Around Cook County
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.
Have a wonderful Easter Sunday!
For the second year Thrivent Financial, North Shore Chapter 31313 has invited willing Cook County churches to take a supplemental food shelf offering on a designated Sunday in March.
Though all area churches already have planned regular means of contributing to the local food shelf, six area congregations agreed to join the special offering effort with Thrivent offering supplemental funding of $600.
On, Sunday, March 17, $2,110 was collected among these six churches: Bethlehem Lutheran, Lutsen Lutheran, Trinity Lutheran, Cornerstone Community, Evangelical Free and Life in Christ Lutheran, Missouri Synod. Adding the $600 additional funding from Thrivent Financial, a total of $2,710 will be contributed to Cook County Food Shelf this month.
A similar effort was made in Silver Bay and Two Harbors through cash donations made at local grocery stores on March 16. The campaign totals for all three North Shore food shelves was $5,692!
The State of Minnesota recently welcomed 24 new D.A.R.E. officers. Among them was Cook County Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Hallberg, who is taking over the drug and alcohol resistance program from Chief Deputy Leif Lunde.
Chief Deputy Lunde has been the D.A.R.E. officer since 2001, taking over from Deputy Tim Weitz who started the D.A.R.E. program under the late Sheriff John Lyght. Lunde said he enjoyed his time as D.A.R.E. officer, but felt with the graduation of his son from the D.A.R.E. program last year it was a good time to step down.
Lunde is an impassioned advocate of the D.A.R.E. program, noting that there are some who say the program is not effective at stopping youth drug use. To that, Lunde replies, “You can find statistics to say just about anything.”
Lunde said he thinks D.A.R.E. is important not only for the drug resistence education, but because it provides an opportunity for police officers to interact with students in a positive way.
After several weeks of discussing Assessor Betty Schultz’s request to add a technical clerk position to her department, the county board voted on March 12, 2013 to create a 35-hour-a-week position that will be reviewed in five years and terminated within six years.
With the help of her staff, Schultz is implementing a new computer system that will track property information in a more detailed way and is working to comply with the state’s requirement that they assess all properties at least once every five years, something the county has not been able to do in recent years.
Commissioner Garry Gamble said, “I think Betty has a good handle on the problem and a good solution to the problem,” but added that government spending needs to be kept in check.
Each weekend WTIP news produces a round up of the news stories they’ve been following this week. The first “saltie” came into Duluth harbor, test drilling in Wisconsin will begin soon, broadband hits a snag in Lake County, a report finds no wolf cubs born this past year on Isle Royale, MnDOT road construction on Hwy 61 and more …all in this week’s news.
Cook County-Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) held a public hearing Tuesday, March 12, 2013 regarding the sale of a lot in the Cedar Grove Business Park. EDA Chair Mark Sandbo said the purpose of the hearing was to give the public the opportunity to comment.
The only citizens present however were the potential buyers, Ryan Mixdorf and Luke Gulstrand of Fine Finish Painting. The men have submitted an offer of $30,000 for Lot 5, Block 7, which is the second lot down from the top of the business park.
EDA Board Member Scott Harrison asked if the city of Grand Marais or the EDA assumed any additional responsibilities regarding the lot sale. Chair Sandbo said no. Originally, the business park covenants required that the buyer pave the lot’s driveway and parking area, however, Sandbo said, that requirement has been suspended
Harrison asked when a building would be constructed. Luke Gulstrand said within two to five years. He said they plan to clear the lot and begin site prep this year.
Looking for some fun to have with your kids or grandkids for Easter? Everyone is invited to the Cook County Community Center from 9:00 a.m. until noon, Saturday, March 30 for indoor ice skating, visits and photo opportunities with the Easter Bunny, brunch, a cake decorating contest and silent auction, raffle with prizes over $600, PEEP eating contest, kids activities and much, much, more! The outdoor Easter Egg Hunt will take place at 10 a.m.—rain, sun or snow!
The cost is $5 per child or $10 for a family.
This an annual fundraiser held by Cook County KIDS PLUS to support youth activities in Cook County. Together with Cook County Community Education and Extension, they support After School Adventures for youth, leadership training for middle school youth, opportunities for youth to learn beginning job skills through the Incredible Exchange and Incredible Internship programs, and underwrite a Summer KIDS Camp and other enrichment programs. All funds raised stay to support youth in Cook County.
Interested in entering our cake-decorating contest? Drop off your decorated cake at the Cook County Community Center on Friday, March 29 or early Saturday morning before 9:00 a.m. for judging. All cakes donated are available in a silent auction.
Despite objections from some members of the public, the county board has decided to purchase a piece of property adjacent to the southeast side of the county’s gravel pit by the Maple Hill Cemetery. County Highway Engineer David Betts and Maintenance Supervisor Russell Klegstad requested the purchase in order to create an access to the gravel pit that would be shorter, quieter for nearby residents, and safer because of the hill the pit is on.
The highway department has repaired a breach in a berm at the bottom of the pit and plans to create storm water retention ponds to keep sediment from entering a nearby stream and neighboring properties.
The pit is one of the county’s richest sources of clay, which is used as a binder on gravel roads, and has been used for about 30 years. Engineer Betts estimated the pit could continue supplying clay at the rate the county has been using it for another 100-250 years.
ST PAUL, Minn.— More than 300 construction projects scheduled for 2013 are designed to improve highways, bridges and other state transportation infrastructure.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced today $1.1 billion will be spent on the state transportation system this year.
The construction program includes work on 87 projects in the Twin Cities and 193 projects in Greater Minnesota. An additional 57 projects statewide will improve safety at railroad crossings, repair seawalls and docks, make improvements on runways and terminals at regional airports, and improve transit centers.
On Hwy 61, reconstruction of the rest area at Tettegouche State Park headquarters continues, and five and a half miles will be reconstructed at Little Marais. Center rumble strips will be installed at Silver Creek Tunnel and other various resurfacing projects will take place on the roadway.
Community members are invited to take part in the Annual Community Crosswalk procession and Good Friday Service on Friday, March 29. The Crosswalk will begin at St. John’s Catholic Church in Grand Marais at 6 p.m. The procession will travel from church to church, offering prayers for each congregation, as well as those up the Gunflint Trail, on the east and the west ends of the county. Walkers may join the procession at a church along the way.
A Community Good Friday Service will follow the walk at the Grand Marais Evangelical Free Church starting at 7 p.m. Spirit of the Wilderness will lead the service and Rev. Mark Ditmanson of Bethlehem Lutheran Church will speak.
Additional Good Friday Services in Cook County:
Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Mid-afternoon Tenabrae Service 3:30 p.m.
First Congregational – United Church of Christ
Open for prayer 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Lutsen Lutheran Church
Good Friday Worship 7 p.m.
Trinity Lutheran Church
Good Friday Service 6:30 p.m.
St. John’s Catholic Church
Good Friday Morning Prayer 9 a.m.m
Confessions 1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Celebration of the Lord’s Passion 3:30 p.m.
Zoar Lutheran Church
Good Friday Service 7 p.m.
The community is invited to a unique gathering at Betsy Bowen’s Studio in Grand Marais on Friday, March 29, from 6 - 10 p.m. —a celebration of a dog’s life. Friends are hosting the celebration and benefit in remembrance of Pony, the sled dog of Frank and Sherrie Moe of Moetown Kennels, who was killed when Moe’s dog team was struck by a truck at a road crossing during the UP 200 sled dog race on February 17, 2013.
In addition to remembering Pony, a dog described by Frank Moe as “a superstar” who was always pulling, the event will be a fundraiser to help the Moes with veterinary bills. In addition to losing Pony, several of Moe’s dogs suffered serious injuries. Cowboy and Boo were most seriously injured, requiring emergency surgery, but the entire team suffered some injury.
Frank Moe went on to enter the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon on March 10 and ran a competitive race until leaving the Finland checkpoint. Unfortunately, Frank said, the dogs were not yet 100 percent.
“Late in the night on Tuesday the dogs kept stopping, looking back at me with those tired pleading eyes. Well I knew that I'd asked enough of them. It was time to go home,” Moe wrote in a Facebook post to friends.
Frank brought home a tired but happy team. Frank said he and Sherrie were very proud of what they did accomplish during the season. They are looking forward to next year. He said they are already signed up for the Copper Dog in Calumet, Michigan next year and plan to do the Gichigami Express here in Cook County again. They may travel to the Stage Stop in Wyoming next year as well.