Around Cook County

News and other information from Cook County

Ice fishing shelter removal dates approaching

Fri, 02/22/2013 - 4:59am

Minnesota’s ice fishing shelter removal dates are approaching.

The DNR says dark houses, fish houses and portables must be off the ice of inland waters no later than midnight March 18 in the northern third of the state. Enforcement action will be taken if shelters are left after the deadlines.

For Minnesota-Canada border waters, the shelter removal deadline is March 31.

After removal dates, shelters may remain on the ice between midnight and one hour before sunrise only when occupied or attended.

Thunder Bay man wins $330,336.65 at Grand Portage Lodge & Casino

Thu, 02/21/2013 - 12:21pm

It’s said the house always wins. But as a Thunder Bay man can confirm, there is an exception to every rule.
On Tuesday, February 12, during a visit to Grand Portage Lodge and Casino, a Thunder Bay resident won a staggering $330,336.65 (U.S. funds) jackpot from one of the casino’s popular new progressive slot machines.
According to casino spokesperson and Marketing Manager Frank Vecchio, the slot machine is a “wide-area progressive linked to a number of Native American casinos.”
The jackpot win is reported to be the second largest single payout in the casino’s 24-year history.
The lucky winner, a Portage Players Club member, is a regular player at Grand Portage Lodge and Casino who wishes to remain anonymous. He had traveled to Grand Portage to participate in “Fat Tuesday”—one of the casino’s most popular annual promotions.
Asked about his win, the man said, “I’m still in shock. I haven’t made any solid plans about what to do with the money. All I can say is that it’s going to make life a whole lot easier.”
Marketing Manager Vecchio said, “All the staff and owners of Grand Portage Lodge and Casino are thrilled that one of our loyal Portage Players Club members has hit it so lucky. It makes us happy at Grand Portage Lodge and Casino when our players win and we hope this big jackpot will carry through a winning streak for our players throughout 2013.”

"Portage" recognized as Volunteer of the Year

Thu, 02/21/2013 - 10:46am

For the last eight years, on the last Saturday of every month, the classic country band Portage has performed at the Cook County North Shore Care Center to the delight of care center residents, family members and friends and care center staff. This wonderful musical tradition has been recognized by Aging Services in Minnesota. Portage was presented with the Stars Among Us 2013 Volunteer of the Year Award at the annual Aging Services in Minnesota Institute at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis on February 6, 2013.
Portage was nominated for the award by Care Center Activities Director Kay Rosenthal, who explained that Portage has been performing for elders in Cook County and beyond for more than 10 years. “They have had a long standing gig at our Care Center the last Saturday of every month for the past eight years,” wrote Rosenthal, adding, “And they know how to fill the dance floor—our dining room—every time!”
Members of Portage are Jim Spry, Butch Deschampe, Arvid Dahl, Tom Hoy and Joe Peterson. Sue Maijala was a former drummer in previous years.
Portage will be back at the Care Center on February 23—the last Saturday of the month—once again to share their talents. Rosenthal said a special celebration is planned at 6:30 p.m. that day to congratulate Portage for being the 2013 Volunteers of the Year. They truly are “Stars Among Us!”

Lodging and 1 percent tax revenues increased in 2012

Wed, 02/20/2013 - 10:59am

After its second calendar year of being collected, the Cook County 1 percent recreation and infrastructure sales tax showed an increase of 9.2 percent over revenue from the year before.  In 2012, the tax brought in $1,234,919.33.
The 1 percent tax is funding numerous projects throughout the county, including the Grand Marais Public Library addition, recreational enhancements at Birch Grove Community Center in Tofte, the installation of broadband fiber optic infrastructure to everyone on the electrical grid, improvements at Superior National at Lutsen Golf Course, research regarding the feasibility of a biomass district heating plant in Grand Marais, and a new community center facility attached to Cook County High School along with outdoor recreational amenities on county property nearby.
The three Cook County lodging tax districts brought in $916,917.52 in 2012, an increase of 4.9 percent over the year before based on the businesses that had completed their reports when results were tabulated.
The Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association brought in $588,124.14, an increase of 3.1 percent over 2011.  The Gunflint Trail Tourism Association brought in $110,058.06, an increase of 7.3 percent.  The Grand Marais Area Tourism Association brought in $218,735.32, an increase of 9.1 percent.
Ely did not fare nearly as well.  Its lodging tax revenue went from $260,540.75 in 2011 to $255,797.46 in 2012, a decrease of 1.8 percent.

Poplar River Management Board continues to work to reduce sediment

Tue, 02/19/2013 - 1:22pm

The Poplar River Management Board (PRMB) continues to make progress on large-scale projects to reduce sediment from the lower segment of the Poplar River in Lutsen. 
Ten contractors submitted bids for the next project, the Caribou Highlands Flowpath.  According to PRMB President Tom Rider, the three lowest bidders were all very qualified companies.  The contract went to Reuben Johnson & Sons of Superior, Wisconsin with a bid of $157,000. 
The Caribou Highlands Flowpath project will involve the installation of erosion control measures along the strip of land between Caribou Highlands, which sits on a bluff, and the river.  It will capture all the storm water originating on the Caribou Highlands property.  The land directly adjacent to the river is owned by Lutsen Mountains and includes a ski trail and an access road. 
“It’s a pretty important project due to the proximity of this resort to the river and the scale of land and storm water involved,” Rider said.  The work will start this spring and is expected to be completed in June or July.
“We also have two other smaller conservation projects that will be carried out this summer – the Mystery Mountain Flowpath Project and the Lower Eagle Mountain Road Project,” said Rider.  A request for bids will go out later this winter with construction to take place this summer.
At the February 4 bimonthly PRMB meeting, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) reported on data trends regarding sediment levels in the Poplar River.  Measurements gathered from 2009 to 2011 show a 35 percent reduction from previous levels. Rider said this reduction is expected to grow as completed projects mature on the landscape, such as the Ullr Tightline that was completed in 2012, and as additional projects are added, such as the ones to be completed this summer. 

New Findings Show Poplar River Sediment Reduced by 35%

Tue, 02/19/2013 - 12:07pm

Lutsen, MN – The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) provided updated data trends on sediment in the Poplar River to the Poplar River Management Board in February. MPCA has estimated that total suspended solid (sediment) loads have been reduced by about 35% since 2006. 

The sediment loads from 2002 to 2006 was about 1,000 tons per year, while the average load for the years 2009 through 2011 was about 660 tons per year.

Tom Rider, President of the Poplar River Management Board said the report was good news.  “We have worked since 2005 identifying the most significant sources of sediment and implementing best management practices and conservation projects.”

The MPCA analysis suggests continued decrease in sediment loading should be expected from projects implemented in 2012 and planned for 2013. This includes the Ullr Tightline project that was completed in November of 2012 with estimated sediment reductions of 90 tons/year.

 

Grand Marais Park Board continues planning for Community Connection

Mon, 02/18/2013 - 3:47pm

The snow may be piled up all over Grand Marais, but that didn’t stop the Grand Marais Park Board from discussing plans for the Community Connections walkway into the Grand Marais Recreation Area at its February 5 meeting.
North House Folk School Executive Director Greg Wright was on hand to discuss plans that timber frame designer and instructor Peter Henrikson had drawn up for a pedestrian bridge on the Community Connections walkway.  The Community Connections project will lead pedestrians from the highway down into the northeast section of the park next to North House.  Wright had designs for a covered bridge and an uncovered bridge. 
Wright said North House never uses treated lumber and recommended that they use large tamarack beams from International Falls if the bridge were uncovered because tamarack is more resistant to rotting from moisture.  A covered bridge would lengthen the life of the bridge because it would provide more protection from moisture.
“The covered is more expensive, but the covered is more beautiful,” said Bill Lenz. 
The board talked about how a covered timber frame bridge would look and how it would affect views of the lake.  “I don’t see it as an obstruction as much as an invitation,” said Sally Berg. 
Park Manager Dave Tersteeg, who formerly worked in the landscaping field, said he sees the bridge as a piece of landscape furniture.  Board Chair Walt Mianowski said it would blend in well with the architecture of the North House.  Berg said it would enhance the area like an architectural feature in a Chinese garden.

World Championship Joke Telling Contest at Sven & Ole's Feb. 20

Mon, 02/18/2013 - 3:46pm

You didn’t know it, but you have training your whole life. Anytime you told a Sven & Ole joke at home or school or to your dog, you were sharpening your skills. And now it’s time to show the world just how good you have become at delivering a punch line.
On February 20 the first world championship Sven & Ole joke-telling competition will be held at Sven & Oles pizzeria at 7 p.m. Competitors should get there a little bit before 7 p.m. to warm up their gums and loosen their tongues.
First prize is a $50 gift certificate and the right to call yourself a World Champion. A $25 gift certificate will be given to the contestant judged to have the best Scandinavian accent.
All participants will get a prize of some sort.
There is a strong rumor that two young Norwegian journalists will be on hand to take pictures and use some of the film for their interactive documentary project. At least that’s what Sven said. Ole couldn’t be reached because he was busy cutting lutefisk into heart shapes to give to Lena for Valentine’s Day.
Uffdah, won’t she be happy?

It's Girl Scout cookie time!

Sun, 02/17/2013 - 7:39pm

Have you been wishing for those one-of-a-kind cookies that 
you can only purchase at a certain time of the year? Have you been 
thinking of Thin Mints? Craving Caramel Delights? Longing for 
Lemonades? Well, you are in luck because Cook County Girl Scouts have 
cookies and they are selling!
Cook County Girl Scouts now offer direct sales, which means you don’t 
have to order your cookies and wait weeks to get them. The cookies are
here in Cook County, so most of the time when you buy, you receive 
your cookies immediately if they are in stock.
So find your favorite Girl Scout and buy cookies for yourself, your 
relatives, and your friends.  Cookies are a great way to say “Thank 
you” or “I’m thinking of you!”
And whether you enjoy them all yourselves or whether you share, buying 
cookies from a Girl Scout is more than just handing over money for a 
treat. For the girls, selling cookies teaches goal setting, decision-
making, money management, people skills and business ethics. All 
things essential to leadership, to success and to life.
For nearly 100 years, Girl Scouts have been selling cookies, earning 
money to help support their troops’ activities and to contribute to 
their communities. And Cook County Girl Scouts are happy to carry on 
the tradition.
So, look for your favorite scout to buy some Peanut Butter Patties, 
Thanks-A-Lots or, new this year, Mango Cremes.
 

Lutsen prepared for activities in renovated fire hall

Sun, 02/17/2013 - 7:22pm

There were a few finishing touches to be done on the newly 
renovated Lutsen Town Hall, so Lutsen supervisors convened the 
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 meeting one last time in town’s old meeting 
space. Along with usual monthly business, the town board talked about 
parking and considered rental prices and policies for the new town 
hall space.
It was noted that with more space for people, more space for vehicles 
is needed. Treasurer John Groth said a citizen had asked if the ball 
field fence could be removed and parking extended to the east. The 
cost to extend the parking lot would be $21,000 for an area 80’x90.’ 
To add an additional space of 24’x50’ for overflow would be $27,000. 
It was agreed to discuss this at the upcoming annual meeting, on March
12.
Supervisor Ginny Storlie shared a draft rental policy, but said she 
had heard from current users of the hall, asking if their rate could 
stay the same. The board agreed to give the group that currently meets 
at the hall the same rate for a year, to be reconsidered after that. 
Otherwise, the town board is considering charging $50 for a group of 
25-50 people or $100 for 51- 100 people.
The next town meeting will be held in the newly expanded town hall 
space on February 19 at 7 p.m. Prior to the regular monthly meeting, 
the town board will hold its annual board of audit at 5:30 p.m. and 
then a budget meeting at 6 p.m.
 

Volunteers at First & Second Thrift store earn money for local nonprofits

Sat, 02/16/2013 - 10:20pm

On Wednesday, February 13, the Cook County 
Senior Center was filled with excited representatives from area 
nonprofits. It was time for twice-yearly distribution of profits from 
the First & Second Thrift Store in Grand Marais, which is always a fun
event. Throughout the year, volunteers staff the thrift store and the 
donation center, accumulating hours to be credited toward their 
designated organization. No one is sure just what they’ve “earned” 
until the numbers are tallied and announced at the gathering.  It’s 
always a pleasant surprise for the volunteers and the nonprofit 
organizations to see just how much has been raised.
At the gathering this week, 25 different organizations received a 
portion of the $20,044.75 made at the thrift store from July 1, 2012 
to December 31, 2012. In all 68 volunteers worked a total of 1822.25 
hours! The payout amount for this period was $11 per hour. The payout 
varies depending on store profits and expenses, but since the store 
opened in 2007, local nonprofits have received $$198,214.98.
First & Second is located in the Cobblestone building next to 
Pumphouse Fitness. The store is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and 
Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The warehouse for accepting donations of clean, lightly used items is 
located on the south side of the garage behind the Cook County Senior 
Center. The donation center is open Wednesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. 
to 1 p.m.
  If you are interested in volunteering at the thrift store and 
raising some money for your favorite local nonprofit, contact Thrift 

Assessors office request for assistance still under consideration

Sat, 02/16/2013 - 10:17pm

At their Feb. 12 meeting, county commissioners did not 
disagree with the notion that the Assessor’s Office has a lot of work 
to do or that keeping more detailed property records is a good idea, 
but they weren’t ready at their February 12 county board meeting to 
grant Assessor Betty Schultz’s request for a new position in the 
department.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue (DOR) requires that counties 
assess at least one-fifth of their properties – called a quintile – 
each year so that all properties get assessed at least every five 
years.  The DOR is in the process of conducting a review of all 
Minnesota assessor offices to gauge compliance.
Cook County has not been able to meet the quintile requirement for 
years, and Assessor Schultz is trying to figure out how her department
is going to do it.  She said the DOR has told her the county must be 
in compliance within five years.  “It’s a serious responsibility,” she 
said.  “Right now we cannot meet the requirements at the current level 
of staffing.”
In addition to increasing the number of assessments the department 
will be doing each year, the county board has authorized Schultz to 
gather more detailed information on all properties and implement a new 
computer system to track that information.
The onsite assessment will involve measuring land elevations, views, 
access, lakeshore footage, roadways, tillable soils, water, sewer, and 
electric utilities, and buildings, including quality, condition, story 
heights, open vault areas, age, decks and porches, differing uses 

Weekend News Roundup for February 16

Sat, 02/16/2013 - 10:02am

Each weekend WTIP news produces a round up of the news stories they’ve been following this week. A lawsuit to stop the Lake Superior region wolf hunts has been filed. There’s a new mining process being tested, Post Office woes in Duluth and a conversation with Rep. David Dill…all in this week’s news.

Program: 

Attached file

Local Musicians Showcase at Arrowhead Center for the Arts Saturday

Fri, 02/15/2013 - 9:28am

The North Shore Music Association invites the community to 
the 2013 Local Musicians Showcase on Saturday, February 16 at 7:30 
p.m. at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts in Grand Marais.
The showcase includes Samuel Black on piano; Jane Howard on piano; 
Pederson & Cora, a folk duo; Kent Johnson, acoustic guitar; Swamp 
Donkey, psychedelic soul-rock and Cook County's Most Wanted, eclectic 
blues and rock.
Tickets are $10 adults, $5 for students 18 and under. The event is 
general seating, for sale at door or www.tix.com (no fees!)

County continues to consider ways to reduce costs at Cook County Family YMCA

Fri, 02/15/2013 - 9:27am

Whether to work out project reductions with the lowest 
bidders on the next phase of the Cook County Family YMCA building or 
to re-bid the work was still in question after a discussion by the 
county board on February 12. Wade Cole of ORB Management brought the
pros and cons to the commissioners after a conference call the day 
before with attorney Ken Donovan.
When the bids for the next phase came in, they brought the project 
cost to $1.96 million over its $9.5 million maximum.  The Community 
Center Steering Committee then came up with a list of how the costs 
could be contained.
Attorney Donavon said there could be a legal risk if the county did 
not re-bid the project. Companies that were not the low bidders could 
take issue with not being able to re-bid when the project was changed 
significantly.
In the conference call, the attorney told the county representatives 
that the need to re-bid or not depends in large part on the extent of 
material changes within the project. Although there is no clear 
definition of when a material change is large enough in scope to 
require a re-bid, Mr. Donovan indicated that a 20 percent scope change
is sometimes used as a general rule.
After discussing the items that could be changed to bring costs down, 
the attorney stated that the risk to the county was ‘not terribly 
high’ and any second low bidder would have the burden of proof of 
showing that the county had not done its due diligence.
Re-bidding the work would put the project behind about six to eight 
weeks, bringing its completion into 2014.
Costs could also increase because of “reimbursables,” extra costs