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West End News: January 21

Skip Lamb, from Schroeder, called last week to gleefully report that he has counted 20 babies born, or about to be born, in the West End.  And, although Skip keeps careful track, there may be a few he doesn’t know about.
 
Skip keeps a running baby count not just because he is interested in everything that goes on in the West End, but also because he is a long time member of the Birch Grove Community School Board.  Like all small rural school systems, Birch Grove has struggled with declining enrollment over the last couple of decades.  It is starting to look like that trend is finally reversing, at least here in the West End.
 
Both the Birch Grove Community School and the Birch Grove Community Center have been thriving in recent years.  Programming and facilities for people of all ages are up to date and running like a well-oiled machine.  For instance, the skating rink is in prime shape right now, so dig out those skates and check it out.
 
Skip is also involved in the ongoing community conversation about the fate of the Taconite Harbor Energy Center, which is due to be moth-balled in October.  The power plant’s owner, Minnesota Power, has indicated that they will keep the plant in operable condition for at least several years after they shut it down. 
 
It seems like the world is moving on from polluting and inefficient coal-fired power plants, so it’s wise to start thinking about what to do with that prime piece of Lake Superior property over the long haul.  The fact that it includes a large protected harbor and a connection to the railroad, makes many people think that it should be repurposed for an industrial use. Wood pellet production, some type of clean energy production and food production have all been mentioned.
 
It is also one of the most beautiful sections of the North Shore, so it’s possible that the industrial buildings could be removed, the land restored and a tourism destination constructed.  The railroad line up to the Iron Range, which is one of the most beautiful stretches in the country, could be used as a scenic and historic attraction.
 
I’m sure there are many other ideas out there.  But at the end of the day, it is really up to Minnesota Power. They are a good corporate citizen and are involved with the local community, but like all corporations, they are obligated to maximize their profits for shareholders.
 
Filings have closed for the upcoming township elections in Schroeder, Tofte and Lutsen.  It looks like the only contested election will be in Tofte, where incumbent Supervisor Jim King will face off with new candidate Sarah Somnis.  Jim moved to Tofte when he retired many years ago and has been very active in the community.  Sarah is a Tofte native with four generations of her family currently living in the West End.  She has also been an active community volunteer.  The beauty of democracy is that you can’t go wrong with two great candidates.
 
In Lutsen, according to reliable sources, Supervisor Tim Goettl did not file for re-election.  Long time Lutsen resident Rae Piepho is running for the vacant seat.
 
In Schroeder, the incumbent supervisor and clerk, Tina McKeever and Doug Schwecke, filed to continue in their positions without opposition.
 
Mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 8, which is not only the date of the township elections, but also the date of the annual township meetings.  Many people do not realize that citizens can fully participate and make real decisions at the annual meetings.  It’s the most direct form of democracy and has real consequences on all our lives, so I highly recommend attending.  Even if you don’t have an issue to advance, it gives you a good insight into the workings of your township’s public activity.
 
We had the first winter campers of the season at Sawbill this week.  Normally, by this time we’ve seen dozens of cars in the parking lot.  Two factors are at play this year.  The first is that the weather made for unsafe ice conditions followed by terrible slush.  The recent cold temperatures seem to have set up good ice conditions.  The second is that Charles Lamb of Schroeder is too busy being a dad to two teenagers and coaching the downhill ski team to go ice fishing even once.
 
Charles’ predicament is just one example of having too many choices for fun here in the wonderful West End.

(Photo courtesy of Minnesota Power)
 
 

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