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News and other information from Cook County

Cook County to host 25th Emergency Services Conference

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 6:02pm

For 25 years, Cook County has been hosting an emergency services conference in Grand Marais on the last weekend of April. For 25 years, First Responders, firefighters, sheriff deputies, law enforcement dispatchers, Border Patrol agents, EMTs and other medical workers, members of search and rescue and others involved in emergency situations have gathered to learn from one another. Emergency workers from around the region and across the border have participated. They will be gathering once again this year for the 2014 Cook County Emergency Services Conference on April 25- 26.

 Conference Coordinator, Emergency Management Director Jim Wiinanen issued the invitation to this year’s conference, stating, “With most Cook County responder entities migrating to ARMER in the last year to six months, we felt it appropriate to focus on communications. ‘If communications is the key, what does it unlock?’” asked Wiinanen.

 All of the conference information us available online at Anyone with questions may call Wiinanen at (218) 387-3059.

 EMS Director Wiinanen encouraged emergency workers to register soon to help with planning.  A $10 suggested registration is payable at the door when you sign in at the conference.

 Wiinanen added, “ Twenty-five years of Emergency Services Conferences may be a milestone.  But that pales compared to the evolution of emergency service in the county.  I hear that the first ambulance in the county came in 1948 and if you attend the conference you will learn about that vehicle and the changes in emergency service through the years.”

Great Decisions Discussion Group: Food and Climate

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 1:51pm

“Food and Climate” will be the topic at this month’s Great Decisions Discussion Group, scheduled for Thursday, April 17 from noon to 1:30 pm at the Cook County Community Center, 317 West 5th Street, Grand Marais.  Eric and Virginia Reiner will lead the discussion dealing with the global political concerns of climate change and food security.  WTIP's Mark Abrahamson spoke with Eric and Virginia to learn more.  

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Hedstrom Lumber to serve as test site for MDA gypsy moth program

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 12:01pm

Howard Hedstrom, president of Hedstrom Lumber Company, came before the Cook County commissioners on April 8, 2014 to give them an update on the coming gypsy moth quarantine to be imposed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) on Cook and Lake counties beginning May 1, and he had some good news.

“The forest service industry has negotiated a new agreement [with the MDA] with how we transport wood and how we store wood,” Hedstrom said.

“With the old agreements, we would be severely hurt, but the MDA is putting together new [compliance] agreements. They have loosened up and made compliance agreements that are acceptable to store and utilize raw materials and won’t be a deterrent to us,” Hedstrom said.

Wood shipped into Hedstrom Lumber from outstate will be covered by the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service  (APHIS), and haulers will have to get training and certification to haul the wood, said Hedstrom.

One issue that is still being worked out is if it will be safe for Hedstrom Lumber to ship bark to the Twin Cities.

“In our business, we don’t burn all of the bark we produce. In the summer we separate it and ship the bark as a landscape product. They [MDA] deem bark as a problem because they don’t want to ship egg masses to a non-quarantine area.

“But we strip the bark and put it through a hammer mill and we think that will take care of the problem,” said Hedstrom.

The MDA will use Hedstrom Lumber mill as a test site to see if the bark carries any gypsy moth eggs after going through the mill’s processing. “They have the capability of bringing in moths that lay egg masses and they will check them. I’m not sure if they are looking for zero risk or a diminished risk, but I think they are looking for a greatly reduced risk,” said Hedstrom.

City and Union to enter mediation over lifeguard lay off

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 11:58am

After being laid off from his position as head lifeguard at the Grand Marais Municipal Pool when the pool closed on January 31, 2014, Charles Christianson invoked his union right to continue employment with the city of Grand Marais in another position. At press time, Christianson was still not working and a mediation session had been scheduled to determine his status with the city.

Christianson is a 20-year employee with the city of Grand Marais and he believed that he would be allowed to “bump” an employee with less time in the Grand Marais Park Department when the Grand Marais pool closed. According to the city union contract, layoffs occur in the same job class in inverse order of seniority.

In the Grand Marais Park Department, the employees who could be “bumped” were Samantha Wallner, park office manager and Travis Wickwire, parks facilities manager. Wickwire has since resigned from the parks facilities manager position and that job was advertised this week.

AFSCME Council 5 filed a grievance on Christianson’s behalf after negotiations with the city did not result in a solution.

On April 9, Grand Marais City Administrator Mike Roth told the Cook County News-Herald that both parties—the city and the city employees’ union AFSCME Council 5—mutually agreed to have a neutral third party mediate. A representative from the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation will visit Grand Marais on Thursday, May 8 to help the city and union reach some sort of agreement. Roth said the service is provided to the city at no charge.

Christianson was unavailable for comment.

Total Lunar Eclipse, Early Tuesday April 15

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 9:18am

If you're up late working on your taxes, there's an oppotunity to view a total lunar eclipse.

No special equipment is required.  Night owls can watch the full moon fade away and then turn red.  The main event is between 1 and 4:30am Tuesday April 15th.  WTIP’s Audrey Summers spoke with Sally Brummel of the Bell Museum of Natural History to learn more.  

Timing for the best viewing of the April 14-15, 2014 total lunar eclipse (all are CDT):
Start of easiest eclipse viewing: 12:58 a.m.
Start of total eclipse: 2:07 a.m.
Mid-eclipse: 2:46 a.m.
End of total eclipse: 3:35 a.m.
End of easiest eclipse viewing: 4:34 a.m.
During a total lunar eclipse our moon passes directly into Earth’s shadow, and viewers can see the Earth’s curved shadow pass over the moon. Near mid-eclipse, the moon often turns shades of red from sunlight refracting through the Earth’s atmosphere and reflecting off our moon. 


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Time to sign up for baseball

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 12:18pm

With spring slowly wiggling its way through the snow and grass peeking up here and there thoughts turn to baseball. It shouldn’t be too long before the sweet smell of grass and flowers and leather baseball mitts will be wafting through the air.

And flies. Can’t forget flies—fly balls that is.

With that it must be said that if you have children between 4 and 12 years of age and they want to learn how to play baseball or know how to play baseball and want to get better at America’s game it’s time to sign-up for T-ball, Parent Pitch, and Little League.

Rob Hackett is in charge of the league this year, and he is encouraging kids to come out and play ball.

“The key this year will be an emphasis on teaching skills at all levels so that the kids can advance to the next level,” said Hackett.

Although head coaches are already in place, anyone who wants to be an assistant coach or an umpire can apply through Cook County Community Education by calling 2000. “There will be background checks on all applicants,” Hackett said. “They are required by law,” he added.

Ages to play T-ball are 4-6 years old. Parent Pitch is 7-8 years old and Little League is up to 12 years of age. Forms have to be signed and turned into school or community education by May 1. A coach’s meeting will be held May 6 at the Little League field or in the gym if it’s raining.  A baseball clinic for the kids (and parents) will be held on May 17.

“We will also have a Babe Ruth team this year, but that won’t go through community education. Kids 13 to 15 can contact me if they want to play Babe Ruth ball,” said Hackett, who will also coach the Babe Ruth team.

Games will (tentatively) begin in early June.