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North Shore News Hour


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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:
Robotics team member Hailey Smith gives the wiring a thumbs up - Photo by RaeAnne Silence

Ice Storm Robotics preparing for competitions

The Cook County Robotics team—Team Ice Storm—has been hard at work in recent weeks, sorting through parts left behind from previous years and figuring out what else is needed to construct a robot that will do what needs to be done in competition.

Team members are assembling motors to make the robot move, others are working on coding and wiring. Still others are attaching arm mechanisms and lights.

Other team members are working on publicity for the event—designing buttons and t-shirts.

The team is preparing for a preliminary competition in Grand Rapids on Sunday, February 17. And the main event for teams from all over the region is at the Duluth Convention Center on March 6-9.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence visited the School District 166 industrial tech area to see how things are going for Ice Storm. Here’s her report.


Cook County Sheriff's Office - Photo by WTIP

A look at the Law Enforcement Log

Each week the Cook County Sheriff’s Office provides a brief report of calls made to the Cook County Law Enforcement Center in the past week. This week’s report provides information logged by law enforcement dispatchers from Tuesday, February 5 to Sunday, February 10.

WTIP Community Radio asked for more details on a number of calls, such a report of an explosion in Tofte on February 6. The Sheriff’s Office explains it was an issue with an air handling unit at Bluefin Bay Resort. There were no injuries.

There was a call reporting suspicious activity on February 5 which turned out to be a maintenance person in the Border Patrol building.

There was a call of an unwanted person at a residence in Grand Portage. The person left peacefully and there were no charges.
There was a “check welfare” call for a person with mental health issues. The matter was referred to Cook County Public Health and Human Services.

Deputies assisted with traffic control at an accident on Highway 61 on February 6 and responded to a vehicle in the ditch on 5th Avenue West in Grand Marais on February 7. The vehicle was gone on arrival.

There were two calls for vehicles in the ditch on February 8. The first one hit a pole on West 5th Street in Grand Marais. The vehicle was gone when the deputy arrived. The second slid into the ditch on Kelly’s Hill Road. The vehicle needed a tow.

A caller near Cascade River on Highway 61 reported a swerving vehicle on February 8.

Sheriff deputies checked on a broken down semi. A caller reported a car parked on County Road 7 in Grand Marais that had been plowed around several times.

There were a few items lost and found: a wallet lost at the Gunflint Tavern, a set of keys somewhere on the Gunflint Trail, and a debit card. The debit card owner was located.

Cook County deputies were asked to check on a dog tied up outside at a residence in Grand Marais. The dog was gone when the caller checked again. There was another report of a loose dog on February 8.

Another animal call was a report of a car-killed wolf on Highway 61 on February 9.

Law enforcement handled a number of “public assist” calls ranging from a party needing to contact someone in another county to someone needing to contact someone in Kansas. Another caller needed a phone number for a furnace repair person.

A domestic disturbance call was received from Grand Portage on February 7. It was a case of two juveniles arguing. There were no charges.
Heavy snow led to several calls on February 8 on Wahlstrom Road, County Road 60 and Creechville Road. Vehicles parked there were possible hazards to plows. Deputies spoke with owners.

On February 9, a vehicle stuck in the ditch on County Road 7 requested a tow. Later that day, deputies assisted with pulling a U.S. Forest Service vehicle out of the snow. On February 10, deputies responded to a report of a possible drunk driver. The party was not found when the deputy arrived in the area.

There was a call reporting trouble with a juvenile who left home. The party was found at a relative’s home and was going to stay there.

Deputies responded to a disturbance on Ski Hill Road in Lutsen for a loud party in a room. The deputy spoke to tenants and they said they will quiet down.

On February 10, law enforcement dispatchers fielded a complaint about the fog horn in the harbor.

Deputies assisted with a snowmobile traffic stop on February 10 and also responded to a call from a snowmobiler running out of gas.

Cook County assisted the U.S. Forest Service by providing license plate and driver’s license information.

The log included 11 medical calls. There were 10 traffic stops that resulted in warnings and one ticket was issued.

Law Enforcement Center dispatchers handled seven misdialed or crank 9-1-1 calls.

Deputies participated in Operation Stone Garden, assisting the U.S. Border Patrol on February 7 and 10.

This week’s law enforcement log also included over 35 business and residence checks. Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Valerie Marasco explained that some of those checks are requested by property owners. Others are part of deputy foot patrols, during which deputies check for open doors. All of the checks are conducted randomly.

Viking girls at State - Emma Sexauer, Kalina Dimitrova, Sela Backstrom, Elsa Lunde, Reilly Walhers. Photo courtesy of the team

Great showing at State for Viking Alpine team

Cook County/Silver Bay skiers followed up on their great showing at the Section Meet at Giant’s Ridge with another stellar day at the State Meet back at Giant’s Ridge on February 13.  

Reilly Wahlers was the top Viking skier, putting together two solid runs and finishing in 10th. That earned her a spot on the stage with the other top 10 skiers in the state.

The other members of the State girls’ team were Sela Backstrom, finishing in 53rd; Kalina Dimitrova, 68th; Elsa Lunde 69th; and Emma Sexauer, 78th. The girls’ team finished 8th.

Will Surbaugh was the lone skier for the Viking boys and he skied well, coming in 38th in the large state field.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence checked in with Alpine Ski Coach Charles Lamb to hear his thoughts on the very successful showing at State.

Photos courtesy of the Cook County/Silver Bay Alpine team


The Creative Economy Collaborative has completed the Cook County Cultural Plan

Creative Economy Collaborative assisting city with public arts planning

The Creative Economy Collaborative (CEC) has been in the making since 2015. The intent of the CEC is to contribute to the social and economic future of Cook County through the arts. The CEC has involved government officials, some business owners and many artists.

The group recently released a report, "Leveraging Creativity: Cook County Cultural Plan." And, in recent months, the CEC has been working with the City of Grand Marais and the Highway 61 Steering Committee on the amenities that may be installed along the highway corridor passing through the city. 

To learn more about the CEC and how it working with the city on the Highway 61 project, WTIP's Rhonda Silence spoke with Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority Executive Director Mary Somnis and Grand Marais Art Colony Artistic Director Ruth Pszwaro about the CEC and the highway project. 

Here's that conversation. 


Tribal Chair Norman Deschampe with his council colleagues at the grand reopening of Grand Portage Lodge and Casino in July 2018.

Colleagues remember Grand Portage Tribal Chair Norman Deschampe

WTIP is sad to share the news that Norman Deschampe, chair of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, passed away on Saturday, February 9.
Norman served in the tribal chairman position for about 28 years. He also served on the executive committee of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, whose members are of the Grand Portage, Bois Forte, Fond Du Lac, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs and White Earth bands.
He served on the current Tribal Council with Vice-chair Marie Spry, Secretary/Treasurer April McCormick, and Council Members John Morrin and William “Bill” Meyers.
WTIP’s Rhonda Silence reached out to some people who worked with Norman. First we hear from Gary Frazier, executive director of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

And then WTIP spoke with Grand Portage Tribal Council Vice-Chair Marie Spry, who is serving as interim chair.

Services will be held Wednesday, February 13 - visitation at 9:30 a.m., services at 11 a.m. at the Grand Portage Community Center. Luncheon to follow. ​

Photo: All of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa council members were on hand for the grand reopening of the Grand Portage Lodge & Casino in July 2018. (L-R) Chairman Norman Deschampe, John Morrin, Vice-Chair Marie Spry, Secretary/Treasurer April McCormick, and Bill Meyers. Photo by Rhonda Silence


Norman Deschampe at the Mount Josephine overlook, May 2012 - Photo Rhonda Silence

A community loss: Grand Portage Tribal Chair Norman Deschampe

WTIP has learned that Norman Deschampe, Chair of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, passed away on Saturday, February 9.

Norman served in the tribal chairman position for about 28 years. He also served on the executive committee of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, whose members are of the Grand Portage, Bois Forte, Fond Du Lac, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs and White Earth bands.

He served on the current Tribal Council with Vice-chair Marie Spry, Secretary/Treasurer April McCormick, and Council Members John Morrin and William “Bill” Meyers.

Services will be held Wednesday, February 13 - visitation at 9:30 a.m., services at 11 a.m. at the Grand Portage Community Center. Luncheon to follow. 

Chamber logo

Chamber and area businesses continue "Plan B" workforce efforts

The Cook County Chamber had an interesting meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5. About 20 representatives from area businesses gathered to learn more about the possibility of recruiting workers from Puerto Rico. WTIP’s Rhonda Silence talked with Cook County Chamber Director Jim Boyd about those efforts.
Boyd explained that the effort to recruit workers from Puerto Rico is part of an overall Cook County initiative dubbed “Plan B.” He said Plan B is a conglomeration of efforts over the last two years to ensure that Cook County employers are not wholly dependent on foreign workers. 
Concerns were raised primarily because the J-1 student work/travel visas are vulnerable to “political backlash” and an “anti-immigrant attitude.” 
Boyd said one step to get away from recruiting workers through the visa programs was the development of a culinary arts program to start this year at School District 166. That is a partnership with Hibbing Community College and local businesses. 
Another step has been research of recruiting workers from Puerto Rico, where the economy has not fully recovered from recent hurricanes. Workers who want to move here have an advantage in that they are already U.S. citizens. 
At the meeting with area businesses, Boyd and Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) Executive Director Mary Somnis described the Plan B efforts to date. 
Boyd also told WTIP that local businesses heard from Minneapolis-based Frederico Velasco of Talent Integration, who has had success bringing workers to Iowa to work at the Winnebago plant there. Velasco has placed almost 200 people from Puerto Rico with Winnebago, as permanent employees. 
Velasco was at the February 5 meeting to talk about the work he has done for Winnebago and to learn if he could help Cook County as well. 
The Cook County/Grand Marais EDA applied for—and received—a grant from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation to hire someone to facilitate the Plan B efforts. Whether or not that leads to a partnership with Velasco is yet to be determined. 
It would not be an entirely new effort. Boyd said Bluefin Bay Resort has already worked with Velasco. There are at least 10 permanent employees from Puerto Rico working at Blue Fin Bay in Tofte now. 
Click below to hear the full interview on these efforts with Cook County Chamber Director Jim Boyd. 

The Grand Portage and Thunder Bay communities come together for Easter Seal kids

Grand Portage community hosts Snowarama for Easter Seal Kids

For the 16th year, the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino, Grand Portage Trail Riders and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa are joining forces with Easter Seals of Ontario to host Snowarama for Easter Seals Kids. This year’s event takes place on Saturday, February 9.
The event includes trail rides, a bonfire and prizes throughout the weekend. All Snowarama participants enjoy a complimentary dinner and live Saturday night entertainment, featuring Rage N Country.
To celebrate the 16th year at Grand Portage Lodge and Casino, the riders who collect pledges for Easter Seals will receive a chance to win  great Snowarama gifts, including a trip to Las Vegas. Riders receive one chance to spin a big prize wheel for each $100 that they raise.
Over the past 16 years, the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino Snowarama has raised over $450,000 for children and youth with physical disabilities. Funds raised at this event help provide financial assistance for children with physical disabilities for essential mobility and communication equipment and fully accessible summer camping opportunities.
Kevin Collins, President and CEO, Easter Seals Ontario, says, “Snowarama for Easter Seals Kids would not be a success without the support of the local snowmobiling community.”
Easter Seals Ontario was founded in 1922 as a vision to create a better life for children and youth with physical disabilities. Thanks to generous donors, Easter Seals continues to offer programs and services that allow kids to access essential mobility equipment and communication devices to help them be more independent.
For more information, visit
WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Rhonda Harrison, senior development officer with Easter Seals Ontario, who has been involved since the first year Snowarama was held in Grand Portage.


Sandi McQuatters of Terra Bella Floral found an extra surprise in her order of Valentine's Day plants

Terra Bella Floral finds a stowaway

When Terra Bella Floral, the flower shop in Grand Marais, received its shipment of plants for Valentine’s Day, included amongst the greenery was a surprise. 
WTIP’s Rhonda Silence talks to flower shop owner Sandi McQuatters about her amphibian adventure. 
Good news – the stowaway frog survived the night and has found a home here in Cook County. 

2019 is a planning year for the Grand Marais Parkside public access project on the waterfront

Grand Marais Park Board talks golf, harbor and trails

Although the North Shore is firmly in winter's grasp, the Grand Marais Park Board is working on a number of park and recreation issues.
At the park board’s latest meeting, on Tuesday, Feb. 5, the board welcomed new Grand Marais City Council liaison Craig Schulte.

The park board heard from the Gunflint Hills Golf Course work group, including an update on the search for a new superintendent for the 9-hole, 36-par course. There were eight applicants for the position and those were reviewed. Interviews have been conducted with the top applicants and city staff is now in the process of checking references. The park board hopes to have news on the position soon.

The park board and the golf course work group also discussed rates for the golf course and marketing for the new season.

There was also some news on the Grand Marais harbor parkside public access project, which will bring changes to the boat launch in the campground/recreation park. Park and Recreation Manager Dave Tersteeg said 2019 would be a year to finalize plans, such as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources lease with the city and construction documents and permits. And 2020 will be the year when actual work begins on the waterfront area.

The park board also heard an update on the Sawtooth Bluffs Recreation Area and the work under way to designate that as a “regionally significant parks and trail area.”

The Cook County Parks and Trails division has been working to reach that designation, and it determined that a master plan needs completion. That has been done and has been approved by the Cook County board of commissioners.

It was tentatively approved by the Grand Marais City Council, with the understanding that a joint powers board be created for future maintenance and planning. A joint powers committee will now be formed and Parks Manager Tersteeg said the park board will be involved with that discussion.

Finally, the park board approved some 2019 special event applications, for the Grand Marais Arts Festival on July 12-14 and the Lake Superior Water Festival on July 19-21. The park board also discussed the Stars of the North Music Festival on July 26-28. That request was tabled to obtain more information.