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WTIP talks sidewalks, seagulls and city business with mayor

Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux - Photo by Rhonda Silence, WTIP
Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux - Photo by Rhonda Silence, WTIP

The Grand Marais City Council had a full agenda for its Wednesday, April 10 council meeting, as well as several community members in attendance to speak during the public comment period at the start of the meeting. 
 
Plenty of public comments
First up was Andrea Orest, who asked for city support for the continuation and revision of the Active Living Committee. After brief discussion, the council agreed unanimously to lend support to the efforts of the committee.
 
The second person to speak was Mickey Brazell, who expressed concern about the condition of the city’s sidewalks. Brazell said on some streets there are no sidewalks at all, and in other areas, bushes block the walkway. 
 
City Council members noted that his concern nicely followed the comments from Orest of the Active Living Committee and the work that committee has done and hopes to do. Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux also referred Brazell to the city’s work to create a pedestrian plan for the city. Information can be found on the plan here.
 
Brazell also asked if the city could come up with a plan to deal with the overabundance of seagulls in the city. He said he believes there are more of the gulls than ever before. 
 
Councilors agreed that the seagull population seems to be larger than it has ever been, but noted that they are a historically protected species. However, Mayor Arrowsmith DeCoux said he believes the city could get a permit to remove abandoned nests, which would encourage the birds to build their nests away from the downtown area. 
 
Councilor Kelly Swearingen noted that the city reduced the problem with Canada geese by advising the public not to feed those birds. She said perhaps the same should be done for seagulls. 
 
The council agreed to do more research into the seagull situation. 
 
A final speaker during the public comment period was North Shore Health Administrator Kimber Wraalstad, who gave an update on hospital activities. 
 
Energy innovation encouraged
George Wilkes, of the Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission, also a member of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, gave a presentation to the council on the “Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act.”
 
Wilkes said to date, 135 other cities and counties have passed resolutions for what he described as a “national, revenue-neutral, carbon pricing policy.” 
 
Wilkes said that this bill is well aligned with the “Carbon Fee and Dividend” policy that the PUC and the city supported with a resolution in 2017.
 
Councilor Tim Kennedy, the city’s representative on the PUC, said he is familiar with, and comfortable with, the legislation. He said he would be ready to vote to support a resolution endorsing the act, but said he would understand if his colleagues wanted to take time to consider the resolution before voting. 
 
Councilors Craig Schulte and Kelly Swearingen both said they would like more time and the matter was tabled to a future meeting. 
 
City Hall/liquor store redevelopment still up in the air
The council reviewed the one packet it received in response to its request for proposal (RFP) for redevelopment of the building that houses Grand Marais city offices, the municipal liquor store, and offices of the Cook County Chamber and Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority. 
 
The council said the information provided by Thies & Talle Enterprises was interesting, with its concept of a three-story structure consisting of the liquor store and office space on the first floor; workforce apartments on the second; and short-term, higher-end rentals on the third. However, councilors said the proposal did not have enough cost/benefit analysis for any decisions to be made. 
 
Mayor Arrowsmith DeCoux said that was understandable, as the city was just putting the idea out there to gather suggestions for use of the site. He said one thing the council learned was that the project is actually too small for most business developers. 
No action was taken, but the council said it would reach out Thies & Talle Enterprises for more information.
 
City hall rental
In a somewhat related matter, the council considered a request from an individual who would like to rent or lease the unused space in the city hall, formerly the “Office Outpost,” an office-share offering and before that, the city’s tourist information center. 
The space would be used for a retail home interior furniture/case goods shop. The party would like to operate the business on a trial basis. 
 
The council approved leasing the space, contingent on finalization of a lease agreement by city attorney Chris Hood. 
 
In other business
In other business, the city granted use of a 14-foot wide section of public right-of-way adjacent to their property. The right-of-way was designed to be an alley, but was never constructed and is just vacant space. The property owners, John and Evonne Halvorsen, asked to use the space as an entrance to their property so they are able to have off-street property on 8th Avenue West. 
 
The city granted the Halvorsens a variance to construct a single family home on their lot in January 2017. 
And finally, the council followed the recommendation of Grand Marais Fire Chief Ben Silence to hire Justin Rexrode as a firefighter.  
 
WTIP’s Rhonda Silence talked to Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux about all of these matters in this interview. 

Part 1 includes public comment and discussion of the 

“Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act.”

Part 2 continues with discussion of  the housing study and redesign of city hall and more.