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News and other information from Cook County

Deadline nearing for comments on proposed copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 8:07pm

Following up on three public meetings hosted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in January on the potential environmental impact of a proposed copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota, the non-profit Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (NMW) hosted its own public meeting in Grand Marais on Wednesday, February 19, 2014.

Jerritt Johnston, coordinator for Sustainable Ely and administrator for NMW welcomed about 30 people to the Cook County Senior Center. Jane Reyer, a former attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, (NWF) who lived in Cook County from 1998 to 2006, gave a presentation on highlights of the 2, 200-page supplemental draft environmental impact statement (SDEIS). The information she shared can be found on the NMW website at (

The deadline for comments is March 13, 2014.  Anyone wishing to comment should write to: Lisa Fay, EIS Project Manager, MN DNR Division of Ecological and Water Resources, Environmental Review Unit, 500 Lafayette Road, Box 25, St. Paul MN 55155-4025 or email:

Tofte continues to consider senior housing at Birch Grove

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 8:06pm

After several years of dogged planning it looks like housing for seniors may finally be built in Tofte.

Dick Grabko and Gary Lamppa of Community Connections came before the Tofte town board on February 13, 2014 and informed the supervisors that the Iron Range Resources Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) had awarded the township a grant of $230,000. The money will be used to put in infrastructure for a planned 12-unit senior housing project expected to cost $1.9 million to develop.

Originally the township was hoping to receive $350,000 from the IRRRB but due to a shortfall in the IRRRB’s budget for this grant cycle, it was pared down. Grabko said the township could reapply for the remaining $120,000 in the IRRRB’s next grant cycle.

The township plans on renting housing units at market rates and will finance the rest of the project through general obligation abatement bonds with a 20-year repayment plan. Currently township supervisors have been working with Dynamic Homes on the design of houses. To get a better idea of what might be built in Tofte, township supervisors toured Mill Stream Village in St. Joseph, Minnesota, looking at the layout of those senior living and assisted living houses.

Senior housing options will allow older residents a chance to live in their home town when they are unable to take care of their house, said Supervisor Paul James.

“We are trying to get the cost of the houses down as low as possible and yet maintain quality,” said James.

Senior housing will be on the agenda at the township annual meeting on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.

”We will have a presentation with preliminary designs and we hope costs for the public at our annual meeting,” James said.

A representative from Dynamic Homes should be at the annual meeting to answer questions, said James.

Commissioners pass motion in opposition to gypsy moth quarantine for Cook and Lake counties

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 8:04pm

The Cook County commissioners room was during the Tuesday, February 25 county board meeting as about 35 community members gathered to learn more about a proposed Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) quarantine of Cook and Lake counties in the effort to slow the spread of the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar).

 Lucia Hunt, gypsy moth unit supervisor and Alan Sommerfeld, senior communications officer for the MDA, gave the presentation, which many North Shore residents have heard before, describing the impact of the gypsy moth as a nuisance pest and landscape defoliator. Hunt said that currently, 800,000 acres are deforested nationwide by the pests.

Four loggers and two timber industry representatives and one resort owner spoke after the MDA presentation. Several noted that 800,000 acres were deforested nationwide by the advancement of the gypsy moth. One logger, Victor Bohnen of Grand Marais said that seems relatively small, considering the potential economic hardship to Cook County.

County commissioners seemed sympathetic to the logging industry representatives. Commissioner Bruce Martinson said it seems that the “cat seems to be out of the bag” and there is no stopping the gypsy moths.

Commissioner Garry Gamble said he had talked to some noted entomologists about gypsy moths and had been told that the pests would never ravage Cook and Lake counties, basically because the climate is not suitable for them. Gamble also noted that gypsy moth outbreaks are associated with the presence of oak forests and Cook and Lake county forests consist of 0 percent oak and the Superior National Forest’s 2004 Forest Plan projected that the forest would remain that way for 100 years.

Gamble presented a potential resolution stating the county’s opposition to the proposed quarantine listing numerous other reasons. The board passed the resolution unanimously.

Mush for A Cure on the Gunflint Trail - March 7 and 8

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 4:30pm
Mush For a Cure

WTIP's Ann Possis talks with Sue Prom about the 8th Annual "Mush for a Cure," being held on the Gunflint Trail this weekend (March 7 and 8).  It is the mission of Mush For a Cure to raise awareness of and raise funds to find a cure for breast cancer through annual pledge/tribute runs by dog team.

Ana Genz, Cory Christianson, and Craig Horak are this year's "Bald, Brave and Beautiful" participants.  More information and a donation link are at the "Bald, Brave and Beautiful" website here

Festivities begin Friday, March 7, with registration and the Pink Pasta Feed at Trail Center. The Pink Zombie Party follows from 7 to 11 pm at Windigo Lodge, featuring the Bald, Brave, and Beautiful Contest at 9:30. 
Events on Saturday will take place on Gunflint Lake in front of Gunflint Pines Resort, beginning with a pancake breakfast open to all from 8 to 11 am. The short course begins at 10 am at the Cross River Gravel Pit, and the long course begins with a "sourdough start" at noon in front of Gunflint Pines. The awards ceremony is at 3:30 pm.

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Moratorium on LED illuminated signs nixed by county board

Mon, 03/03/2014 - 3:33pm

When Paul Goettl, owner of Clearview General Store in Lutsen approached the Cook County Planning Commission at its January 2014 meeting with a request to amend his business’s 2007 conditional use permit (CUP) to modify his internally illuminated sign—with LED bulbs—Cook County Planning & Zoning Administrator Bill Lane raised the question of whether or not LED technology is addressed in the current county sign ordinance. That led to a planning commission decision that it should seek a moratorium on all LED illuminated signs for six months, to allow time to consider the question. However, the Planning Commission request met with denial at the county board meeting on Tuesday, February 25.

Goettl’s request was to make a change to the gas station sign on the east edge of the Clearview property, replacing the gas prices displayed below the large white Mobil sign. Goettl explained that the pricing section of the sign was damaged and not repairable. He said the existing base and poles and the upper Mobil sign would stay in place. The only thing to be changed is the lower section, which Goettl explained meant installing a new, more efficient, LED sign.

Goettl’s neighbors were contacted and there was no opposition.

After discussion of whether or not it could make a decision based on the existing sign ordinance and stressing that Goettl’s request was not denied, merely suspended, the Planning Commission passed a motion to impose a six-month moratorium temporarily prohibiting the issuance of conditional use permits for internally lit LED signs in Cook County. The purpose, the Planning Commission said, was to allow the sign ordinance committee to develop ordinance standards and language addressing the introduction of new technology into advertisement displays in Cook County.

UMD to offer "Adult Mental Health First Aid" at Cook County Higher Ed

Mon, 03/03/2014 - 3:32pm

The UMD Continuing Education Department is offering Adult Mental Health First Aid – a ground-breaking public education program that helps people understand and respond to signs of mental illness.  The training introduces participants to the risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds an understanding of their impact, and gives an overview of the common treatments.

 This training is for any person who works with the public including. 

Adult Mental Health First Aid is an interactive eight-hour training program that presents an overview of mental illness and substance use disorders. This training prepares members of the community to provide Mental Health First Aid to individuals experiencing a mental health problem. It is designed to help community members identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness. What you say, how you say it, and how well you listen can have a profound impact on those in need. 

The training will be offered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 20 at Higher Ed’s Grand Marais campus on West Third Street. There is a $115 fee. To register or for more information call (218) 726-8113.