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Birch Grove Community School and townships continue discussion on funding

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 11:13am

The Birch Grove Community School (BGCS) board of directors met on Tuesday, March 17, inviting Lutsen, Tofte and Schroeder officials to join them in discussion about the funding request made by the school at township annual meetings on March 10, 2015.

Schroeder Supervisor Tina McKeever and Tofte Supervisor Paul James were at the meeting to hear what the township had learned about payments and/or donations to townships.

BGCS Board Member Judy Motschenbacher distributed a letter sent to Senator Tom Bakk and Representative David Dill from Kent Sulem, general counsel and director of government relations for the Minnesota Association of Townships (MAT).

In his 3-page letter to legislators, Sulem said the appearance of “conflicting answers” from MAT reflected correct answers to slightly different scenarios.

The first question, said Sulem, is “Can a town make a general donation to a charter school?”

Sulem wrote that the answer is yes, provided the charter school is operating under Minnesota Statute Chapter 124D or receives direct state funding. If that is true, Sulem said Minnesota Statute 471.84 “allows a town to transfer, with or without compensation, personnel property to other public corporation, including school districts.

He wrote that cash is considered personal property…”

Motschenbacher said that BGCS does operate under the State Statute cited and does receive state funding.

Sulem’s letter said in that case, “…the town board could, under its own authority, make a cash donation of any size to the school as a school district. Approval is not required at the annual town meeting. In fact, any action at the annual meeting would be purely advisory under this provision of law.”

County hires attorney to handle law enforcement grievance

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 11:09am

At County Attorney Molly Hicken’s request, the county board agreed on Tuesday, March 24 to hire Dyan Ebert to represent the county in the grievance filed by Law Enforcement Labor Services (LELS) for law enforcement personal who feel that two employees—Leif Lunde and Ben Hallberg—should not get  seniority credit for the time they served in administrative roles.

Newly-elected Sheriff Pat Eliasen first denied the union’s request, which then went to Hicken, who also denied it.  In Step 3, the grievance was brought before the county commissioners who also denied it because past practices have allowed a county employee to return to the labor pool from a management position without losing time.

Hicken said it has been 24 years since the county faced a grievance and she felt that Ebert, who has a lot of expertise in handling such cases, would be best able to handle the matter.


This local news is provided by Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Industrial Tech expansion bids higher than anticipated

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 11:06am

At the Thursday, March 19 School District 166 school board meeting, board members heard the results of the bid opening for the long-awaited expansion of the industrial arts area. The school’s architect Ryan Erspamer of Architectural Resources Inc. (ARI) told the board, “Unfortunately bids did not come in where we were hoping.”

Erspamer said part of the problem is that only two bids were received. A bid of 1,033,000 was received from Ray Riihiluoma, Inc. of Cloquet. The Boldt Company of Rochester, Minnesota submitted the lowest bid of $974,600—that is $224,600 higher than the anticipated $750,000 earmarked for the project.

Erspamer said the school board had four options: 1.) award the bid to Boldt Company as is; 2.) award the bid to Boldt Company and work with them to bring down costs; 3.) rebid; or 4.) have ARI go back and redesign the project.

Erspamer said asking Boldt to lower costs would mean taking things out and could mean that the school would lose the “long-term durability” of the addition. Likewise with having ARI go back and possibly redesign the project. Erspamer said he would be willing to do so, but said that was his “least favorite option.”

He said, “I don’t think we designed this to be the Taj Mahal. It’s not over-designed; it’s not overly large. There may be some things we could take out, but again, we’d lose quality,” he said.

Erspamer cautioned against rebidding, as he said costs would likely keep increasing.

Superintendent Beth Schwarz said her recommendation was to award the project to Boldt Company, but ask Erspamer to work with them to see if there is anything that can be done to bring the costs down.

Striping coming to Gunflint Trail this summer

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 11:19am

County Highway Engineer Dave Betts told commissioners that the striping project for the Gunflint Trail would be done this summer. It will end at Cross River, about 48 miles up the trail. It was supposed to be done last year but Betts said the county couldn’t get the reflective paint it needed.

At the Tuesday, March 24 board meeting, Betts said the paint will cost $350,000 to $400,000 and was in the budget last year. 

Betts also told commissioners that two lights would be installed on the four corners intersection of County Road 8 and County Road 12 (Devil Track Road). He said LED lights will be installed and the light poles should be shorter than the tree line, keeping the light as muted as possible while still being effective for drivers.


This local news is provided by Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at


Film screening of "To Light a Candle" at First Congregational Church

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 11:16am


To Light A Candle–a film about the Baha'is in Iran defying religious persecution through non-violent resistance and educating their youth—will be shown at the First Congregational Church in Grand Marais at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 29, 2015. 

The Baha'is are a religious minority in Iran. They are systematically imprisoned, tortured and killed by the Iranian government. The Islamic regime bans the Baha'is to study or teach in Iranian universities.

But the Baha'is do teach, and they do study. Since 1987 the Baha'is started the Bahá'í Institute for Higher Education, an underground university with hundreds of students in Iran, and dozens of teachers in Iran and around the world.

Through powerful interviews, exclusive secret footage shot by citizen journalists, rare archival material and dramatic letters written by a Baha'i prisoners currently in jail in Iran, To Light a Candle shows how a small minority has defied the brutal systematic religious persecution through non-violent resistance and educating their youth.

The film by Maziar Bahari premiered at Stanford University in May 2014. To learn more about the film or the cause of the Baha’is, visit the website:

The film screening is free and open to the public. The church is located at 300 West 2nd Street in Grand Marais.


This local news is provided by Cook County News-Herald. Visit the community newspaper at

Child Protection in Cook County

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 1:17pm

Child protection is a community effort, and locally we have the support of Cook County Public Health and Human Services.  WTIP’s Veronica Weadock spoke with Social Services Supervisor Grace Bushard and Child Protection Social Worker Heidi Akins of PHHS.   Concerns about a child's safety or wellbeing can be reported at 387-3620.

Cook County Public Health & Human Services
411 W Second Street
Grand Marais, MN 55604
(218) 387-3602


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