June 21, 2018

New St. Louis County Public Works Facility gets started with groundbreaking

St. Louis County leaders broke ground Wednesday, June 13, at 10:30 a.m., for a new Public Works Maintenance Facility in Cook. The groundbreaking took place at 9558 Ashawa Road, which previously was the site of Disability Specialist.
The $23 million project encompasses a 60-acre site and will involve renovations to one building and constructing three new ones. The project will include constructing an 82,000 square foot heated building for vehicle storage and mechanic space, a 16,500 square foot cold storage building, and a 16,500 square foot structure for salt and sand storage. The existing Disability Specialist Building will be remodeled into office space for Public Works and several other county departments.
The new facility will provide a centralized base for crews serving a more than 2,000 square mile area of the county, including Cook, Linden Grove and surrounding areas from Side Lake to Kabetogama to a portion of the Echo Trail. Approximately 567 miles of county roads, as well as various contracted roads and driveways, will be maintained from this new facility.
"Our public works crews do an amazing job clearing many miles of roads after winter storms," said Commissioner Mike Jugovich, who chairs the Public Works Committee. "Having this centralized facility, with the improved storage garages for our vehicles, will help our folks do their job more efficiently while keeping our vehicles in better condition longer."
"This area of the county includes a lot of miles of important county roads that need to be maintained," said Tom Rukavina, whose district includes the new facility. "This investment shows our continued resolve to serve all our residents and communities. And, of course, I hope this facility leads to more county staff being located in the Cook area."
The project is expected to be completed by late fall of 2019. Once operations are consolidated in the new facility, the existing facility in Cook will be closed. Meanwhile, the existing facility in Linden Grove will be converted into a depot for salt and sand storage.

Montana Cafe re-opens under new ownership

by Robin Fisher

The new restaurant got its feet wet by opening up during the Cook Timber Days celebration June 8-10.
New owner Megan Brodeen said, "We are just going to offer a few items the first weekend, but will have a full menu later on. The first menu items include the cheeseburger, the double grilled-cheese sandwich, and walleye egg rolls. We also have malts and root beer floats."
Folks who came in during Timber Days enjoyed the food and seeing the historic Montana Cafe open again.
Megan has enjoyed cooking from an early age, learning from her grandmother Faith Brodeen. She enjoyed cooking for two years at Melgeorge's Elephant Lake Lodge and then the Sunset Steakhouse at Fortune Bay. She has always dreamed of having her own restaurant and saw the opportunity when Val Ohotto was looking to sell the Montana Cafe.
Val and Jerry Ohotto had owned and operated the Montana Cafe at 29 South River Street in Cook since 1996. The cafe closed its doors with no buyer on Nov. 17, 2017. At that time Megan was busy at college (UMD) working on her business degree. Megan graduated in May with her double major of Entrepreneurship and Organizational Management. The Montana was still available and she worked out a deal with the Ohottos. She is 22 years old, but has the energy and new ideas to make the Montana Cafe a success and a great place to eat. Her entire family has worked hard on the cleaning and maintenance needed to get the Montana Cafe up and running.
Megan and her parents, Tim and Kelly Brodeen, live in rural Cook. Her sister, Krystal Brodeen, lives in Ely and is the PR person for the new restaurant. A Kickstarter page was put in place for folks to make pledges to help the new business.
Megan said their initial goals have already been reached. Megan has hired two cooks, Wyatt Lokken and Jude Carlson. Her waitresses are Brenna Bristol and Carey White-Wynoda. They plan to start with hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Hours on Sunday will be 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Megan plans to continue some of the dishes that the cafe was famous for: sandwiches, burgers, patty melts, and bakery items. She wants to add a few of her own favorites like the walleye egg rolls and chicken wraps.
Megan plans to add some badly-needed new equipment like a conveyor dishwasher. She plans to refurbish the classic wooden tables and buy new tableware. She is also excited to begin decorating with historic photos of the town of Cook. Both local folks and tourists will be glad to have the Montana Cafe as one of our eating choices.

Greenwood Town Board schedules special meeting during Tuesday meeting

by Anthony Sikora, Tower News

June 12 - Members of the Greenwood Town board of supervisors unanimously voted to address a new grievance, filed against the township fire department by Jeff Maus, at a Special Meeting next week.
The Special Meeting is scheduled for 4:00 in the afternoon on Tuesday, June 19, at the Greenwood Town Hall.
Supervisor Carmen DeLuca advised the board of supervisors that it should attempt  to have Mike Couri, township attorney, available for the meeting.
In early 2017, Maus settled with Greenwood Township for $18,000 following a 2014 complaint he made to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (MDLI). 
In March of this year, Maus filed a new complaint alleging that the township did not follow its own hiring policy, and that it did not properly follow its own application process and that he was not interviewed for a fire department officer position in "retaliation for his previously filed whistleblower complaint with Minnesota OSHA," according to the MDL&I query. This matter has yet to be resolved.
Although the Tower News has not yet obtained a copy of the new complaint, it is generally understood that it involves the township failing to reimburse Maus for some expenses incurred relating to recent training he undertook. The town board approved, and paid for, Maus' attendance at a training class earlier this year.

Thunderstorm drops 5 to 7 inches of rain in Cook /Lake Vermilion area in two hours


The sky southwest of Cook turned to ominous darkness last Saturday morning, but no one could believe what was coming to the Cook and Lake Vermilion area soon. The Farmers Market was set up in Cook for the first time, but the participants quickly shut down. Then a drenching rain came before 11 a.m. and this area was in for a storm to remember.
Before the storm departed the area, over five inches of rain had fallen in a short time. Rain gauges that were meant to go to five inches were overflowed. Roads were washed out and streets were closed.
The Waschke Chevrolet and Northwoods True Value parking lots on Highway 53 were under water with a couple of cars at Waschke's in water up to their windows. The street connecting Vermilion Drive with Highway 53 was closed and the street in front of Furniture Plus was under water. Water went into the basement of many homes and businesses. This was another of the famous Cook floods, but it came from a rainstorm, not from the spring melting of snow.
Homes on the south shore of Lake Vermilion on the Cook end of the lake reported five inches plus of rain. Roads were under water throughout the area, including the Luthey Road which was closed Saturday and wasn't opened until Sunday morning. Culverts were washed out.
Campers at Camp Vermilion were scheduled to go out to another camp and their bus and vehicles followed a Chevy Suburban that got stuck and lost its brakes. A pathway using planks allowed them to walk out.
This storm not only deluged the area, it also brought very loud thunder which was accompanied by severe lightning at the same time. Surprisingly, there haven't been any reports of lightning strikes, but the display from the lightning was one most won't forget.
The good news is there haven't been any reports of serious injuries or deaths in this area from this historic storm. The storm seemed to be located just over Cook and this end of Lake Vermilion. Reports from the Tower end were of maybe an inch of rain, and the same was true of the Orr and Crane Lake areas.
Area golfers had to put their clubs away for a while as Vermilion Fairways was a virtual lake. It was still closed on Monday.
The entire area started to regain its normalcy during the week. There will be a lot of stories told of this storm for many years to come.


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

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