October 18, 2018

It may be Loony but we do it every year! Penny L. Jackson, Author and VLA Volunteer

by Todd Olson

I missed the Annual Loon Count on Lake Vermilion as it flew right by me. As someone new to the area, I would have never guessed that we would count the loons every year. But from what I've been told, this event happens to be a premier volunteer opportunity. People wait for years to be assigned a territory to count.
I wondered why? What draws people to volunteer and who started this event? With a few questions in hand I sought out Mardy Jackson, who agreed to tell me her story of counting loons for over 23 years.
As a child, Mardy and her family spent much time at their family cabin located on Sand Lake in northern Minnesota. Mardy, along with her brother and three sisters, spent their days picking blueberries, swimming, playing in the woods, running wild and feeling free. She grew up loving and enjoying the great outdoors and everything it had to offer.
As an adult, the north woods and lakes were forever calling her back to its cool, clear waters and tall pines. In 1973, her husband, Bob, suggested they look "way up north" for a place on a lake. She immediately knew an adventure was in sight and she was ready for this move.
Bob looked for properties and found one on Fabian Bay of Lake Vermilion. It had just enough land, a cabin and multiple outbuildings. Needless to say, Mardy was extremely excited and could hardly wait to see it. But, to her disappointment, it wasn't the cabin she always dreamed of. Her dream cabin was a log home with a split rock fireplace and this didn't even come close. She looked at Bob and promptly told him, "It looks like any other house we could have bought in town. It doesn't even look like a cabin." After a lot of negotiations were made, Bob had finally talked her into this cabin.
It was late August in 1980 when Mardy spotted 26 loons gathered near Strawberry Island. In all the summers she had spent at Sand Lake as a child, she had never ever seen that many loons gathered together. She thought to herself that this had to be a phenomenon! She had to tell someone, so she did. Mardy took it upon herself to write a letter to the State Supervisor of the DNR. It took until late fall before she finally received a reply. The letter was quite long and included a 2x3-inch box in the lower left-hand corner suggesting that she report to him the following summer the positions and amount of any loons she might see on the entire lake. Her first thoughts were, "The man must not have a map of Lake Vermilion. He can't mean the whole lake. Doesn't he realize how big this lake truly is?"
After giving it much thought, she waited until the following July and took it upon herself to do a personal loon survey. She got out her colorful map of Lake Vermilion and charted her way. Once out on the lake she placed a black dot on her map for every adult loon she saw. For every chick she placed a red dot on the same map. If she saw people around, she would ask them if they had seen any loon families around their bay. If so, she would add this information to her map. This process took 2-12 weeks just to count the loons from the east end to Oak Narrows. Anyone in their right mind could have guessed that this would not be an accurate count.
But, as luck would have it, around that same time a request came from Greg Raps, president of the Sportsmen's Club, looking for projects that had to do with the lake. A light bulb went on! Mardy contacted Greg with her idea and the board members had no problem approving this project. With the help of Bob Daggit and Barb Shook, the lake was divided into 23 territories and volunteers were found to help with the count of all the loons on the lake.
For the past 36 consecutive years, the Lake Vermilion Loon Count has taken place the second week in July. This week was originally chosen as the chicks have survived any predators and are large enough to swim on their own. The counting day is set along with an alternate day in case of inclement weather. At 9 a.m. on the designated day, the counters steer their boats in a grid pattern traveling very slowly back and forth on their assigned territory. They count singles, pairs and chicks. The final count gets tallied at the end of their assigned time frame and the numbers are recorded. Over the years, the loon population on Lake Vermilion has remained steady. This year 235 loons were counted.
Just imagine what life would be like without volunteers like Mardy Jackson asking the simple question, "Why?" Without her questioning, we may have never considered the task of counting loons. And each year 67 or more volunteers would not have the opportunity to get out on the lake and add their beautiful loons to the count.
You too can make a difference. Maybe you have something in mind that you would like to do or implement. Or maybe you're just looking for information to volunteer. The Vermilion Lake Association would love to hear from you. Contact Pat Michaelson, Volunteer Program Leader, at plmichaelson@gmail.com or check out their website at www.VermilionLakeAssociation.org.

Greenwood conducts its business before public input

by Anthony Sikora

As soon as I read Dr. John Bassing's morning e-mail I knew that the Tuesday evening regular meeting of the Greenwood Town Board would be interesting.
Dr. Bassing wrote, as he often does, to alert me to an error I well may have made in my reporting the township's September 11 supervisors meeting. According to Bassing "your article on Greenwood Township dated Sept 11 you state the Board approved the payment of all current claims against the township.  I think there was not a motion to approve the claims."
He may well be correct. I did report that the board had approved payment of its bills at the September meeting. I do know that the board listened to Township Clerk Sue Drobac read a lengthy list of each and every claim presented, and I know that there were no objections raised by any board member on any of the bills. The full board of supervisors was fully aware how each and every dime of the township's money was being spent and approved paying the obligations which arose during the month which had passed since the board last met in August. At that September meeting, as it does at nearly every meeting, the board paused in its handling the township business on its agenda to acquire the signature of each of the five supervisors approving the payment of claims presented.
What I don't know for sure is if there was a proper motion, support and majority vote to actually approve paying those bills. It would be a simple matter to look in my notebooks to see what I actually recorded, at that time, but, I thought, I can just take Bassing's word and assume that, perhaps, there was not a proper motion and vote. It certainly would not be the end of the world and, once brought to the attention of the town board, a simple enough matter to correct.
I do, however, regret my lapse in complete and thorough reporting and offer sincere apologies to The News' readers.
- Anthony Sikora
· · · ·
Most township meetings which occur each month across Minnesota are actually quite boring and uneventful affairs with some small number of supervisors meeting to take care of the township bills, discuss, and approve or reject any business before the board as well consider the upcoming needs of the township in its efforts to improve the life of its local residents. The Tuesday, October 9, 2018 meeting of the Greenwood Town Board of supervisors proved to be different from a typical township meeting, however, before the meeting was over, Chairman Mike Ralston had to gavel citizens out of order during public input and because the township was finished with its business, and public input evolved into a shouting match which would never accomplish anything, Supervisor Carmen DeLuca moved, with support from Supervisor Paul Skubic, to adjourn the meeting and by unanimous vote provided a dramatic end to the meeting.
What led the town board to this closing point was regular, routine and professional-a textbook example of how to conduct a township meeting.
Chairman Ralston called the meeting to order and it was noted that Supervisor Byron Beihoffer was not going to be able to be in attendance at this meeting. Following the traditional Pledge of Allegiance recitation Ralston asked to move public input and correspondence to the end of the agenda and with motion, support and by vote this was accomplished and the agenda was accepted as amended.
The board next unanimously approved the September 11, township meeting minutes. The minutes, as presented by Greenwood Clerk Sue Drobac, noted that there was "no formal motion" on paying the claims against the township. 
The town board also unanimously approved the report provided by Greenwood Treasurer Pam Rodgers. The financial reports note September ending balances:
Checking Account - $227,507.01
Long Term Investments - $251,725.95
Savings Accounts - $230,721.03
Totaling - $709,953.99
Rodgers reported that the township subtracted an additional $203.75 from the last month end balances because of payroll deposit errors, and added $2.17 on top of the ending balance, now declaring $709,956.16 to reconcile items to match Schedule 1. "The payroll deposit was incorrect-it wasn't a big deal and it's now corrected," Rogers said.
The township receipted $16,409.48 in income over the past month from 911 sign sales, town hall and pavilion rent, a $15,000 donation to the Greenwood Township Fire Department from the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and $1,004.48 in interest revenue.
Chairman Ralston reported that Supervisor Beihoffer was researching options in installing an irrigation well at the township's pavilion and because of his absence asked the clerk to move that discussion onto the November agenda.
Ralston also asked the clerk to document the current process required to rent the pavilion and make suggestions towards developing a rental form and present that information at a future meeting.
A letter of complaint from Jeff Maus, alleging numerous allegations of disrespectful treatment and the failure of the town board to investigate, in good faith, other complaints he has made, was read into the record by Clerk Drobac.  The News has requested a copy of the letter from Greenwood Township so the complete complaint can be accurately documented.
Chairman Ralston reported that Maus' letter has been forwarded to the township's attorney for review and legal advice.
The town board was updated on the issues related to the only road the township has authority and responsibility over-Birch Point Road Extension. Ralston reported that he has discussed, with the township attorney, potential issues which will arise when extensive maintenance on that road is required and he reported that there is a process by which the township can levy adjacent property owners to pay for necessary repairs. It was also reported that the portion of road known as "Old" 77 is still a county road and the township is not responsible for its maintenance.
Clerk Drobac reported that over the past 12 months, October 2017 through September 2017, the township spent $9,124 on hiring outside maintenance work. It is expected that this information will be utilized as the township develops its next budget and considers on how best to manage the township's ongoing maintenance requirements.
The board of supervisors and Fire Chief Dave Fazio reviewed the Fire Department's suggested changes to its Standard Operating Guidelines and Paid on Call guidelines. The town board unanimously approved the suggested changes and will send a copy to the township attorney for his review.
When Chairman Ralston asked Clerk Drobac to describe the process the township undertakes in selecting election judges she responded, "There is no process." She explained that she has a list of potential judges and that when people ask to be a judge she adds them to the list. There is a required training all judges must attend, however, the township pays for the training, Drobac told the board. There have been three new applicants to serve as an election judge, the board learned
Supervisor DeLuca said that he believes local residents should have first opportunity to serve as a judge.
Supervisor Skubic question-ed if there has ever been a problem with not having enough judges and learned from the clerk, that "No," there has always been extra judges and the practice has been to declare alternate judges, who could be called to serve, if other, scheduled judges can not fulfill the obligation.
Treasurer Rodgers noted that long-term judges are sometimes no longer available and that the township should consider training new judges to keep a number of judges available to serve. "Mary Richard has moved out of the township," Rodgers said.
"She can still serve as a judge," Drobac reminded the board. Discussion on this issue ended without any formal action being undertaken by the town board.
Under public input, Bassing questioned if the township has undertaken any action on his complaint about inactive firefighters being kept on the roster and wrongfully increasing certain aid amounts the township receives. He went on to chastise the board for its lack of training and erroneous paying the September bills without proper motion, support and vote. Bassing's final concern and advice to the town board was that the township should avoid accepting responsibility for "Old" highway 77.
Chairman Ralston said that he could not agree more with Bassing. "I'm against accepting any new roads, too!," Ralston emphasized. Answering the concerns about the incorrect fire and EMR rosters, Ralston reported that as soon as the township updates the fire department Standard Operating Guidelines a review can be made and the rosters kept updated and accurate. 
Mark Drobac asked for an update on his request to receive the township inventory of equipment. "I just reviewed the Clerk's inventory," Ralston noted. "I have had the fire department list for some time and will present both at the next township meeting," Ralston said.
Jeff Maus questioned the town board's policy of moving public input to the end of the meeting. "It is then too late to make comments on agenda items," Maus complained.
Steve Rodgers interjected, to much applause, "I applaud moving the comments to the end - too often public comments have been used to try and hijack the agenda," Rodgers said.
Maus then continued reciting a litany of potential election slogans current town board members might use the next time they run for office. The slogans were written in a manner suggesting that town board members were less than forthright and honest in their dealings with the township.
Maus was able to recite many potential slogans before ultimately being gaveled into silence by Chairman Ralston. He started shouting that the chairman was trying to silence his first amendment rights. Joanne Bassing started yelling that she too wanted to be heard, and (John) Bassing was shouting again claiming the need for more board training and about the lack of a vote to approve the September bills. 
In other action, the Greenwood Town Board of Supervisors:
· Passed a motion approving the claims presented against the township on September 11, and made formal approval of paying those bills, correcting the improper procedure undertaken in September
· Passed resolution 1864 accepting the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa donation of $15,000 to the Greenwood Township Fire Department
· Approved, upon recom-mendation by Supervisor DeLuca, adjusting two Pine Island fire numbers and sending registered letters acknowledg-ing the changes to the two affected property owners
· Approved purchasing $8,468 in insurance for the township from Western World Insurance
· Alerted township residents that St. Louis County takes littering seriously at its recycling containers and because someone illegally dumped shipping packaging with their address still prominently displayed on the packaging at the town hall the county sheriff's office is filing charges against the perpetrator
· Approved the purchase of new signage to display recycling rules for the public at the canister sire at the town hall
· Approved calling for bids on snowplowing services for the township following the township's receipt of a letter from T. J. Kladivo, last winter season's snowplowing provider
· Approved seeking the sale of unused fire department radios and other unused electronic equipment
· Learned that a Free Will donation Pizza Party and Silent Auction will be undertaken, between 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon, until 7:00 o'clock the evening of Saturday, Oct. 27, to benefit the Greenwood Recreation Board's public service work and that a pavilion area cleanup will be undertaken Thursday, Nov. 8.
A copy of Jeff Maus' letter is as follows:
Greenwood Township Clerk,
In accord with the Greenwood Personnel Policy adopted by the Board on July 11, 2017, I am writing this letter to report multiple disrespectful workplace incidents.
The special reporting requirements outlined in the Employee Response to Disrespectful Workplace section of the Personnel Policy state; If the Town Board is perceived to be the cause of a disrespectful workplace behavior incident, a report will be made to the Township Attorney who will confer with the Town Board regarding appropriate investigation and action.
The Township's Personnel policy defines violent behavior to include the use of physical force, harassment, or intimidation.
The incidents are:
1) Failure to consider an employee grievance in good faith.
2) Derogatory comments
3) Untrue statements
Good faith;
The town board by stating "the Township's Personnel Policy appears not to have been adopted by the Town Boards of this date" fails to honor the policies outlined in the document they approved with a 5-0 vote on July 11, 2017.
And, even if the Township's Personnel Policy was adopted by the Town Board, the draft on file specifically does not apply to the Township's fire department personnel.
These assertions are contrary to Board actions taken in 2017.
Passed out to all FD personnel in an FD business meeting in September of 2017 where each employee in attendance signed to verifying receipt of the Policy. The document recording employee receipt of the Personnel Policies is in possession of the clerk.
The fact that a Special meeting of the Board was held July of 2018 to hear a grievance which is referenced in the Personnel Policy confirms the fact that the Personnel policy was adopted and applies to the Fire Department Personnel.
Derogatory comments;
During the June 19, 2018, Special Meeting for the purpose of Employee grievance the Chair made the comment that the issue at hand was due to "greed or saltiness".
Statements of this nature are derogatory and untrue and I believe seek to intimidate, retaliate and harass. There is no reason those words should have been used in the hearing. They were also printed in the Township's official newspaper of record.
In July of 2018, the board called a special meeting for the specific purpose of hearing a grievance that I submitted. The board directed the clerk to contact me to be certain that I would be in attendance. "This would go very badly for you" if I was not in attendance, was a statement made by the Chair, Mike Ralston, in a conversation in the meeting as to my attending the hearing. Correspondence from township attorney, Mike Couri, referencing the grievance, instructs the board to have me in attendance at the hearing of the grievance. Please explain your assertion of my attendance not being required. And deny compensation stating "As Mr. Maus was not required to be on the premises at any time during which the grievance was processed". The untrue statements made in the letter sent to me, titled, Grounds for Denial, are disrespectful, intimidating and retaliatory.
I look forward to your informing me of the appropriate investigation and action,
Jeff Maus

'Talk to Your Kids'


"See the Signs" was the title of the meeting held last Thursday at the North Woods School in the Commons that was put on by ISD 2142 Community Education's Coordinator Denise Parson. This program was for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents and community members. The meeting helped those present learn the signs of drug abuse, whether prescription or street drugs, learn what juuling, vaping and dabbing is, and the devices used. It was also a chance to learn the danger of THC oil drops being used with these devices and learn about the health concerns associated with these activities. E-cigarettes have been disguised to look like many innocent things, such as zip-drives for computers. Those present were shown samples of e-cigarettes, and ingredients used in them.
The presenters included Sergeant Luke Hendrickson of the Lake Superior Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force, St. Louis County Deputy Sheriff Brock Kick, the North Woods School Resource Officer; and Rachel Beldo, Nurse Practitioner with Scenic Rivers Health Services. There were only around 25 community members, parents and youngsters on hand for this very important meeting.
The first item that was discussed was the use of e-cigarettes. These are devices used instead of real cigarettes. E-cigarettes are popular among teens, but under new laws developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designed to protect young Americans, minors can no longer buy them.
Research so far suggests that e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes, but e-cigarettes can still damage a person's health. Vaping is a new word that describes using e-cigarettes where puffing activates the battery powered heating device which vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge or reservoir. The person then inhales the resulting aerosol or vapor (called vaping). Items that can be used in the e-cigarettes include THC Oil, cannabis Oil or Marijuana Oil. THC oil can be legally purchased if you live in a state that has approved cannabis for medical or recreational use. If a user doesn't live in such a state, they can use CBD oil made from hemp to get the same benefits. THC oil is created by extracting the THC compound from marijuana. THC is the compound responsible for producing the "high" feeling in its users, as well as other medicinal effects. THC oil is highly regulated.
Marijuana oil is created by extracting the THC compound (and other cannabinoids) from marijuana (the high-THC version of cannabis). It is used medically and recreationally for its high THC content.
CBD oil is created by extracting the CBD compound from the stems, stalks and leaves of the hemp plant. This is turned into products that are used to calm and relax the body and mind. THC oil, marijuana oil and cannabis oil are illegal to buy online.
The meeting started out mainly discussing e-cigarettes and the oils used, but discussion rapidly changed to the use of other drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana. Sgt. Hendrickson spoke of marijuana use and how many states are making it legal. He noted that the sale and use of marijuana usually didn't result in a prison term. It was also pointed out, though, that marijuana was a "Gateway Drug" starting the users into using other drugs.
Hendrickson told the crowd that we have a drug epidemic up here, but people don't seem to realize it. More notice should be given out in the newspapers. When the Task Force does make a huge arrest, many don't even take notice of it.
Hendrickson said there is so much meth available that it is a real problem. He told the crowd that methamphetamine has been around since the 1900s.
The audience had several questions, including the issue of decriminalizing the drug laws.
Parents and others were told that to recognize someone using drugs look at their eyes and when the pupils are pinpoints that is one way. Drug users have face tremors and their eyelids flutter. Marijuana users have redness in their eyes. Meth users are known to be teeth grinders and have scabs all over their bodies.
Sgt. Hendrickson handed out packets with information on all types of drug use and how to recognize it. This was a very important meeting for all community members, but especially parents of teenagers. It seems that just a small portion of teens use drugs or e-cigarettes, but parents need to know.
"They should have an open dialogue with their youngsters," Hendrickson said.
SRO officer Brock Kick spoke of his dialogue with the students and how they come to him for answers. The SRO in our schools has proven to be a huge plus.
Community Ed. Coordinator Denise Parson is to be commended for providing this meeting. At an early age is the time to stop the use of drugs, which can ruin a youngster's life.


Pick up this week's paper for more stories and pictures...

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Tax forfeited land auction results: 28 properties sold for $429,585

Letters to the Editor...