Around Cook County
Colvill Assistant Fire Chief Paul McFarlane went before the county board on May 8 asking for a zero interest loan of $67,500 for a 24’ x 42’ addition to the 42’ x 60’ building put up in 1998. The current space is basically a four-stall garage with space for a desk and storage of turnout gear. When the department has meetings or trainings, they have to pull one of the trucks out to make space for tables and chairs.
The addition would create a large meeting area sealed off from truck fumes. A letter from McFarlane to commissioners states, “In light of the fact that the fire departments in the county have all signed the new Automatic Mutual Aid Agreement, there will be more inter-department trainings happening to facilitate that service to the fire districts.”
The addition, to be built on the west side of the current building, would include an 8’ x 16’ office area and an 8’ x 14’ bath/shower room and a kitchenette. A well and septic system will be installed.
The Colvill Fire Department already owes the county about $44,900 from another loan. The board authorized an addition of $67,500 to that loan at zero percent interest, payable over the next 15 years. With this loan, the department will not need to add to the fire levy.
The board unanimously approved the loan.
Cook County’s forests have more than enough biomass to sustain a district biomass-fueled heating plant in Grand Marais, according to two grant-funded studies undertaken by Dovetail Partners on behalf of Cook County. The studies look at the feasibility of building and operating a biomass plant, including the amount of biomass that would be needed, the amount that is available, and the economic impacts of such a project.
Numerous configurations have been calculated, ranging from generating heat and power for government buildings, businesses, and residences in the center of town to heating government buildings only. Last month, the Cook County Biomass Committee met with representatives of the City of Grand Marais to talk about the findings so far.
“The amount of biomass required from any of these district heat configurations is relatively small,” said Project Coordinator Gary Atwood. The ones believed to be most feasible for district heat would include government buildings along Fifth Street and possibly the downtown business district. The infrastructure would require pipes buried 24 inches below the street surface.
Up to about 3,400 dry tons of biomass in the form of forest “refuse” per year would be needed for the proposed project, although 5,229 dry tons are already available each year from the Superior National Forest, not including what is cleared for the Firewise program to reduce the impact of wildfires. The amount harvested would be well under the amount considered sustainable for the health of the forest. “…We’re not going to be driving increased forest harvest,” said George Wilkes of the Biomass Committee and the Cook County Local Energy Project. City Administrator Mike Roth said, “You’re using a bi-product rather than a commodity someone else wants to use.”
When the Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, Inc (AECI) newsletter The High Line By Line went out to customers in May, it included an update on the electric cooperative’s efforts to bring broadband Internet service to Cook County. The newsletter reassured cooperative members that although progress is slow—only 100 miles of the 800 planned miles of fiber optic cable have been installed— work is still progressing.
Unfortunately, AECI CEO Jeanne Muntean said the installation of broadband is not imminent.
Muntean said the process of receiving economic stimulus funds from the USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) for the $22 million broadband build out is taking longer than expected. “It’s bureaucracy,” Muntean said in a phone conversation on May 8.
Something she is used to, said Muntean, noting that RUS funding for projects on the “electrical side” has been known to take up to two years. With million dollar projects involving federal government funding, progress is frequently slow. “This is a $22 million project. Arrowhead’s entire physical plant is $23 million. It takes a lot of planning to complete projects like this,” she said.
The broadband project is complicated by the fact that it is new to everyone—including AECI’s contacts at RUS. “RUS was handed a plateful of projects all at once,” said Muntean. “There are over 300 projects under way at this time in the United States. RUS has to do its due diligence. With all of these awards in the United States, it has slowed things down for everyone.”
Duluth News Tribune Reports: On a clear day, you can not see forever from the newly renovated Mount Josephine Rest Area overlook near Grand Portage — but spotting the white tower of the Rock of Ages Light gleaming in the sun more than 15 miles away is pretty close.
According to The Duluth News Tribune, the pullout along Minnesota Highway 61, on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior between Grand Portage and the Canadian border, has new picnic tables, new restrooms and a new observation deck that juts out to the edge of the cliff, giving a wide panorama of Wauswaugoning Bay, Hat Point and nearby islands including Susie and Lucille. In the distance, on the horizon, looms the large mass of Isle Royale, with Rock of Ages off its southwest tip.
A grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at the wayside on Friday from 1:30-2:30 p.m., with representatives from the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the North Shore Scenic Drive Council.
Local firefighters are on the scene in Hovland at a fire that was reported early this afternoon.
The fire scene is south of the intersection of Otter Lake Road, 9.5 miles up the Arrowhead Trail. Reports indicate the fire is in a pine plantation that was planted in 1936. The first report came from a passerby who stopped and called the fire in from the Hovland Post Office around 1pm.
The Cook Count Sheriff’s Dispatcher confirmed that Hovland and Colvill firefighters have been on the scene of the fire. State Department of Natural Resources firefighters are also there and the state incident command is in place.
The legislative session is over and District 6A Rep, David Dill has some reflections on what worked and didn’t. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with Dill about the Vikings stadium, the Taconite Harbor power plant, voter ID and more.