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North Shore News Hour

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  • Monday 5-6pm
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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.

What's On:
Cook County Sheriff's Office - logo courtesy of Cook County Sheriff's Office

Fatal car crash in Grand Portage

Emergency responders were paged to a vehicle crash in Grand Portage yesterday, July 7.

A 47-year-old female from Grand Portage was driving a 1999 Chevy Cavalier when the car went off the road and struck a tree on Mile Creek Road at approximately 11:36 a.m.

Both the driver and an 85-year-old male passenger were transported to North Shore Health.

The female did not survive the crash and an autopsy is being conducted.

The accident is being investigated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and Minnesota State Patrol. No further information has been released at this time.

Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department - File photo

Gunflint Fire Department staffing fire halls during partial phone outage

**UPDATE: As of 4 p.m., phone service was restored on the Gunflint Trail. Anyone who does not have phone service should find a working phone and contact Century Link. 

** UPDATE: As of 11:00 a.m., Century Link phones are still out of service on the Gunflint Trail. Volunteer responders are still stationed at fire halls to assist with emergency phone calls. **

Phone service has been unavailable for Century Link customers for most of the day on the Gunflint Trail. The cause of the emergency 911 outage is not yet known, but the Cook County sheriff’s office tells WTIP that Century Link is aware of the problem and is working on it. 

In the event that anyone requires emergency assistance, the sheriff’s office asks residents to go to one of the Gunflint Trail Fire Department fire halls where responders who are connected to 911 dispatch through the ARMER radio network are available.
Arrowhead Cooperative states that their True North Broadband and phone service are working, so True North customers can reach one another and can get through to 9-1-1.  

Vote Here sign at Cook County courthouse - Photo by Rhonda Silence

Auditors office working to get mail ballots out, offers absentee option for city voters

At the end of June, Cook County Auditor Braidy Powers told WTIP that mail ballots for the August 11 primarily will likely go out Tuesday, July 7, or within a day or two of that date. They should arrive in mailboxes or PO boxes later this week.  
This means the ballot will be sent out more than a month before the official  primary election day. That being the case, Powers reminds local voters that you don't have to send the ballot back right away--but he advises everyone to put those ballots in a safe place, as there is a limited number of replacement ballots. 
Because of precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, Powers encourages voters to mail their ballots back or drop them in the secure lockbox at the courthouse doors instead of hand-carrying them to the courthouse. Registered voters who do not receive their mail ballot by July 17 should contact the auditor's office at 218-387-3640. 
Likewise, voters in the City of Grand Marais who normally go to the polls for elections, are encouraged to request an absentee ballot. Powers said for this year only, due to the pandemic, city voters may request absentee ballots to mail in to avoid having to stand in line in a public place. Powers said the polls will be open, but due to the pandemic, voting in person will likely be considerably slower. Anyone with questions about absentee ballots may contact the auditor's office at 218-387-3640.
WTIP Community Radio encourages voters to hold onto their ballots until after our upcoming WTIP election forums. WTIP is reaching out to all of the candidates for the Cook County board and will be giving voters a chance to hear directly from those citizens vying for a county commissioner seat. 

This year’s county commissioner primary forums on WTIP will be as follows:

District Two on Wednesday, July 22 - the candidates in District 2 are incumbent Myron Bursheim, Stacey Hawkins and Jaye White.
District Four on Thursday, July 23 - Candidates in District 4 are Dean Berglund, Charles Christiansen, Ann Sullivan and Steve Watson. (Incumbent Heidi Doo-Kirk did not file for reelection.)
The forums will begin at 7 p.m. each night.
Due to the ongoing health pandemic, WTIP’s traditional candidate primary forums will be held in a different format this year. The primary forums will be live on WTIP July 22 and 23, with participants joining via a Zoom conference call. The candidate forum will still include interaction with WTIP listeners, and calls can come in during the live broadcasts.
WTIP's Rhonda Silence spoke with Auditor Braidy Powers about mail ballots, absentee ballots and more. Here's their conversation. 

Cook County Sheriff's Office lights - Photo Rhonda Silence

Altercation in downtown Grand Marais leads to one arrest

Tempers flared in downtown Grand Marais on Friday, July 3, leading to one arrest.

According to preliminary information from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, there was an altercation between three people on the sidewalk adjacent to World’s Best Donuts shortly after 1 p.m.  A 41-year-old male from Grand Marais brandished a knife.

He was taken into custody and charges are pending, waiting review by the Cook County Attorney’s office. Once formal charges have been made names will be released of the parties involved.

*This story has been updated to share the hometown of the man arrested.

Cook County Sheriff's Office - logo courtesy of Cook County Sheriff's Office

No injuries in single car crash in Lutsen

Traffic was slowed in the Lutsen area on July 1 after a single car crash and rollover. 
The Cook County Sheriff's Office received a call reporting the crash at 11:40 a.m. of a car flipped on its side in the ditch. Cook County Ambulance and Lutsen Fire Department and First Responders were paged, but the first to arrive at 11:54 a.m. said emergency response was not needed. There were no injuries. 
Michael Maravigli of Schroeder told the sheriff's office that he hit a deer and his car, a green 1970 Dodge Charger went into the ditch. 
A tow was arranged and the car was removed from the ditch by 1 p.m. 

North Shore Health - WTIP file photo, Rhonda Silence

Second COVID-19 positive test at North Shore Health

WTIP's Rhonda Silence spoke with Public Health Supervisor Grace Grinager about this latest development. Click and listen to the interview below. 
Cook County Public Health Supervisor Grace Grinager has announced that North Shore Health has received its second positive COVID-19 test result. According to the Cook County Emergency Operations Center, the individual who tested positive is a male in his 50s who is not a resident of Cook County but sought care through local medical facilities. 

Due to patient privacy regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), no further information is available. So it is not known if this person is still a patient at the local hospital or has been released home or to another facility. It is also not known if the individual felt ill when he traveled to the North Shore. 

This announcement on Friday, July 3, comes with the disclaimer that, due to the way the Minnesota Department of Health determines “county of residence,” not all people who test positive at a Cook County facility are included in the official Cook County case count.

As in this case, an individual who lists a residence in another county will be counted as a COVID-19 positive case in his county of residence.
This is the case for any positive cases for seasonal residents or visitors to the Cook County community. Likewise, a Cook County resident who is tested elsewhere will not be included in the data from North Shore Health and Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, but will appear in the Minnesota Department of Health count of positive cases for Cook County.

This second COVID-19 case coincides with launch of a new Cook County Emergency Operations Center dashboard of local COVID-19 statistics on its COVID-19 information hub site See the new county dashboard here

Grinager says going forward, the new dashboard is where all new local cases and testing statistics will be reported. 

The dashboard will be updated on a weekly basis and includes information from the Minnesota Department Health such as the number of tests performed in Cook County to date; the rate of testing throughout the County; the number of lab-confirmed positive cases among Cook County residents (currently one); and the number of deaths among Cook County residents (currently zero).

It also includes both monthly and year-to-date COVID-19 testing information from specimens collected at North Shore Health or Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. 

All COVID-19 cases, regardless of where a person lives, receive a follow-up case investigation interview from public health officials. They also receive information from a medical provider on how to care for themselves while they are ill, and assistance in meeting needs for essential services while in isolation. This case investigation also begins the process of “contact tracing,” a process of reaching out to high risk contacts of the person who tests positive and encouraging them to quarantine for 14 days. 

“All community members—residents and visitors alike—should continue to stay vigilant and follow the public health best practices that help to keep us healthy and slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Grinager “Cover your cough, wash your hands frequently, stay six feet apart from others in crowded places, and wear a cloth face mask in public spaces—especially where it is difficult to socially distance from those outside your household. If you are feeling ill, please stay home.” 


Vist Cook County's gentle reminder to observe physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Image courtesy of VCC

Visit Cook County and Chamber share a "Visitor Pledge"

Summer has arrived and with it an influx of visitors. That increase in population brings added concern about the potential spread of COVID-19. The topic of visitors, face coverings, and a “Visitor Pledge” were discussed at recent Chamber of Commerce meetings. 

The pledge was put together by Visit Cook County, along with their "One Moose Apart" posters, to serve as a gentle reminder to visitors to observe the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health while visiting. To see the Visitor Pledge, click here. 

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Cook County Chamber Director Jim Boyd for more information. Here’s their conversation. 

Seagulls are a fixture on the North Shore, but they can be troublesome. File photo - Rhonda Silence

Sidewalk food sales and seagulls on city agenda

The Grand Marais City Council held its last meeting for the month on Wednesday. The city has been meeting weekly during the COVID-19 pandemic to deal with matters related to the coronavirus. However, the meeting on June 24 was also a regular meeting, so there were other matters on the agenda. 
The meeting started with a time for public comment and the council shared information received from community members questioning access to a path from 6th Avenue West to 8th Avenue West. The path, which was platted as a road, has long been a shortcut for walkers, but has been vacated by the city for use as a driveway for a property owner. No action was taken by the city on the comments, but city staff was directed to research what rights the public has to access that vacated roadway. 
The mayor and city councilors also received public comments asking about the city's stance on the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. Community members  asked the city council to consider what it was doing to achieve racial equity. The council agreed to take a look at its policies, to ensure that the city was not unknowingly causing harm to people of color. 
Regular business at the council meeting included discussion of a change order for the Highway 61 work near the Grand Marais Family Dental Office. According to Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux, a mis-measurement led to an error in the amount of pipe needed for the city's wastewater system. 
A change to the city's ordinance due to the COVID-19 pandemic was discussed again. The city had approved sidewalk food sales to help restaurants make it through this time of reduced space for diners. That ordinance change was set to expire at the end of June. The council agreed to extend the ordinance amendment that allows use of sidewalks for food sales until the city's emergency declaration regarding COVID-19 comes to an end. 
Finally, the city council discussed an ongoing problem in the city of Grand Marais--seagulls creating a mess on rooftops and windows in the city. The Grand Marais Business Coalition asked the city to support a request to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for assistance in managing the seagull population. The council agreed to write a letter in support of the businesses, stressing that they would also like to see more habitat for the birds developed outside of downtown. 
WTIP's Rhonda Silence spoke with Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux about these matters. Here's their conversation. 

Smokey the Bear is pointing out that fire danger is HIGH. Photo by Rhonda Silence

Forest Service and DNR warn of high fire danger

With fire danger increasing, campers and day use visitors to state and national forests on the North Shore should be extra vigilant when building and extinguishing campfires.  Permits for burning yard debris have been suspended. 
This afternoon, June 26, the US Forest Service issued a news release noting that the current drought conditions are similar to the high fire years of 2006 and 2011--which was the year of the Pagami fire.  With the continued lack of moisture and increase in temperatures, there is the potential for any escaped fire to spread rapidly, especially on windy days. 
The Forest Service states that it wants visitors to enjoy a campfire, gooey s’mores, and a night sky full of stars, but they ask that the public follow these steps for minimizing those risks:
⦁ Think before you strike. Check for burning restrictions and monitor for extreme fire behavior signs, i.e. high winds and temperatures. 
⦁ Use the provided fire rings at dispersed campsites and established fire grates at Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) campsites.
⦁ Select a level spot a safe distance away from trees, low overhead branches, shrubs, dry grass, or logs to prevent the fire from escaping. Clear all flammable material within 5 feet.
⦁ Have a shovel and water available at the campfire site for extinguishing campfires.
⦁ Supervise the fire at all times. Do no leave your fire unattended. Even a light breeze could cause the fire to spread. 
⦁ Extinguish the campfire with water using the “drown and stir” method, make sure it is cold to the touch before leaving the area.
⦁ Limit fires to night-time hours on hot, dry windy days.
In addition, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Forester and Firefighter Aaron Mielke tells WTIP that as the 4th of July approaches, many people are setting off fireworks, which is a frequent cause of fires. Mielke reminds community members and visitors that in addition to being a fire hazard, aerial fireworks are illegal in Minnesota. 
For details regarding current fire conditions on Minnesota national forests, visit the Minnesota Incident Command System website.
Statewide fire danger conditions and current burning restrictions can be found on the Minnesota DNR website here
WTIP's Rhonda Silence spoke with DNR's Aaron Mielke about the drought conditions in the northland. 

A Minnesota black bear - File photo by Ardie Lien

Five BWCA campsites closed due to bear activity

The U.S. Forest Service - Superior National Forest announced the closure of several campsites in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness this week due to a number of negative human/bear interactions. The Forest Service has closed five campsites on Alpine Lake. 

The Forest Service also urges caution on Red Rock and Seagull lakes. 

Click here to see a map of the closed campsites on Alpine Lake, as well as nearby lakes where bear encounters and/or visitations have taken place. 

Forest Service wilderness rangers and cooperating outfitters on the Gunflint Trail are monitoring all of these areas. It is hoped that bear that have become habituated to the Alpine Lake campsites will leave if there are no longer humans and food at those sites. 

For more information from the U.S. Forest Service on camping safely in bear country, click here

WTIP's Rhonda Silence spoke with Gunflint District Ranger Michael Crotteau about the bear situation in the Gunflint area of the BWCA. Here's their conversation.