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West End News: March 7

Fires grate, latrines and boardwalks waiting to be transported into the BWCA Wilderness by dog team.
Fires grate, latrines and boardwalks waiting to be transported into the BWCA Wilderness by dog team.

WEN_finalcut_20130307.mp37.5 MB

The Tofte Post Office is officially cutting its window hours starting Monday, March 11.  From that day forward, the window will be open from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. and then again from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.  The post office boxes will be accessible from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., six days a week.  Saturdays will have the same morning window hours that are currently in place.
In the future, the post office is aiming to change the front door locks so box holders can access their boxes 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  That change will obviously require some security measures to be put in place but, in this day and age, that should be an easy problem to solve.  That change would be a nice convenience to help make up for the cuts in window service.
The postmaster’s job in Tofte has been technically unfilled since Priscilla Reviere retired a few years ago.  All the postmasters since then have been temporary replacements.  The new window hours will change the postmaster position from a full-time job with benefits to a part-time, six-hour-a-day job without benefits.  This change is a double-edged sword because it eliminates a well-paid full-time job from the West End.  On the other hand, it will still be a desirable part-time job.  The two-hour break over the lunch hour, though, will essentially guarantee that the job will go to someone who lives near by.  No one will want to commute to the job and be forced to kill two hours every day with no pay.
The new postmaster position will be offered soon.  Anyone interested should watch for the posting to go up in the Tofte post office.
Our local Forest Service wilderness rangers are in the midst of an interesting project that occurs annually at this time of year.  They are using a dog team to transport heavy fire grates, latrines and boardwalk timbers into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  The items are stashed in central locations that can be accessed by their maintenance crews during the summer as needed.
Here at Sawbill, the team of friendly huskies is being wrangled by Nancy Mondalexis from Ely.  Local wilderness rangers, Tammy Cefalu and Dan Disch, are working with her to get the materials situated before the warm weather arrives.  It’s a great example of smart and efficient government work, providing a service that ends up creating a lot of economic benefit to the West End communities.  On top of that, it looks like a lot of fun.  Somehow, it just seems right to see working dogs doing a significant job in the wilderness.
Congratulations to Tess Dornfeld on her triumph at Sven and Ole’s world championship joke telling contest recently.  Tess won the “Best Scandinavian Accent” category at the event and took home a $25 gift certificate to Sven and Ole’s and a plaque.  I am proud to say that Tess is one of the many fine Cook County residents who first came to the county as a Sawbill Outfitters crewmember.  She currently works for Waters Edge Trading in Tofte and at the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op.  Her mother, Carol Winter, was also a Sawbill crewmember back in the ‘70s.  Her parents own land near Grand Marais and are planning to start building a retirement home here this year.  Tess gets her accent knack from her mother, who also can tell a good joke in a perfect Scandinavian accent.
I highly recommend the cover article on the Feb. 20th issue of Time Magazine.  The more than 30-page article by Steven Brill is entitled: ”Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.”  Brill’s in-depth analysis of how health care is priced, charged and paid for in the United States should be required reading for every American. It’s a great example of how careful, objective journalism can serve our society. But, for those of us in Cook County, it serves another purpose. It reminds us how lucky we are to have our local clinic and hospital.  Both the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and the North Shore Hospital work hard to provide us with high quality, personalized care at reasonable prices.  I have no doubt that health care professionals across the country are, with few rare exceptions, dedicated and sincere in their efforts.  The system though, especially the payment system, is absurd and out of control. In my opinion, it reflects more poorly on our political system than on our health care system.  Read the article and see if you don’t agree.