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West End News: November 22

Beau Larson and Carl Hansen
Beau Larson and Carl Hansen

WEN_20121122_Finalcut.mp34.74 MB

Beau Larson and Carl Hansen from Lutsen and Tofte are independent filmmakers who are both graduates of the University of Montana Media Arts program and Cook County High School.  They recently collaborated on the production of “Breaking Trail,” a film about the North Shore, Lutsen and the growing mountain biking scene here in the West End. There will be a Hollywood-style premiere for the film at North House Folk School Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., complete with a red carpet and paparazzi. Although there will be bouncers at the door with a “guest list,” it is all in fun, and everyone is welcome with no charge.  Snacks and refreshments will be served.
Carl and Beau were recently featured on the popular television program, The Playlist, hosted by Karen Sunderman on WDSE, Channel 8, in Duluth.  The well-done program highlighted the young filmmakers’ creativity and success by weaving together interviews with footage from “Breaking Trail” and other films they have made.  You can watch the Playlist story online at or just Google “Channel 8 Playlist.”
As everyone knows, the recent accidental explosion at the Taconite Harbor power plant in Schroeder caused serious injuries and burns to Joe Fredrickson from Silver Bay. Joe is recovering slowly in the burn unit at Miller Dwan in Duluth. He has undergone a series of painful and difficult skin grafts, but is showing continuous improvement and is expected to make a full recovery. You can follow Joe’s progress on the Caring Bridge website by searching it for Joseph Fredrickson.
At the most recent meeting of the Taconite Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Panel, power plant manager Dave Rannetsberger talked about the accident, Joe’s recovery, and the ongoing investigation into the cause. He said that three different investigation teams have conducted detailed inquiries. It will be a while until the results are made public, but it is obvious that the explosion was caused by coal dust coming in contact with an ignition source. Meanwhile the power plant has been, and remains, shut down while repairs are made and a new set of safety protocols are developed to prevent any chance of a similar accident in the future. 
The explosion was so powerful that it blew the ceiling off the room where it occurred. All four walls were bulged out and extensive damage was done to equipment. Dave commented that he was glad to have several well-trained first responders on hand to begin treating Joe immediately after the accident, which very likely helped reduce the severity of his injuries.  Dave also had high praise for the Schroeder, Tofte, and Lutsen fire departments.
Another piece of bad news was received this week with the announcement that Northshore Mining in Silver Bay would be shutting down two furnaces in the taconite plant.  It is estimated that 125 workers will be laid off in Minnesota, but it isn’t clear how many of those will be cut from the plant and how many from the mine.  Unfortunately, those most recently hired are most likely to be laid off, so breadwinners for quite a few young families will soon be out of work.  They will be eligible for unemployment benefits, but many have not accrued much supplemental wage support that the company pays to laid off workers. The plant’s owner, Cliffs Natural Resources, says that they are making the cuts quickly in response to market conditions, hoping that by doing so they can reduce the length of the layoff.  Although the announcement was made last week, the furnaces won’t be shut down until shortly after the first of the year.
The ice on area lakes continues to come and go with the big swings in our local weather conditions.  Sawbill Lake is about half thawed at this writing and appears to be on its way to losing most of its ice for the second time this season. Looking at the forecast though, I think the next freeze up will be the one that lasts until spring.
In this season of thanksgiving, let me wish everyone in the extended West End community a safe and happy holiday season.