Around Cook County
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.”
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.