The recommendations came from a security committee that was formed after the December 2011 courthouse shooting. After working with a consultant, the committee formulated a list of improvements they considered of highest priority.
Recommended were security cameras in the courthouse, Community Center, and Highway Department buildings, duress buttons in all offices and meeting rooms, an intercom system, a keycard access system that would be programmed by computer to allow various levels of access, a walk-through x-ray machine and a metal detector like those at airports, and two full-time entry-level bailiffs to staff the x-ray machine and metal detector during normal courthouse business hours. The total cost of the equipment would be just over $164,117 and the cost of two new employees was calculated at $119,100 a year.
At the March 12, 2013 meeting, the board voted to purchase the recommended equipment except for the x-ray machine and the metal detector. They will discuss purchasing that equipment and hiring the staff to operate it during their regular meeting on April 9.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced this week that there will be several fishing closures in Cook County during the beginning of the 2013 fishing season to protect concentrations of spawning walleye. Closures on Minnesota-Ontario waters are made in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and affect both sides of the border.
The following closures took effect April 1:
* Sea Gull River from Sea Gull Lake through Gull Lake to Saganaga Lake approximately 1/3 mile north of the narrows, closed through May 24.
* Saganaga Falls on the Minnesota‑Ontario border where the Granite River enters Saganaga Lake, closed through May 31.
* Maligne River (also known as Northern Light Rapids) on the Ontario side of Saganaga Lake, closed through May 31.
* Channel between Little Gunflint and Little North Lakes on the Minnesota‑Ontario border, closed through May 31.
* Cross River (inlet to Gunflint Lake) from the Gunflint Trail to Gunflint Lake, closed through May 24.
The following areas will be closed to fishing from May 11 through May 24:
* Tait River from White Pine Lake to the Forest Road 340 crossing, including a portion of White Pine Lake.
* Junco Creek from the first log dam above County Road 57 downstream to Devil Track Lake, and including a portion of Devil Track Lake near the river mouth.
Closures apply to fishing only; travel is permitted through these areas. All closed areas will be posted.
The closures are intended to protect concentrations of walleye that may be vulnerable to over-harvest in what is expected to be a year with relatively late ice-out and delayed spawning. Questions can be directed to the DNR fisheries office in Grand Marais at 218-387-3056, or to the Grand Marais area fisheries supervisor, Steve Persons at email@example.com.
Lake Superior dropped two inches in March, a month it usually drops only a half-inch. The Duluth News Tribune reports the International Lake Superior Board of Control made the announcement late Tuesday.
The lake now sits 13 inches below the long-term average for April 1 and 3 inches below the level at this time last year.
The board said water supply to the entire Lake Superior basin was down from usual, even though snowfall in some areas was up.
Lake Superior will begin its annual, seasonal increase in April as ice and snow melt and rains become more frequent. The lake will rise into September and then begin to fall again.
Lakes Michigan and Huron, meanwhile, rose an inch in March, a month the lakes usually rise 2 inches. That’s not good news for shipping and boating interests worried about low water levels, as the lakes now are 27 inches below their long-term average and 15 inches lower than April 1, 2012.
Northland News Center reports Maude Barlow, national Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chair of Food and Water Watch's board is embarking on a seven-city speaking tour in Canada and the United States in an effort to protect the Great Lakes.
She will be touring regions of the Great Lakes to talk about threats such as low lake levels, pollution, over-extraction, climate change and invasive species. The tour kicks off today in Duluth.
A 15-week experiential, intensive beekeeping course will be offered this spring and summer by staff from Wozupi, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s organic garden, orchard, honey, maple syrup, and organic egg producing enterprise. Open to the public, this course will be held Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon from April through October. The course will cover all phases of beekeeping, including extracting and bottling honey.
The course is designed for those interested in gaining guided, hands-on experience for a season without investing heavily in the initial startup costs. Many backyard beekeepers quit due to lack of experience and know-how after investing in expensive equipment and beekeeping supplies.
Students will be able to learn and observe 20 hives in the tribe’s teaching apiary, while managing their own personal hive with guidance and support from trained SMSC beekeeper Victoria Ranua. Students will provide their own personal gear (veil, hive tool, honey bottles, etc.) while the instructor will provide bees, hives, and honey extracting equipment.
“This is a hands-on course for those who are ready to become successful beekeepers in the backyard or beyond. Participants will manage their own hive with guidance, and we will also have in depth discussions on a number of topics,” said Ranua.
Topics covered in this course will include how to package a new hive; how to split a wintered hive; spring management techniques, disease management, and wintering a hive; and managing honey and extracting/bottling techniques.
The course costs $585 with an additional $50-$200 for supplies, based on participant’s equipment preferences.
The Wozupi Cabin in Prior Lake will host the class on these dates: April 13, 20, and 27; May 4 and 18; June 1, 15, and 29; July 13 and 27; Aug. 10 and 24; Sept. 7 and 28; and Oct. 19. Wozupi is owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
Don’t miss the 3rd annual Fingerstyle Masters Weekend featuring artist Jim Ohlschmidt. April 12 - 13 at Bluefin Bay Resort in Tofte, MN.
Friday, April 12 - Gordon Thorne & Jim will play a couple of informal sets beginning @ 8 pm
Saturday, April 13 - Fingerstyle Guitar Workshops:
• 10 am - Gordon Thorne will present "Fundamentals of the Form: Getting Started"
• 11 am - Jim Ohlschmidt will present "John Hurt's Country Blues Guitar"
• lunch break
• 1:30 pm - Jim Ohlschmidt will present "Nashville Thumbstyle: a look at players such as Merle Travis, Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins"
• 7:30 pm - Evening Concert featuring Gordon Thorne and Jim Ohlschmidt.
The workshop fee is $50 for all workshops and lunch. To register contact Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-353-7308
The concert tickets are $15, available at the door or can be reserved by calling Bluefin @ 218- 663-6200 or Gordon @ 218-353-7308
There are two evening classes to choose from in the clay studio at the Grand Marais Art Colony this spring.
Beginning Clay with Joan Farnam will be held April 4 through May 9 (six Thursdays) from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuition is $115, plus a $25 supply fee.
The class is designed for students with some previous clay experience and beginners alike who will explore all things stoneware. Learn how to make bowls, mugs, vases, and more in this class focused on wheel-throwing. Explore glazing techniques and elements of functional pottery. This class includes 24-hour access to the clay studio during the session.
Beyond Centering: Intermediate Clay by Melissa Wickwire runs from April 23 through May 28 (six Tuesdays) from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuition is $150, plus a $30 supply fee.
Students ready to explore pottery and clay sculpture at an intermediate level will enjoy this class. Basic forms and techniques will be reviewed and experimentation with sculptural elements and creative surface design will be encouraged. Class time will include demonstrations and guided, independent work time, and a variety of relevant artwork will be presented. Bring ideas of specific projects you’d like to create or just practice and explore. This class includes 24-hour access to the clay studio during the session.
Call now to register: (218) 387-2737 or e-mail email@example.com
The Grand Marais Senior Center is once again offering local drivers the opportunity to brush up on their skills and save money by participating in upcoming safety classes.
AARP Driver Safety Beginning Class (eight-hour) will be offered Saturday, April 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cook County Community Center, Grand Marais. The schedule includes hourly breaks and an hour for lunch. The fee is $12 for AARP members; $14 for non-members. To register, call Pam McDougall at (218) 663-7068.
The four-hour refresher class will also be offered at the Community Center in Grand Marais.
Participants will meet on Monday, April 8 from 5 to 9 p.m. Registration fee for AARP members is $12; non-members, $14.
For more information on the drivers’ safety classes, call Pam at 663-7068 or Bill at 387-3167.
The refresher course will also be offered in Tofte at Birch Grove Center on Wednesday, May 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. A senior lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. for $5. AARP members will be charged $12; non-members, $14. Call Pam at (218) 663-7068 to sign up.
Minnesota drivers aged 55+ will receive a 10 percent auto insurance discount by taking part in one of these approved eight-hour driver safety class. Drivers maintain the discount by taking a four-hour refresher class every three years.
It’s also possible to take the safety courses online. See www.aarpdriversafety.org for all the details.
Lodging tax revenues for the second month of 2013 were up compared to February of last year county-wide. According to the latest report from the Cook County Auditor-Treasurer’s office, the year-to-date totals were up 11.9 percent across the board for reporting tourism organizations.
Lutsen-Tofte revenues were up 14.7 percent from last February and it was the best February since 2006. Grand Marais revenues were up 12.4 percent from this time last year. But the Gunflint Trail revenues for February were down 5.4 percent.
The Auditor’s office emphasizes that not all businesses report taxes at the same time each year and revenues are an “apples-to-apples comparison.” That means only businesses which reported lodging tax revenues both in February of this year and last year are included in the monthly accounting.
The National Weather Service has a new plan for severe weather warnings. Begininning today, April 1, the Service expands "Impact-Based Warnings" to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Forecasters say the more descriptive information is aimed at getting people to safety sooner when severe weather approaches.
The expanded warnings have been tested in Missouri and Kansas and will now be used in 14 states through the upper and middle sections of the country.
Tornado warnings will be issued based on three tiers of information. When a tornado is possible based on radar data, the warnings will more clearly communicate hazards and possible impact.
WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with Duluth meteorologist Mike Stewart about “Impact-Based Warnings," as well the weather week ahead.
George Wilkes and Paul Nelson of the Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP) appeared before the Cook County-Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) a second time on Tuesday, March 12 to ask about the possible purchase of a business park lot. As suggested at a previous meeting, the CCLEP representatives looked at Lot 7, but have determined that Lot 6 better meets their needs. “We feel Lot 6 is the best location for a biomass district heating plant,” said Wilkes.
Wilkes asked if the EDA would consider “holding” Lot 6 for the biomass project.
Nelson said they understood that there were concerns that the biomass facility would look too industrial for the lot at the entrance to the business park. He shared photos of some biomass heating plants that were aesthetically pleasing. Nelson said a great example is a district heating plant in downtown St. Paul. Board Member Don Davison reiterated that he was still very concerned about the aesthetics. He reminded his colleagues that the EDA is still trying to get Como Oil & Propane to install the screening it said it would erect on its lot.
Are you interested in map use, analysis and interpretation? Are you thinking about enhancing your career with technical skills found in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)? On Monday, April 8 at 6:00 p.m., Cook County Higher Education is hosting an information session on Itasca Community College’s online GIS program scheduled to begin this fall. The GIS Certificate program at Itasca Community College provides students with a fundamental background and hands-on training in geospatial technologies and computer mapping applications.
The information session at the North Shore Campus in Grand Marais is for people who are interested in learning more about the 16-credit GIS certificate program, as well as a chance to meet instructor Timothy Fox. Fox will cover the specific details about the program, the course prerequisites, and the recommended course sequence and credit load. He will also discuss the online delivery format and the computer software requirements for the program.