December 16, 2021


Chaos rising at Cook HRA, St. Louis County Sheriffs called, restraining order denied


Residing in the Cook Housing structures, Pioneer and Homestead, should be a leisurely time with mostly retired people. There are also younger residents, but the elderly make up the largest segment.
This life, which should be quiet with few problems, seems to have been undergoing hassles over the past year or so. A group of residents, including J. Obidowski, J. Bergman, T. Lindsoe, K. Neumann, K. Markwardt, T. Cheney and R. Cheney, were attendees at the Nov. 10 meeting with questions of Executive Director Reed Erickson. There have been complaints raised, including the apparent large use of cameras that are installed throughout the two buildings. There are, apparently, 32 cameras that are wired into the main office and some feel their privacy is being violated.
The confrontations between Erickson and residents has apparently been an ongoing event and it became a harsher event when three of the residents apparently found eviction notices posted on their doors. Eviction from one of these living quarters is not easy and usually comes from nonpayment of rent or physically offensive behavior. The eviction notices were not approved by the board of directors, a group of five who are appointed by the Cook City Council.
Tensions rose recently when Erickson apparently physically pushed resident T. Lindsoe, an 81-year-old woman, who was attempting, she said, to get into the records of the seniors in a storage room. She said in an interview with this reporter that she had the key to the files. Erickson apparently tried to stop her and caused a scratch to bleed. Lindsoe said she filed a complaint with the Sheriff's Dept. The complaint hasn't been processed, yet.
The problems grew when Erickson, on Dec. 10, filed a request for a restraining order against Lindsoe. In his request he stated that Lindsoe prevented him from locking a door to a room (kitchen in lower level of the Pioneer) by shoving him to the side while attempting to get into this room which he said she has no authorization to go into. He said she was informed of that immediately, but she continued to be physical with him, almost pushing him to the ground while he said he attempted to lock the door to the room. This happened on Dec. 9 at 10;56 a.m. Deputy Sheriff Andrew Feiro came to the HRA later, and took his statement, he said.
The Judge of the Circuit Court on Dec. 10, denied the petition on the grounds it failed to allege an immediate and present danger or harassment. Erickson immediately requested a hearing which has been set for Dec. 27 at 3 p.m. and will be held as a Remote Zoom Hearing.
The complaint from Lindsoe over apparently being physically assaulted by Erickson is still up in the air.
While this was going on, two board members, Gramling and Mankowski, at the Nov. 10 board meeting, became upset with questions asked by other board members and left the meeting. The minutes of that meeting were taken by board member D. Snyder and haven't been approved. There were apparently questions brought up under old business and Chairman Gramling said they were done with old business. Questions were raised as to if Mankowski had been reappointed to the board by the Cook City Council. Board member Bixby, who is also on the City Council, questioned whether he had been reappointed. Erickson said he had a letter. Cook City Administrator Theresa Martinson replied to a request as to whether any letter had been sent and said she has nothing. With this discussion, Mankowski, Gramling and Erickson left the meeting, with Mankowski apparently saying he was done. The two male board members never showed up at the next board meeting.
Mayor Harold Johnston, at the first City Council meeting in January, usually makes appointments to committees. In the meantime, the 32 cameras keep recording.

Orr City Council approves 2022 budget and sets final levy at 5 percent

by A.J. Shuster

Preceding the Orr City Council's regular monthly meeting of Dec. 13, two hearings were held. The first was a public hearing on a blight property on Pine Drive. One neighbor commented that the description the City gave is not close enough to how bad it is. Notices to the property owners started as early as July 2018. Recently the City of Orr updated its Blight Ordinance with stronger, clearer repercussions through the City Attorney. Due to the relatively short time since the legal revamp of the ordinance, the council voted to give the homeowners until May 1, 2022, to comply before enforcing the ordinance with its prescribed penalties, none of which affect the taxes of neighboring properties. The second hearing, Truth in Taxation, had no respondents.
In regular business, the council approved the final levy (5 percent) and the 2022 budget, validation of the improved Blight Ordinance, renewal of a short-term rental permit application, renewal of insurance coverage, acceptance of USDH funds (COVID-19 Rescue Plan) for the Ambulance Department, and some of the same kinds of funds for the City, license for sale of cigarettes for Norman's One Stop and Pelican Bay Foods for 2022, and off-sale 3.2 sales for Norman's One Stop.
Tabled was a request for purchase of two City lots behind the Carefree building. It was decided by the council to wait to see what the future of the now unoccupied building would be. The debated RFQs and prospective engineering firm to map out future needs from last month's meeting got approval with the hiring of Bolling Inc., which specializes in airports of cities with under 1,000 population.
The Ambulance Department presented for approval the officers chosen at its recent election. Accepted by the council are: Sierra Sokoloski as Training Officer (three-year term), and Kara Knutson as Assistant Director (finish Sierra's remaining term). Also approved were the compensation amounts for each office. Thanks was given to Training Officer Bill Hoffer for his years of service and a great job. He will assist in continued EVOC training, and oxygen and rig maintenance.
A final pay request for the crack sealing and sealcoating project at the airport was passed with one vote of opposition. The question arose of whether this company would be back to fix the work done that is not sustainable (product used is showing up in snowplow piles). Mayor Astleford assured that the issue is in writing and will be done right next spring.
For the liquor store, Chet Nieman is requesting new carpeting for the off-sale area. He began asking five to six years ago. The old carpet got a shampooing, but now needs a bit of patching - or replacement. He is asking for carpet squares to replace sections as needed. The Dec. 4 Snow City festivities was busy, but now has slowed.
Paul Koch shared that the lift station had once again gotten stones in the valves, which needed to be cleaned to function properly. The ice skating rink is about 80 percent ready. City staff will be evaluating water and sewer rates for the January council meeting. To offset costs from rising inflation and in complying with increasing regulations, it may be necessary to raise user fees. This would also help to maintain the integrity of the systems and to be able to invest in replacing aging parts (clay sewer lines, lift station, water meters ). Currently, rates are lower than neighboring municipalities. Praise was given for the good work Koch does on a "bare bones" budget.
Rocky Hoffman has been in contact with Jake Braunagel (FAA program manager) that a fuel system rehabilitation project would not be conducive to the Orr Airport. The City has revised their CIP to show their fuel rehabilitation as a state funded project.
The Ambulance Department will install their new officers on Jan. 1, 2022. It is Donna Hoffer's goal to use a recent $500 donation for a cell booster in the rig's cab. Homeland Security is requiring an upgrade in radios and pagers for next year.

Senator Bakk: Surplus means time for property tax relief and end of Social Security tax

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released its November 2021 forecast projecting a massive $7.7 billion surplus. The surplus was driven by strong growth in income, consumer spending, federal stimulus money, and business taxes which drove extraordinary revenues in 2021. Higher tax receipts are expected to continue with the improvement of the economic outlook. Senator Tom Bakk (I-Cook) released the following statement:
"We should take advantage of this historic budget surplus by providing significant tax relief to Minnesotans," said Sen. Bakk. "It is finally time to eliminate the unfair tax on Social Security income and provide meaningful property tax relief for individuals and business owners. Rising costs and inflation make it critical that we support Minnesota families by giving them their own hard-earned tax dollars back. Let us be good stewards of the people's money so we can keep our state on sound fiscal footing for years to come."


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