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West End News: February 26

WEN_20150226.mp34.87 MB

Birch Grove Community School in Tofte held a well attended public meeting last week. The entire West End community was invited to gain a better understanding of the history, programs and services of the school. The Birch Grove School Board also provided insight into the future challenges that the school faces and some possible solutions. 
The school board plans to ask for long-term support from the townships of Lutsen, Tofte and Schroeder at the annual township meetings on Mar. 10.  In my opinion, Birch Grove Community School is a critical part of the future for the West End, especially in our quest to make the West End a better place for young working families.  Losing the school would be a disastrous setback.
The Cook County Board of Commissioners efficiently settled the issue of a new radio tower to be built within sight of the BWCA Wilderness this week. 
The Minnesota Department of Transportation asked Cook County to allow them to build a radio tower on county land near Marsh Lake on the Grade Road, 4 miles east of the Sawbill Trail, in Tofte.  The tower is part of the ARMER system that provides a statewide network of radio communications for all the public safety organizations.  The normal height for an ARMER tower is 330 feet, which requires it to be lighted, both day and night. A 330-foot tower in this location would be plainly visible from dozens of lakes and campsites within the BWCA Wilderness and many other remote locations outside the wilderness.  Understanding that the location of the tower is in an area where people are sensitive about keeping the woods wild, MNDOT offered to construct a 180-foot tower that would not require lighting and would be much less visible. 
The Cook County Commissioners reviewed the existing county tower ordinance, looked at the technical data, consulted with MNDOT and emergency providers and listened to their constituents and stakeholders. After following this careful process, they voted to allow the 180-foot tower.
I was impressed by the reasonable and measured approach taken by all the parties. In my opinion, this is how all government should work: Gather the facts, listen to the stakeholders and make a decision that most people can live with.  Congratulations to all involved.
That inevitable tax season has rolled around and once again the AARP tax aid volunteers are willing to help you with your federal and state individual tax returns.  They can also help you fill out your Minnesota property tax and rent refund forms. They can even file corrections or amendments to your last year’s forms if necessary.
In most instances, the volunteers can file your tax documents electronically. E-filing allows your state refund to come back to you in one to two weeks and federal refund in two to four weeks.
The free tax assistants are at Birch Grove Community Center in Tofte every Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. from now until the Apr. 15 deadline.
You should bring your 2014 tax documents, your Social Security card and a photo I.D. if you are using this service for the first time. If you have copies of last year’s state and federal tax forms, they are helpful too.
If you don’t have time to sit with the preparer as they complete your filings, you can drop off the documents, have a short conversation and then go back to work. You can swing by to pick up your paperwork when everything is done. 
If you have any questions, call Steve Deschene at 387-1767.
For whatever reason, we haven’t been seeing as much wildlife this winter as in past seasons. That said, my partner, Cindy, saw a bobcat with a snowshoe hare in its mouth the other day. The bobcat had the rabbit’s head in its mouth with the body hanging down. It tried to run when Cindy appeared on the scene, but kept tripping over its dangling prey. It wasn’t willing to give up the meal, though, so Cindy got a good look at it as it struggled up and over the snowbank.
The only unusual animals that I’ve seen lately are a white weasel, a star-nosed mole and a grouse sitting in the middle of the road in the middle of the night.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a grouse out on the road after dark. It didn’t move as I drove around it, so maybe it was frozen solid while in the act of crossing the road during the daylight hours.  I wouldn’t be surprised.