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North Shore News Hour


  • Monday 12-1pm
  • Monday 5-6pm
  • Tuesday 12-1pm
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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:
Although Superior National at Lutsen is snow-covered right now, the new holes will all be ready for play again in spring 2019

A year end update on Superior National at Lutsen

Cook County and the city of Grand Marais work together via the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) in a variety of ways. The EDA's list of initiatives includes the Cedar Grove Business Park in Grand Marais, partnering to bring workforce housing to Grand Marais and Lutsen,  working with the Minnesota Small Business Development Center to assist small businesses and more.

One of the major undertakings of the EDA, in fact the driving force for creation of the development authority, is the construction and maintenance of Superior National at Lutsen Golf Course. There have been some major renovations at the Lutsen golf course and some community members are wondering how that benefits the county overall. 

WTIP's Rhonda Silence reached out to EDA treasurer Scott Harrison to learn more about the EDA's role as management of the  golf course--and about how things are going now that the approximately $4 million renovation of the course is complete. 


In addition to skiing, varsity girls Sela Backstrom and Halle Lamb help out on course set-up and take-down.

Alpine skiers face fast course at Hibbing Invite

The Cook County/Silver Bay Alpine ski team traveled to Giant’s Ridge in Biwabik on Thursday, January 3 for the Hibbing Invite.

The team competed in a field of over 200 skiers, including top athletes from two Minneapolis schools and Brainerd. The Cook County/Silver Bay kids skied hard on a course made fast by some early morning freezing rain.

There were some miscues for the girls’ team. Reilly Wahlers was in third place after her first run, but crashed on her second which put her out of the running for a podium spot.

Sela Backstrom put together two good runs and ended the day in the top ten, in 9th places. Elsa Lunde had a good day, finishing in 18th.

Halle Lamb, recovering from injury, wasn’t able to finish racing.

The team is still working on establishing its varsity boys’  team. One of the usual top finishers, Will Surbaugh, was unable to race due to illness.

Coach Charles Lamb commended the junior high boys who stepped up to race varsity, earning 5th place in the Invite.

Cy Oberholtzer finished in 21st place, followed by Ray Dressly in 24th; Ben Obinger in 27th and Elijah Blanck in 34th.

Next up for the Cook County/Silver Bay Alpine skiers is a home meet, the Lutsen KooKoo Invite on Thursday, January 10. Racing starts at 10 a.m. and all are welcome to cheer on the team.

 WTIP's Rhonda Silence talked with Coach Lamb to hear more about the day. 

Photos courtesy of the team


The boundaries of the Tofte-Schroeder Sanitary Sewer District, circa 2000 - Photo courtesy of TSSSD

Schroeder petitions MPCA for removal from sewer district

The Tofte-Schroeder Sanitary Sewer District has been a topic on township agendas since 1999 when the West End townships joined forces to bring a municipal sewer system to the towns.

It was hoped that a sewer district would be an affordable, environmentally-friendly alternative to individual septic systems and business wastewater treatment facilities.

However, after years of research and engineering studies, the municipal system never came to be.

The township of Schroeder would now like to remove its citizens from the sanitary sewer system, but has found that is not an easy task.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence checked in with Schroeder Supervisor Bruce Martinson to find out why the project didn’t come to fruition – and what it is going to take to remove Schroeder township from the district.

Here’s their conversation.


Tom Rukavina at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, September 22, 2000 - Photo courtesy of Calebrw, Wikimedia

EDA Director Somnis shares some Tom Rukavina memories

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former Democratic state lawmaker Tom Rukavina, a champion of northeastern Minnesota's blue-collar Iron Range, died Monday, a former legislative colleague said. Rukavina was 68.

Rukavina died in Minneapolis, where he was being treated for an aggressive form of leukemia, state Sen. David Tomassoni of Chisholm said. Tomassoni said Rukavina's daughter, Ida, told him of her father's death.

"He will be remembered as a fiery, passionate giant that never stopped working for his beloved Iron Range and for the little people," Tomassoni told The Associated Press. "He was the kind of guy if he wasn't yelling at you, he probably didn't like you."

Rukavina was born in Virginia, Minnesota, of Croatian ancestry and served in the Minnesota House for 25 years, until 2012. He was later elected to the St. Louis County Board and served there until retiring last year because of health reasons.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar tweeted she will miss Rukavina's "zest for life & love for the people he represented so well."

"As Tom would tell it, he was for the little fellers, not the Rockefellers — a tribute to his friend and the late Senator Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash on his way to attend a funeral for Tom's father, Bennie," Klobuchar said in a statement.

Rukavina had worked as a milk truck driver and a garbage truck driver and was a miner at Minntac for three years before his election to the state House. He ran for governor in 2010 but dropped out during the DFL state convention.

"Sometime, I wasn't politically correct but I always tried to be politically honest," Rukavina told Minnesota Public Radio News in 2012.

"Part of the Range died today," said former Aurora Mayor Dave Lislegard, a Democrat who will be sworn into the Minnesota House on Tuesday. "His passion was real. It wasn't manufactured."

DFL Chairman Ken Martin said Rukavina was a "bulldog" for "all of the working men and women in Minnesota."

Locally, Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority Director Mary Somnis is one who worked closely with Rukavina during her tenure at the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board. WTIP talked to Somnis about her relationship with the former representative.  

Photo courtesy of Calebrw, Wikimedia


Cook County Ambulance transported an injured snowmobiler to North Shore Health on Saturday, Jan. 5

Snowmobile/car crash sends Lakeville man to hospital

A car and snowmobile collided on the Gunflint Trail in Grand Marais on Saturday, January 5, sending the snowmobiler to a Duluth hospital via medical helicopter.

Niels Peter Hansen, 50, of Lakeville, Minn. was driving a 2015 Polaris snowmobile when he crossed at the intersection of the snowmobile trail and the Gunflint Trail in the Pincushion Mountain area.

A 2000 Ford Explorer traveling north, driven by David John Rohl, 41, of Grand Marais, struck him.  

The call reporting the crash went out just before 2 p.m. on Saturday. Cook County Sheriff’s deputies, Grand Marais Fire Department and First Responders, and Cook County Ambulance responded to transport the snowmobile driver to the hospital.

The initial report was that Hansen appeared to have suffered broken ribs. He was later transported to Duluth via Lifeflight.
Hansen told the Cook County Sheriff’s Office that the stop sign was not visible. No citations were issued.

School Board Chair Sissy Lunde and Superintendent Bill Crandall

Superintendent shares news of School District 166

School District 166 met on January 3, 2019 for its annual organizational meeting, as well as its regular meeting.

The organizational meeting started at 5 p.m. with School Board Chair Sissy Lunde administering the Oath of Office to new District 3 School Board Member Rena Rogers.

The organizational meeting continued with the selection of board chair, clerk and treasurer. Sissy Lunde was elected to serve as board chair once again. Rena Rogers was selected to be clerk and Dan Shirley, treasurer.

The school board reviewed and appointed board representatives to a dozen committees, such as the Community Education Advisory Committee, North Shore Collaborative, employee negotiations team, the YMCA Advisory Council and others.

The board approved Grand Marais State Bank for its financial institution and the North Shore Federal Credit Union for its scholarship account.

The board also approved the Cook County News-Herald as its official newspaper. The rate remains the same as last year, $9 per column inch.
Pay for school board members was discussed at length, with Chair Lunde sharing information about the rate of pay in the adjacent Lake County Schools in comparison with Cook County. The annual pay for Lake County totals $3,300 for board members and $3,600 for the board chair. Cook County’s annual stipend is $2,300.

Lunde asked her colleagues if they wanted to increase the rate of pay. There was considerable discussion of different methods of payment and whether Cook County should attempt to match Lake County.

Board Member Deb White said the school board hadn’t had an increase in its stipend in eight years. Jansen pointed out that board members White and Lunde actually accepted no pay for one year during that time. White joked that no one runs for the school board to get rich.

White said she would not like to see School District 166 increase board pay by $1,000, because that money would be better spent on students. However, she suggested raising the annual stipend from $2,300 to $2,400, to round out the reimbursement to $200 per month.

In addition to the stipend, the board approved additional reimbursement of $700 to the board chair and $35 per session for members of the employee negotiations committee. Both of those rates are the same as last year.

The school board’s regular meeting followed with an update on the “Common Ground Summit,” which is a follow up to last year’s Social Justice Conference. The board finalized its policy for adding a student representative to the agenda at school board meetings. And the board heard an update from Assistant Principal Mitch Dorr about the cell phone policy put in place at the beginning of the school year.
The board also heard about a problem facing not just School District 166, but schools across the nation—vaping, or use of e-cigarettes. Assistant Principal Dorr was asked to bring more information to the school board at its next meeting.


The Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission is installed new, advanced meters in the City of Grand Marais

Advanced metering and new rates at Grand Marais Public Utilities

Grand Marais residents who receive services from the Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently received a letter in the mail announcing a pilot project for an advanced metering infrastructure program.

It has raised some questions, such as why does the PUC want to initiate this metering program? What is the benefit to the city—and to consumers?
In a related matter, at the last meeting of the Grand Marais City Council, City Councilor Tim Kennedy, who is the city’s PUC representative, said rates for PUC customers will not go up for water or electric services, but will increase 2 percent for wastewater.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence sat down to talk with Grand Marais City Administrator Mike Roth about that increase and about the new metering program. Here’s that conversation.


Grand Marais and Maple Hill fire departments responded to a cabin fire in Grand Marais on Saturday, Jan. 6

Small cabin destroyed by fire in Grand Marais

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call at about 8:30 p.m. on Friday, January 4, reporting a possible structure fire at 12 Nelson Trail in Grand Marais. The caller said there was no fire, but a great deal of smoke was coming from the small cabin.

The Grand Marais Fire Department, Maple Hill Fire Department, and Cook County Ambulance were paged to respond. The fire departments staged along Highway 61 and in the nearby Aspen Inn parking lot.

Firefighters entered the structure to locate the seat of the fire, while others protected the adjacent structures. They located the seat of the fire and were able to knock it down within about 10 minutes. Firefighters remained on scene to ensure the fire was completely out.

Emergency responders were clear of the scene by 10:30 p.m.

The individuals renting the cabin were not home at the time of the fire and there were no injuries.

The cabin suffered significant damage and is likely not salvageable.

The State Fire Marshall inspected the structure on January 5 and said the fire was not an arson incident. The suspected cause of the fire is an electrical issue.

WTIP contacted Grand Marais Fire Chief Ben Silence to see if he had any comment about the fire. He said, “I’m very proud of our fire departments. We’ve had two good ‘saves’ in the last three weeks. I’m proud of their hard work.”

A look at the law enforcement log from the Cook County Sheriff's Office

A look at the latest 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 details logged by law enforcement dispatchers from Monday, December 24 to Wednesday, December 30.  

WTIP Community Radio asked for more details on a number of calls, such as a “drug incident” on East Highway 61 on December 25. WTIP learned that Stephan Petron, 71, of New Ulm, Minn. was cited for possession of a small amount of marijuana in a motor vehicle and for possession of drug paraphernalia.

At 5:23 p.m. on December 26, there was a report of a vehicle on fire at Lutsen Mountains, in the parking lot near the maintenance building. Lutsen Fire Department, First Responders and Cook County Sheriff’s deputies responded and the first emergency responder on scene at 5:30 p.m. reported that the car, a 2004 white Pontiac Grand Prix, was fully on fire.
The fire was extinguished by 5:40 p.m. and emergency crews were clear of the scene just after 6 p.m.
The cause of the fire was not released.

A call regarding a theft on Store Road in Grand Portage was logged on December 26 and according to the Sheriff’s Office, that incident is under investigation.

There were three “public assist” calls, which cover all sorts of incidents in which the Cook County Sheriff’s Office helps in some way. One call was from a party concerned that snow-covered culverts stored in the ditch on the 600 Road in Tofte could be a traffic hazard. That call was referred to the U.S. Forest Service, which is responsible for the 600 Road maintenance.

Another public assist call was from a woman bringing her husband in to the emergency room after he fell and hit his head on the ice.
And on December 25, a request came in to check on a man who was last heard from while outside working on his car. That party called back—the man returned had returned phone calls and all was well.

Lutsen Mountains reported a theft after an individual was found skiing without paying for a pass. The call was cancelled after ski hill staff obtained credit card information from a family member.

There was a single car crash on West Highway 61 on December 25. No medical response was needed.

There were numerous car/deer accidents with two on Christmas Day, December 25; one on December 27 near Chicago Bay in Hovland; and two more on December 29.

A caller reported damage to property on Mineral Center Road in Grand Portage December 26. The party said a building whose front door was boarded up had been kicked in.

There were several “check hazard” calls from ice- and snow-covered trees blocking the driving lane. Those calls were referred to the Cook County Highway Department and MnDOT.

A “miscellaneous fire call” logged on December 30 at Caribou Highlands in Lutsen was for the Lutsen Fire Department. Caribou Highlands had questions regarding hotel fire suppression equipment.

And “Odin” the dog ran off in the morning of December 29. Fortunately, he returned on his own about an hour later.

If you need help from Cook County Law Enforcement, dial 9-1-1. For non-emergency calls, contact the Cook County Sheriffs Office at 218-387-3030.

The exciting start of the Norpine Fat Tire Classic - Photo courtesy of Rob Hasse Photography

Bikers preparing for the Norpine Fat Tire Classic

The Norpine Fat Bike Classic is in its third year and the popularity of the event seems to grow each year. Race day is Saturday, January 5, but events start on Friday with music and beer and wine tasting during registration packet pickup, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Superior National at Lutsen Golf Course club house. 
The racing starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday and spectators are invited to come watch the start at the golf course club house. It's a mass start so there is plenty of action. The Hall Road in Lutsen is also a good spot to catch the action, as well as just west of Cascade Lodge. 
For more information on the race, WTIP volunteer Mark Abrahamson talked to Mike Larson. Here’s their conversation. 

And for more information or to register, click here.