July 31, 2014

Reflectivity sign policy adopted by Cook Council

By A.J. Shuster

At the July 24 Cook City Council meeting, a visit was made by county commissioner candidate Tom Rukavina. He shared his roots to Cook and spoke of his plans if he is elected.
John Jamnick reported that the second coat of pavement went on all but one street, which was due to road work being done by county workers. There are 13 items on the punch list to complete and clean up this project. The one-year warranty begins when the shoulders are in. A long discussion took place on why not all alleys were paved. The answer was in funding, both from grants and city budget. A determination was made at the beginning with use and outlet parameters for which alleys could be covered. Perhaps unpaved alleys could be part of a future project.
Nichole Peterson presented a Lake Vermilion Trail support letter. This is for a project by the National Park Service entitled "Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, Midwest Region." As this letter did not require any financial participation, the council approved support.
From the research studied and online training received, Maintenance Director Bud Ranta reported that to comply with the required sign replacement for high reflectivity signs a policy must first be in place. After discussion it was determined to change 10 percent of signs every year, with a projected life-span of 10 years per sign. Also approved was the purchase of a $1,500 kit which tests the reflectivity of signs. Signs to be replaced include 52 stop signs, seven dead-ends, five speed, and one hospital sign. Optional are the 44 street signs.
Friends of the Park was granted a permit (gambling) for their Wings and Things event. The Wellhead Protection Plan was accepted by the federal government, and now comes compliance and annual reviews. Lakes Gas was approved for the winter contract with the lowest bid of the two submitted. Aug. 12 is Primary Election Day.
The Council Forum found praise for how nice the city is looking.

Comprehensive Plan expanded

By A.J. Shuster

At a Special Council Meeting on July 24, Nichole Peterson of the ARDC (Arrowhead Regional Development Commission) worked with those in attendance on the Comprehensive Planning draft. Some changes were made with additions and new information.
In reviewing the health care assets available in Cook there were a few which had been missed in previous sessions. Added were True Care Therapy, Carefree Assisted Living and Memory Care, Franks Pharmacy, and Mlaker Funeral Home (and coroner). Rock Gillson presented the opportunity for a Wellness Center with the standing infrastructure of the old school. He also proposed reinstating the facility as a Red Cross emergency center/shelter (for flooding, fires, tornado, railroad accidents, etc.). The local food shelf could also be a resource asset in such emergencies.
In the housing section, Peterson shared that by population statistics and available housing, the greatest needs are in studio apartments, condominiums and one-bedroom houses. Gillson said that plans are being started to make the other (two story) end into 18 two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot condos.
Nichole Peterson inquired as to the enforcement of housing and rental codes. She was informed that these are handled by St. Louis County. She related that baby boomers are aging and housing needs are changing, and how that can be handled has been researched by AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) - a good resource for information. Part of the Comprehensive Plan is that housing projects should be green, with help from local and broad-based organizations. One such group is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Standards (LEEDS). Josh Gillson is familiar with this entity from college.
One comment which arose from the active (human-powered) transportation was in regard to bike trail value. Would the cost of the trail for a few users be of better value applied to other uses, such as a crosswalk for Highway 53? Or city-wide sidewalks?
Other items discussed included public transportation and recreational options in the area.

'Where's the potato salad?' among questions at Senior Nutrition Site meeting


The Senior Nutrition Site in the basement of the Pioneer Apartments in Cook was filled with over 40 senior citizens plus representatives of the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA) on Monday at 1 p.m. The terminating of head cook Sue Dickson was the reason for the meeting.
The Nutrition Site feeds several seniors and others every day for $4 per meal. They also send Meals on Wheels to up to 30 seniors who can't get out. It is very important for these people, making sure they get a nutritious, low cost meal.
Earlier this month, stories were printed in the Virginia daily paper and the Tower Timberjay, plus a TV station made the story their main one. The stories dealt with the termination of Dickson and the possibility of the closing of the Cook site.
Former Cook mayor Dick Edblom ran the meeting and pointed out these stories which were, apparently, not very accurate. No one from the AEOA would take credit for the poor information in these stories.
Paul Kraus, assistant deputy director from AEOA, along with Harlan Tardy and Marilyn Ocepek were also on hand to answer questions.
Items brought up included Dickson apparently making too much potato salad on a Friday. Where the potato salad went was a question unanswered. Dickson also wouldn't roll silverware in napkins and had also had too much strawberries on hand. These minor items had the audience upset.
It was pointed out that all the food is used. If there are leftovers, they are put in other meals that are frozen.
The rule that those wanting to eat at the site had to call in by 9 a.m. was also discussed in length. Irish said this was so they could be the most efficient in making meals.
Vicki Sokoloski pointed out that this program is very important for the handicapped who can't get out. It was pointed out that Dickson was represented by the Steel Workers Union so terminating her was not a fast process. It was said by Harlan Tardy of the AEOA that Dickson's cooking wasn't the reason.
John Boutto touted the meals at the nutrition site. He noted they were good and filling at all times.
Tardy said the food wasn't the reason, but there were stringent government rules they had to follow. He added that they didn't want to shut down the Cook site. He added that they couldn't talk about the personnel issues due to data privacy.
AEOA went on record saying they wanted the Cook AEOA Nutrition Site to stay open with the community cooperating. This would mean that rumors of a boycott would have to end. They need volunteers. Tardy said of volunteers, "They've been great over the years."
Dick Edblom wanted to know what rules or violations there have been and Tardy said this was a personnel matter.
Lawrence Gustafson, speaking for his aunt, 94-year-old Clara Gustafson who has been a volunteer for the Nutrition Site for 14 years, wanted to know what the plans were that would deal with the firing. There were two backup plans, both failed, so backup Plan C was used which meant bringing in a cook from another site until a permanent cook was hired for the Cook site. Melissa Snidarich of Angora is the new head cook. Gustafson spoke of the potato salad problem, too much strawberries, and rolled napkins, noting how trivial they were.
Tardy said there were more problems than rolled-up napkins or potato salad.
Kathy Irish from AEOA noted, "We do try to stay within the rules." She said, "We have to follow rules. We don't like all of them. We have fought them."
In response to having Sue Dickson reinstated, the group was told that wouldn't happen.
Dick Edblom noted the reason the people were here was because of the rumors flying around. He complimented the people from AEOA for having this meeting and having it in Cook.
Judy Posch noted that AEOA has to follow the rules, saying, "Sometimes they are between the rock and the hard place."
It was pointed out that from 780 to 900 meals are served a month.
Clara Gustafson's daughter Donna Ruhl spoke of the biased newspaper stories that came out on this Cook story. Representatives from AEOA didn't know where the reporters got their stories, which weren't very accurate.
Tardy told the group, "We need your help to keep the site," and added that they wouldn't be bringing back Sue Dickson.
Discussion on volunteers receiving free meals was brought up. It was pointed out that their time was used for the 15 percent match AEOA needs to receive federal funds. No volunteers receive free meals, Kathy Irish pointed out.
Tardy added, "If you want the site, work hard to keep it."
It was noted that they need more people using the nutrition site and the Meals on Wheels. Edblom, who has delivered the meals for years, noted that for $4 a meal, you can't get a better meal.
There were discussions going on how to get more to attend and what AEOA personnel receive.
As the meeting broke up, an unofficial note came out from one who was very involved that the reason for the termination was that Dickson wanted to give Clara Gustafson a free meal for her volunteering.
Most of the plus 40 who came went away wondering why they went to this meeting. Data privacy is something most don't understand.
The meeting adjourned at 2:12 p.m. with many small groups still discussing the situation.

Joint Powers Board meets in Crane Lake, tours the beautiful lake


The Joint Powers Board, which was formed when the initial Namakan Basin Waste Water Treatment Program was initiated with the help of former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, took the scenic ride to Crane Lake last Wednesday for their meeting. They headed to the Crane Lake Chapel.
Koochiching County Commissioner Wade Pavleck chaired the meeting which included Rob Scott and Bill Congdon from the CLWSD board, CLWSD advisor John Connaker, Koochiching County Commissioner Brian McBride, Bob Nevalainen from Kabetogama, Crane Lake Township Commissioners Jerry Pohlman, Butch Eggen and Jim Janssen, Lori Dowling-Hanson from the DNR, Sara Christenson and Randy Jenniges from SEH, St. Louis County Board member Mike Forsman and former state representative and now a candidate for the St. Louis County Board, Tom Rukavina.
Ash River is working with the DNR for a land swap, so there were questions on how to speed this up.
Rainy River will have a large retention tank, so there were questions on where to put it so that it wouldn't be a bad sight, aesthetically. They have an $8 million grant, but have to come up with the matching money. The tank could be placed in Camp Kooch.
Crane Lake is in the middle of expanding their system down Handberg Road. There were questions raised about the quality of water coming from Lake Vermilion and how it affects Crane Lake. It was pointed out that the water has to come down 40 miles of the river and if there is a problem, that could be part of it. No studies have been done to see if there even is a problem.
The question was asked by Rob Scott if we needed the systems. The Namakan Basin project, which is now the Superior National Forest Clean Water Project, was originally going to cost a total of $25 million for Crane Lake, Kabetogama and Ash River. It has grown.
No one seemed to know if there was a problem.
There is an effort from Crane Lake to find out about the water quality of Lake Vermilion. The Sportsmen's Club of Lake Vermilion monitors the water quality closely. It was also pointed out that residents keep an eye on the lake and if anyone doesn't follow the rules, they are quick to be turned in.
The meeting was a good chance for the various groups to get together and discuss what is happening in their areas and how it is going to be paid for.
The beautiful Crane Lake area was shown off next with lunch at the new Voyagaire Lodge and then a boat ride on Crane Lake by Rob Scott.


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

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