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The North Shore News Hour includes up-to-the minute weather, North Shore happenings in local news, sports and entertainment, as well as a variety of features from WTIP staff and volunteers. If you miss the North Shore News Hour at noon, tune in for a replay Monday through Thursday beginning at 5:00 p.m.


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A house of any size is difficult to find in Grand Marais. Photo by Andrew Balet, Wikimedia Commons

Research of Cook County housing crunch continues

Grand Marais city councilors recently went through the process of listing the things important to the citizens of Grand Marais. Rising to the top of priorities for the council was the need for housing.

Councilors noted several studies completed in the past defining this need and councilors agreed to try to identify the barriers to housing development in the city. To do that, the city has hired the firm HKGi at a contract price of $14,550.

To learn more about HKGi’s work, WTIP’s Rhonda Silence reached out to Jeff Miller of HKGi. Here’s their conversation.
 

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Oshki Ogimaag School in Grand Portage - Photo by Rhonda Silence

Oshki Ogimaag hosts feast on Indigenous Peoples Day

Students at Oshki Ogimaag School in Grand Portage have been working since the last school year on a fall feast for the community. At 5 p.m. on Monday, October 14, the community is invited to the Grand Portage Community Center gym to share the harvest with students.

Students worked with Grand Portage Agriculture Coordinator Andy Schmidt and school staff on planting at the school and at the larger community garden on Mineral Center Road. Community members have donated fish, some ground moose meat and some grouse to accompany the vegetables.

Students found recipes for use of the harvest and they are the cooks for the dinner, which will also include jams, jellies and pickles made by students.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Oshki Ogimaag Director Carmen Keyport about the feast and how the students prepared for the community event. 
 

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Grand Marais City Hall was crowded with people "speaking for the trees" on October 9. Photo by Rhonda Silence

Standing room only for public comment on city trees

Approximately 50 people crowded into Grand Marais City Hall at the Wednesday, October 9 city council meeting to share comments and concerns about the removal of the elm trees that line Highway 61 through the city. The trees are slated to be cut down in November 2019 in advance of the 2020/2021 highway reconstruction project. Seventeen people spoke during the public comment meeting, which lasted more than an hour.

One of the first speakers was retired forester Jim Hane, who said no one wants to stop the project. [44] He said the stormwater work was particularly important to stop the flooding of downtown streets. However, he appealed to the city to find a way to change the route of infrastructure and the bike path. He said the trees are important to the community.

Another longtime resident reminded the council that the elm trees were planted by community ancestors. A citizen who moved to Grand Marais in 1982 said the elm trees are like a “welcome wagon” to newcomers.

Three people spoke in favor of the project. Jim Boyd, the Cook County Chamber Director, was met with laughter from the audience when he said the trees were not healthy. City councilors cautioned the audience to listen respectfully, whether they agree or disagree with the speaker.

Boyd urged the city to move ahead with the Highway 61 reconstruction, stating that the amenities would bring a unique look to the city.

Another person in support of the project spoke of the value of the amenities planned for the highway corridor and said there are valid reasons – such as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s cleanup of contaminated soil in a large section of the project.

Grand Marais business owner Jan Sivertson said she was very sad to see the trees go, but said for the benefit of the project, they need to go. She too, spoke of the aesthetics, which she said had been considered at “many, many, many meetings.” She thanked the council, MnDOT officials and others involved for all their hard work. [3:24]

Jim Raml of Seagull Lake, a longtime advocate of saving the trees, prefaced his comments by saying he thinks this is a lost cause. Despite that, he made an impassioned plea to at the very least, delay the cutting of the trees.

He expressed frustration that the Minnesota Department of Transportation had never come up with alternatives for the project, to give the public a chance to weigh in on other possible routes for infrastructure and for the bike path.

Raml also asked city councilors if they knew that more trees were coming down – along the bike path past the Grand Marais Municipal Campground. [5:07]

Three citizens shared concerns about the cost of the project and the fact that when the bids came in, the city had to accept a 300 percent increase.  One citizen said she has had a lot of work done personally by contractors and she can’t understand what sort of contract allows such cost over-runs. [6:04]

A young man who is living with his family in the Grand Marais Campground brought some in the audience to tears when he spoke about the difficulties his family has faced finding a home in Cook County. He spoke of his ties to the community and how badly they want to stay here. He talked about the changes to the community starting with the Native Americans who were stewards of the land, to the fur trade, the loggers and now the tourism industry. He said more important than the trees are the people who are struggling to live in this area. He urged the city and its citizens to put as much energy into affordable housing and living wage jobs as they have for saving 11 trees. [7:22]

There were many more comments, some tearful, and many questions.

For the most part, the council listened silently, although Councilor Kelly Swearingen answered questions about the project cost by saying that the council had addressed the increased costs at their last council meeting. She encouraged the public to review the YouTube video of the last council meeting to learn more.

 After public comment, the council moved on to other business on the agenda, not beginning council discussion of the trees until 9:30 p.m., not 7:30 as anticipated on the agenda.

And although there was a long wait as the city handled that other business, 18 people stayed to hear the council discussion.
Councilor Craig Schulte explained that he wanted the topic on the agenda because he struggles with what he has heard from MnDOT, more so in its treatment of local businesses than in the removal of the trees. He expressed frustration that MnDOT had not conducted an economic impact study for the project.

And, Schulte said, he wanted to give people a chance to air their concerns

He and his colleagues expressed frustration over what they’ve heard from MnDOT. They had questions about the MPCA dig and the monitoring wells; about the increased costs; about what it would cost to make changes at this point and more.
Councilor Kelly Swearingen pointed out that the elm trees are in MnDOT’s right-of-way. She said she didn’t want additional costs placed on citizens of the city for possible changes. [9:30]

Councilor Tim Kennedy expressed concern if any changes were made, the whole project would suffer. He likened the matter to dominoes, noting that small changes could lead to derailing the entire project. [10:37]

Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux suggested that the city contact MnDOT and ask if anything could be changed at this point. Arrowsmith DeCoux said he would call MnDOT project manager Michael Kalnbach and ask some questions, although he said he believed he knew what their answer would be. [12:05]

City Administrator Mike Roth cautioned that any changes to be made should be shared with the people who came up with the plan, a work of about six years.

Councilors finally agreed to have the mayor speak with MnDOT, but Councilors Kennedy and Anton Moody said they see little way to stop the project at this point without major financial repercussions to the city.

Mayor Arrowsmith DeCoux reiterated what Councilor Kennedy said about the longevity of the Highway 61 project. [14:14]
 

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There were lots of questions for Grand Marais firefighter Jim Roy during the Fire Prevention Week visit. Photo by Rhonda Silence

Local Fire Departments make school visits during Fire Prevention Week

Since 1922, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has sponsored the public observance of Fire Prevention Week. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed Fire Prevention Week a national observance, making it the longest-running public health observance in our country.

During Fire Prevention Week, children, adults, and teachers learn how to stay safe in case of a fire. Firefighters provide lifesaving public education in an effort to drastically decrease casualties caused by fires.

Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of October 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage.

Locally, Fire Prevention Week is observed by local volunteer fire departments visiting our schools. Here’s a report of the Grand Marais Fire Department’s visit to Great Expectations School. And click here to see photos of the Tofte Fire Department visiting Birch Grove Community School. 

 
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The 2019 Homecoming King and Queen are Keenan Hingos and Alyssa Spry. Photo by Michael McHugh.

Cook County High School crowns Homecoming royalty

It is Homecoming Week at Cook County Schools. A Pep Fest and Homecoming Coronation was held in the Pam Taylor gymnasium at Cook County High School on Thursday, October 10.  Crowned Homecoming King and Queen were Alyssa Spry and Keenan Hingos.
 
The Homecoming Dance is Saturday, 8 -11 in the School District 166 cafeteria. The theme, according to the school, is a “secret.” Apparently, the creative junior class wants dance attendees to be surprised when they arrive for the Homecoming celebration. 

 


 
Cook County Sheriff's Office lights - WTIP photo

A look at the Law Enforcement Log, Sept. 24-30

Each week the Cook County Sheriff’s Office provides a brief report of calls made to the Cook County Law Enforcement Center. WTIP requested more information on the following incidents. This report provides more details on calls logged by law enforcement dispatchers from September 24 – 30.
 
 Sheriff deputies assisted the public by standing by while a party with an order for protection retrieved items from a residence in Grand Marais on September 24. 
 
 A party was stopped for driving an unregistered vehicle on September 25. Party had just purchased the vehicle and was in the process of getting it registered. The motorist also had no proof of insurance. He told the sheriff deputy he would provide it to the sheriff’s office. The proof of insurance was received via email on September 26. 
 
 A hit and run was reported near the Holiday station in Grand Marais at 2:58 p.m. on September 25. A party called to say a blue truck, pulling a white trailer with a brown or wooden canoe on top had hit his truck and tore off the bumper. The party provided a license plate number and sheriff deputies found the driver of the blue pickup up the Gunflint Trail. The sheriff deputy found a dent on the fender of the trailer that appeared to match how the reporting vehicle was hit. The driver said he did not realize he hit anything. The driver was camping at Trail’s End camping, but will send a current copy of insurance to the sheriff’s deputy. 
 
On September 25, Sheriff deputies delivered a trespass letter for a party in Grand Marais, listing several locations at which that party is not allowed.
 
At 8:33 p.m. on September 25, a party reported threats from a person trying to buy a car from him.  
 
Sheriff deputies were called to a domestic disturbance at the Grand Portage campground at 7:50 a.m. on September 26. An argument escalated to a physical struggle and a female party was knocked down. A male party was arrested. 
 
 There was a fraud call in Lutsen on September 26. The reporting party said the call was a “shakedown.” 
 
At 6:33 p.m. on September 26, a party called the sheriff’s office expressing concern about an apparently homeless person hanging out by the Tofte General Store and Coho Café. Cook County Public Health and the Salvation Army were contacted and assistance was given to the man. 
 
On September 27, a party renting a cabin on east Highway 61 called to report that a male was sleeping on the deck. It was the same homeless man from the September 26 call. He told sheriff deputies he wanted to go to Canada, but is not Canadian, has no passport and no money. Deputies advised him to head south toward Duluth where there are more services available to help him. The party declined. Deputies advised him that he could not stay at the rental party and he agreed to leave.  
 
The Sheriff’s Office received calls from a party stating that her mother had received been threatened by a Grand Marais man. The daughter said it was a dispute over a bill. Sheriff deputies will speak with the party.
 
A hit and run was reported on the Ski Hill Road in Lutsen at 1:31 p.m. on September 27. A party said they witnessed a black Chevy pickup with Wisconsin plates hit another car. The caller said after hitting the vehicle, the owner of the Chevy got out, took a picture of the damage and the license plate of the car they hit, and asked a bystander if it was their car. When the party said no, the motorist in the Chevy left the scene. 
 
A party called to report that a dump truck threw a rock and chipped the windshield on their 2004 Honda Element on September 27.  The owner of the dump truck was found and insurance information given to the motorist. 
 
Law enforcement dispatchers were called on September 27 from a party seeking a phone number for Wreckless Towing. The party couldn’t find a current number. Instead of giving out a private number, dispatchers contacted Wreckless Towing and gave them the party’s phone number. 
 
  At 7:33 p.m. on September 27, a party from Lutsen Resort called to report a stolen purse. The party believes a person in a wheelchair may have stolen it. Deputies responded and looked at a family photo taken at dinner in which the black purse was visible, as well as a party in a wheelchair nearby. Staff at Lutsen Resort said they believe they know who the offending party was and offered assistance. The party was found and returned the purse. A family member had mistakenly taken the purse, thinking it belonged to another family member. Contents of the purse were undisturbed. 
 
A call reporting suspicious activity came in at 8:39 p.m. on September 27. The caller said there were people at the Christine Lake boat landing. Car lights were going on and off. Sheriff deputies found a party at the landing who said they were just trying to get some sleep and denied flashing lights.
 
A caller reported debris in the northbound lane of Highway 61 at 8:20 a.m. on September 28. Caller said it looks like a 4-5 foot piece of metal; perhaps a fender or bumper. The item was removed from the road at 8:39 a.m.
 
A party called the sheriff’s office on September 28, with questions and concerns about a protest or march on Fifth Avenue West in Grand Marais about a week earlier. The party said there were a lot of people with signs, close to traffic. The party wanted to know if there was a permit for this protest and stated that this was a bad location for this. Party was told no permit was needed and that law enforcement would not become involved unless it was a violent protest or it prevented entry to a business. Party said the concerns should be a matter of record. 
 
A motorist called law enforcement on September 28 to report a car/deer collision by North Shore Waste. No injuries, but the driver needed to make a report for insurance. 
 
A party called from a Superior Hiking Trail trailhead in the Lutsen area at 12:32 p.m. on September 28, asking for assistance. Party said she had rolled her ankle. She said it was swollen and she would not be able to hike back to her vehicle. She doesn’t have her wallet, so can’t pay for the shuttle service.
 
Grand Portage Ambulance was paged to a possible overdose on Mineral Center Road at 12:58 p.m. on September 28. Party was found walking on road in no apparent medical distress, but became abusive to ambulance personnel. Party was transported to North Shore Health.
 
A party on West Highway 61 called on September 29, reporting that some kids in a silver Subaru had dumped a bunch of garbage. Reporting party asked if sheriff deputies could look at video footage.  
 
 At 7:15 a.m. on September 30, Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor Energy Center employees asked if sheriff deputies could accompany them as they investigate a possible trespass incident. The entire Taconite Harbor property was inspected and it was discovered that trespassers gained entry to the plant by climbing a smoke stack and entering a hatch on the 6th floor. A beer can was found on the 4th floor, believed to be left behind by the suspects. It does not appear that anything is missing from the plant and Minnesota Power staff is securing the area where entry was made.
 
A welfare check was requested for a party in Grand Marais who sent some weird texts at 3:30 a.m. Deputies spoke with the party, who was having some relationship and personal problems. Deputy shared some resources for help. Party said they would reach out to family and friends as needed. 
 
As always, there were a number of calls about animals in the law enforcement log.  A gray, medium-sized cat was found on Fall River Road in Grand Marais on September 24. Cat was given to Arrowhead Animal Rescue.  
 
At 6:30 p.m., on September 25, a party called to report that the dog they were taking care of had run off. The missing dog is a pit bull/Rottweiler mix named Diesel, with a bright orange collar. Diesel was found at 8:11 p.m.
 
Another animal call was recorded when a party came into the law enforcement center to get a permit to take possession of a road kill deer on the Gunflint Trail, a “button buck.” Permit given. 

 

At 7:10 a.m., on September 27, a caller contacted the Sheriff’s Office to report a half dead skunk in the roadway on the Caribou Trail. The party thinks it might be possible to save it. The call was referred to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 
 
Later that day, at 10:31 a.m., a party called about a dog off leash near the tennis courts at the YMCA. The dog is a golden retriever and is often off leash at the tennis courts.  Deputies located the dog and owner. The dog was friendly. The owner had a leash with him and stated he will keep the dog on the leash from now on.  
 
Another missing pet call came in at 5:17 p.m. on September 29. A husky named Jack was reported loose and headed toward IGA. When sheriff deputies responded, they found the dog was back home. Owner was advised that her dog cannot wander onto her neighbor’s property and the next time it happens, a citation would be issued. 
 
Another lost dog call came in at 2:59 p.m. on September 30. A black and white cocker spaniel named Buddy was loose. 
 During this time period, there were 10 medical calls. 
 
Deputies worked with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol under the joint monitoring program Stonegarden; conducted ATV patrols and checked 33 businesses and residences.
 
There were 23 traffic stops resulting in reprimands or warnings. Another 15 stops ended with citations for the motorists.
 
Dispatchers reported 26 crank or misdialed 9-1-1 calls and citizens reported seven items lost or found. 
 
For non-emergencies, call the Cook County Sheriff's Office at 218-387-3030.  If you are experiencing an emergency, call 9-1-1.

 
Jim Miller's lighting designs grace many local establishments, including the CD library at WTIP! Photo by Rhonda Silence

A bright future for Hovland lighting design company

It can be a challenge to operate a business in rural Cook County, but Jim Miller does just that from one of the most remote parts of the county, in Hovland. Jim operates Northern Lights Lighting Design from his Hovland home base, but travels to any locale on the North Shore.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Jim about how he became a certified lighting designer and the services he offers.

If you know of North Shore business owners who should be featured, give us a call at 218-387-1070 or email: Rhonda@wtip.org. WTIP would love to tell their story!
 

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While the city focuses on costs of the Highway 61 project, the fate of these elm trees is still uncertain. Photo J. Friedrichs

A closer look at the city's Highway 61 costs

The reconstruction of Highway 61 through the City of Grand Marais has been an ongoing topic on the city council agenda. At the last meeting, on September 25, the city council reviewed a comprehensive breakdown of the project costs. Councilors expressed dismay at some of the expenses and frustration over the Minnesota Department of Transportation bid letting process. 

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence followed up with MnDOT after that meeting. She spoke with Grand Marais Project Manager Michael Kalnbach about the city’s response to the latest information from MnDOT and those questions about the bidding process. Here’s their conversation.

   

Rhonda also spoke with Grand Marais City Administrator Mike Roth about the project and the increased cost to the city. Here’s that conversation. 

The MnDOT Highway 61 project is on the agenda for the city’s next council meeting, on Wednesday, October 9. That discussion is not about project costs, but about the 11 elm trees in the section of Highway 61 between Voyageur Brewing Company and the Buck’s Hardware intersection. 

The removal of the elms is scheduled for November. Listen to the related story, Grand Marais elm trees to be removed in November, says project engineer. 

Listeners may also be interested in this WTIP story on the condition of the elm trees, Health of Grand Marais elm trees still being debated. 

As Councilor Kelly Swearingen was not at the September 11 meeting, the council agreed to table this discussion on what the city can do, if anything, regarding the removal of the trees. They will resume this discussion at the Wednesday, Oct. 9 council meeting. The tree discussion is on the agenda at 7:30 p.m., but as always, the council meeting starts with a time for public comment at 6:30 p.m.


 
Cook County School District 166 - WTIP file photo.JPG

Superintendent Crandall shares an ISD 166 update

School District 166 had its first school board meeting of the school year on September 19. On the agenda was approval of the district’s preliminary levy, acceptance of contracts for some employees and the hiring of some new staffers.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Superintendent Dr. Bill Crandall about the school board discussion and actions.
 


 
When not writing, author Terri Muhich can be found serving breakfast at South of the Border Cafe - Photo by Rhonda Silence

Terri Muhich - Quietly finding writing success

Community members who enjoy breakfast and lunch at the South of the Border Café in downtown Grand Marais may know Terri Muhich as the friendly woman from Hovland who refills their coffee cup. However, most do not know about her “alter ego.” Terri is a prolific author, writing under the name of Tara Mills. 

Tara Mills has published nine novels, several novellas and a series of books called Pelican Cay. The artwork for some of her books leads a potential reader to think the books are Harlequin-style romantic tales, but Terri promises there is more to her books than that.

She explains that love is important, but developing characters is even more critical to her stories. To do so, she takes her time, working on one novel a winter at her Hovland home.

She also networks with other authors, online and this summer, at a writer’s conference at the Mall of America in August. She joined over 50 other authors at the “Royal Readers” event, where she met other writers as well as fans of her work.

Her books can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other locations and also online at Kindle, Nook and Google Play.

Information about Terri/Tara and information on purchasing books can also be found on her website. 

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence sat down with Terri Muhich to learn more about her secretive, but successful second career. Here is their conversation.
 

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