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News and other information from Cook County

Biomass district heating not feasible without state bonding support

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 3:22pm

The city’s financial consultant told Grand Marais City Council on March 12 that although there was some interest shown by prospective financial backers contacted about a proposed $10 million biomass district heating project, the undertaking isn’t feasible without state bonding bill support.

Nick Anhut of Ehlers Inc. presented the findings of a report requested by the city council in January.

Anhut said that five of the nine firms his company contacted indicated an interest in financing the project, but noted that underwriting details would need to be worked out; the other four firms indicated that the project was either too small or too specialized for them to underwrite and market to investors.

He said it was clear that state bonding bill support is vital to the project’s feasibility, because financing providers will execute bond issues only when they know all other funding sources are in place.

City Councilor Tim Kennedy, who has been working on the heating plant proposal with the Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP), agreed that it was imperative for the city to secure some type of grant or a place on the governor’s priority list for the project to succeed. But he noted that local legislators David Dill and Tom Bakk have said they wouldn’t support the plan until the details were in place. Kennedy called it a “chicken or egg” situation.

In a related matter, the city council supported by a 4-1 vote a request made by George Wilkes of CCLEP to help fund a part-time CCLEP coordinator at a cost of $2,000, the same amount the city contributed last year. Mayor Larry Carlson cast the lone dissenting vote.

Theater Sports at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts Friday

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 9:53am

What sports season comes between basketball and baseball? Theater sports! This Friday, March 21, seniors will compete on stage at 7 p.m. in the Arrowhead Center for the Arts. You’ll want to get a seat early for this ever-popular event, now in its ninth season. Tickets are $5 for students and $8 for adults.

The competition can get a little crazy, but for a great cause:  the College Literature class’s annual spring theater trip to the Twin Cities. This year we’ll see both Rain and Othello.

Coached by Michael McHugh, Theater Sports is improvisational theater with a competitive sports angle. In a typical match, two teams challenge each other, react to a surprise command, and count on the audience to judge them. In addition to suggesting wacky scenes for the teams to enact, a few brave audience members may wish to take the stage and compete also!

 Theater Sports teams include Thomas Anderson, Jessica Berg-Collman, Joe Borud, Anna Carman, Joey Chmelik, Sarah Deschampe, Cy Fortunato, Jonny Jacobsen, Charlie Lawler, Megan Lehto, Shannon O’Phelan, Breana Peterson, Melanie Stoddard, Abby Sutton, and Seth Warren.

Hours to be reduced at Schroeder Post Office

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 9:46am

The mood and voices in the room were clear on Thursday, March 6—Schroeder township residents were asking to keep their post office open eight hours a day.

But Deb Metzer, Deer River Postmaster, and Jeff Roberts, Blackduck’s Postmaster, were there to tell the 40 or so people on hand for the Thursday, March 6, 2014 evening meeting held at the Schroeder Town Hall that the decision had been made: Schroeder’s post office would drop from eight-hour service to four-hour service, and there was nothing they could do about it except decide what hours they would like to see the doors open for business. 

Metzer made that announcement mid-way through the meeting and several people got up and left without saying a word.

“This process began a year and a half ago and there is no way to appeal this decision as far as I know,” Metzer said to Skip Lamb, who asked about an appeals process in light of Schroeder residents largely being kept in the dark about the plans to cutback the service.

“You could have found this online. It’s out there. Sorry you didn’t see it, but anything Congress does is online,” Metzer told Lamb.

The cutback in service was due to a lack of volume in mail and packages seen in Schroeder, said Metzer, saying upper management uses a formula that applies to all post offices nationwide in its decision process.

“It’s not just here or just in Minnesota where this is happening. Rural post offices are going to two-hour, four-hour or six-hour service when cuts need to be made,” Metzer said.

Grand Marais Park Board considers coastal wetlands restoration

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 9:44am

When Cook County assistant planning & zoning administrator Dave Demmer saw some paperwork come by his desk this winter indicating that the Grand Marais Park Board was considering improving and upgrading its public boat landing and the area around it, he thought it would be a perfect time for them to consider restoring some of the former wetlands in the park and he sent a letter suggesting his proposal.

Grand Marais Park Board manager Dave Tersteeg introduced Demmer to the park board at its March 4 meeting and Demmer explained his ideas in some detail.

Demmer talked about potential for coastal wetland restoration to take place when (and if) the city moves ahead to extend the small break wall at the public entrance and enlarge and improve the parking lot and the grounds in the area. The city is looking at partnering with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the work to extend the break wall and improve the current boat launching area.

 “The opportunity may exist for the City of Grand Marais to restore coastal wetlands within the Recreation Park,” said Demmer, noting the project would fit with the Park’s master plan and the county’s goal to see wetlands restored whenever possible.

 “Moreover, wetland restoration efforts may qualify for wetland credits that the city could sell as profit. This plan could be integrated into the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources proposal for the water access and include an interpretive boardwalk hiking trail through the coastal wetlands,” he said.

Demmer also said the park’s master plan recognizes and prioritizes, “the function of these coastal wetlands as a means of providing storm water retention and as a natural ‘filter’ to maintain and improve water quality.”

Tower work will temporarily affect WTIP transmitter power

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 8:37am

Over the next several weeks Verizon Wireless will be constructing a replacement tower in close proximity to WTIP’s main broadcast antenna above Grand Marais.

To assure the safety of the tower construction workers WTIP will be intermittently reducing our transmitter power -- significantly at times.

Coverage of our 90.7 signal we be reduced during these periods, and may also affect reception of our outlying transmitters in Grand Portage and the upper Gunflint Trail.


Attached file

Rep. Dill: Anti-EPA bill will go nowhere

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 7:35am

A bill declaring the federal Environmental Protection Agency null and void in Minnesota will not get a committee hearing this year.

Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, said the bill, HF 3094, was introduced Monday partly in frustration over federal action that could negatively impact the Mesabi Nugget iron plant near Hoyt Lakes

Dill, a co-author on the bill, told WTIP News the bill won’t get a hearing in the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, which he chairs,  because it was introduced too late to meet the House’s self-imposed Friday deadline for bills to clear committees.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, State Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, was chief author of the bill. She said EPA standards regarding wood burning stoves was her motivation for introducing the bill. The new EPA standards would require wood stoves to burn cleaner emissions.

Dill said members of the Iron Range delegation decided to co-author the bill over frustration with the EPA’s recent decision to revoke a variance for Mesabi Nugget that allows the plant to release pollutants at levels otherwise above state standards. Dill told WTIP News yesterday, all three DFL Range members have now withdrawn their names from the bill.

The bill “is not going anywhere. But it is a little frustrating when the EPA does this stuff and doesn’t tell us,’’ Dill said.

Environmental groups sued to disallow the variance, and the EPA last week agreed to an out-of-court settlement to withdraw the variance. Mesabi Nugget has asked for a 30-day delay in the EPA’s action.