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News

The North Shore News Hour includes up-to-the minute weather, North Shore happenings in local news, sports and entertainment, as well as a variety of features from WTIP staff and volunteers. If you miss the North Shore News Hour at noon, tune in for a replay Monday through Thursday beginning at 5:00 p.m.


What's On:
A Cook County mail-in ballot 08-11-20 Photo by Rhonda Silence

Deadline quickly approaching to file for office

In Grand Marais there are three slots open--for mayor and two city council seats. As of 3:30 p.m. there are candidates for all three races. Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux has filed for reelection. Current City Councilor Kelly Swearingen also filed for mayor.
 
Five people have filed for the two open city council seats. Candidates are incumbent Craig Schulte, Michael Geary, Diane Greeley, Mike Smieja and Tracy Benson. The top two vote getters will take the council seats. 
 
North Shore Health has candidates for both board positions on the ballot. Mary Sanders has filed to run in District 2 and incumbent Kay Olson is running for reelection in District 4. 
 
In the special election filing to fill the commissioner vacancy in District 1, three candidates have filed. The vacancy was created when Robert "Bobby" Deschampe won the election for chair of Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He resigned his commission seat to assume the role of Tribal Chair. 
 
The deadline to run for the District 1 commissioner seat is also 5 p.m. today. Three candidates have filed, Clark Bloomquist, Robert Svaileson, and Paula Marie Powell. 
 
Regarding the primary election underway, County Auditor Braidy Powers says as of 3:30 p.m., his office had process 1,912 ballots, with 44 new voters registered. Powers spoke with WTIP's Joe Friedrichs earlier about how things were going at the polls. Here's their conversation. 
Listen: 

 
An example of a "Thin Blue Line" flag - Photo by Tony Alter, courtesy of Flickr.com

Retired police officer complies with request to remove "Thin Blue Line" flag from city property

This summer in Cook County, flags and signs have been the subject of controversy. In July, citizens were disturbed to see a gravel hauling truck on the local road project sporting a Confederate flag. Through July and into this month, Black Lives Matter signs have been vandalized throughout the county. 
 
And now, another flag is at the center of controversy. This week, Grand Marais Recreation Park Campground host Gary Radloff was asked to remove a "Thin Blue Line" flag from his camping trailer. 
 
The "Thin Blue Line" is a symbol of support for law enforcement. Similar flags and signs represent other emergency service organizations, for example the "Thin Red Line" for firefighters and the "Thin Gold Line" for emergency 911 dispatchers. 
 
Radloff is a retired police officer and the flag was a gift to him from the Minnesota Sheriffs Association in recognition of his role in the December 2011 shooting at the Cook County courthouse. 
 
Radloff has been flying the Thin Blue Line flag at the campground host site for many years, with no complaints, he says. However, this year, Gary and his wife, Janet, were approached by Grand Marais Parks Manager Dave Tersteeg and asked to take the sign down. 
 
Apparently, complaints were lodged with the park and other entities about the sign showing support for law enforcement on what is in essence, public property.
 
Radloff and his wife agreed to take the flag down from their trailer at the recreation park campground. However, Gary says the flag will not be hidden away. He now has it flying at his Grand Marais residence. 
 
WTIP's Rhonda Silence spoke with Gary and Janet Radloff and city officials about this. Here's her report. 
 
Listen: 

 
The flag of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa - WTIP file photo

Health officials announce first COVID-19 positive in Grand Portage

On Friday afternoon, August 7, the Grand Portage clinic director was informed that there has been a lab confirmed positive test for COVID-19 for a resident of Grand Portage.
The Cook County public health supervisor told the clinic that the patient is a male in his mid-30s who lives within the Grand Portage Reservation.

The patient remains in quarantine, has complied with mandatory contact tracing protocols and has been interviewed by health officials.
This announcement follows the news of a third case in Cook County on Thursday, August 6. That patient is a femle in her 20s. See related story here.

In an announcement on the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Facebook page, the Tribal Council wrote, “Currently, our concern is for the health of this patient and the continued safety and health of the community.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Grand Portage Health and Human Services and the Grand Portage Tribal Emergency Response Team have made a unified effort in preparing for the inevitable arrival of the virus in our community.

“Community members are urged to follow existing guidance to keep everyone safe, now more than ever,” said the Tribal Council announcement.
 
The Tribal Council reminds everyone to practice the following protocols daily and as needed to keep safe:
• Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer
• Practice social distancing (6 feet apart from others)
• Stay at home if you are not feeling well
• Avoid large gatherings
• Wear a face covering in public to protect yourself and others
• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and wash hands
• Avoid touching your face and mouth
• Take care of your physical health and mental well-being
 
If Grand Portage community members—or anyone in Cook County—have any questions about the COVID-19 virus, including symptoms or testing, they are asked to please call the triage nurse at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic at 218-387-2330.

The Tribal Council summed up their announcement with this statement, “With respect, patience, and perseverance we will get through this. Stay safe.”
 
 
 


 
The county COVID-19 emergency operations center reported a new coronavirus case on Aug. 6 - Image courtesy of Cook County EOC

Cook County records third resident COVID-19 case

Cook County has received confirmation of a new resident case of COVID-19, a female in her 20s. The case is expected to appear in the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH)’s daily update tomorrow, August 7.
 
Although this is the third positive COVID-19 result for a Cook County resident, it is the fourth positive test for North Shore Health. As WTIP previously reported July 3, a male in his 50s who is not a resident of Cook County sought care locally and was found to have the coronavirus. 

Previous cases of COVID-19 infections in someone residing in Cook County were reported on June 10 and July 21. Those cases were a male in his 30s and a female in her 20s.
 
Cases are increasing throughout the region and state, with significant increases in Lake and St. Louis counties this week.
 
Cook County continues to experience an influx of people who reside elsewhere and either work in, or choose to visit, Cook County. The Emergency Operations Center asks individuals to continue utilizing best health practices to help minimize the risk of COVID-19 among our businesses, families and North Shore communities: distance six feet or more, utilize masks, practice good hand hygiene, and stay home when not feeling well.
 
Anyone with clinical questions about the COVID-19 virus, including symptoms or testing, should call the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic at 218-387-2330.
 


 
Cook County Sheriff's Office - Photo by Rhonda Silence

Portions of county experiencing phone, 911 outage

**UPDATE - 9:30 p.m., August 6 ** 
As of approximately 8:30 p.m., CenturyLink  notified the Sheriff’s Office that the fiber line damage that caused the outage has been repaired and 911 service is restored. 

**UPDATE  - 2:00 p.m., August 6**

CenturyLink has notified the Cook County Sheriff's Office that only the 388 and 475 exchange are affected with the disruption to 911 service due to a fiber line being severed.  
= = = = = 

Cook County is once again experiencing problems with telephone service. 

There is currently an intermittent disruption of 911 service in the parts of the Hovland and Gunflint Trail areas. According to the Cook County Sheriff's Office, the outage is affecting approximately 102 customers. 
 
During this outage, the  Hovland and Gunflint Trail fire halls will be staffed with emergency personnel with ARMER radio capabilities who can connect to 911 dispatch.
 
 If you are without a 911 connection and experience a situation requiring emergency response, go to your nearest fire hall.
 
The sheriff's office says it is unknown at this time how long the disruption will last, but updates will be shared when they are available. 

 
School District 166 - Eagle entrance

School District 166 seeks family input for return-to-school planning

School District 166 is also conducting a survey to help it finalize plans for returning to school under Minnesota’s Safe Learning plan and CDC guidelines.

The School District wants to hear the voices of students and families.
As a school district, there are options for how to start and work through the 2020-2021 school year: in-person, a hybrid of in-person and distance learning or distance learning provided by teachers.
Distance learning is an option for families if that is wat is best for a family’s needs. That option will be available at anytime during the 2020-2021 school year.

Nothing is finalized yet and the school district asks school families to please share their personal needs and preferences to assist with planning for the school year.

Click here to open the survey.

 


 
City hall in downtown Grand Marais. WTIP file photo

City pauses planning for city hall and liquor store renovations

The renovation of Grand Marais City Hall and the municipal liquor store building has been on the city council's agenda for many years. A great deal of research has been done regarding what could be done to the aging structure which once housed the Grand Marais fire department and the city jail. It seemed that the city was close to signing a contract with its architects for design work for a new facility at the Wednesday, July 29 council meeting, however, questions over the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on city's finance has put a halt--at least temporarily--to renovation planning. 
 
The city of Grand Marais has been exploring options for the renovation or removal of the city hall building for several years now. The city first sought developers who may be interested in taking on a reconstruction of city hall and the municipal liquor store, adding retail space and perhaps even lodging, with no success. 
 
The city met with a consultant in liquor store construction for advice and had its engineering firm, LHB, come up with concepts for a renovation. Many different drafts were shared and considered. 
 
At this latest meeting, Councilor Tim Kennedy asked City Administrator Mike Roth if the city still had money in its budget to complete the project with a price tag that has inched toward $6 million. 
 
Administrator Roth reminded the council that the plans had been to finance the work through revenue from the city's enterprise, the municipal liquor store. Proceeds from the liquor store had been earmarked for future renovation. 
 
However, Roth acknowledged that with the uncertainty of revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he could not guarantee those funds would be there. 
 
Councilor Kelly Swearingen raised concerns about beginning such a project at this time. Swearingen said she felt there were just too many unknowns to proceed. 
 
Councilor Anton Moody, running the meeting as acting mayor, was also reluctant with moving ahead. He noted that the city was just beginning its budget work and planned to meet with department heads. He said the council may have a better picture of finances and how to proceed after those meetings. 
 
Swearingen went on to suggest not just pausing the project as proposed in the latest draft from the engineering firm, but perhaps to scale back on the project entirely. She said perhaps the city should once again look at building a separate, small, city hall on the city's property on Highway 61 near its maintenance facility. 
 
There was some discussion of a possible move or changes to the reconstruction of city hall at the downtown site. Councilor Tim Kennedy agreed that the council should wait to review finances before proceeding, but reiterated the value of the planning that has been done. His colleagues agreed that the planning that had been done was worthwhile, but as Councilor Anton Moody suggested, it was time to "pump the brakes" on the project. 
 
Councilors agreed to hold off on committing to any sort of contract until more information is available.
WTIP's Rhonda shares this report on the city hall discussion. 
Listen: 

 
Students are invited to tie-dye their own masks. Photo by Mila Horak

All students invited to tie-dye mask-making event Aug. 8, 9 & 10

A special mask tie-dying opportunity for all Cook County students is coming up on August 8, 9, and 10 in the outdoor classroom at School District 166, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The purpose of the three-day event is to ensure that all Cook County students will have masks to return to school in the fall, so everyone can feel safe and supported in their learning environment.
 
Families from all local schools are encouraged to take part, from School District 166, Oshki Ogimaag, Great Expectations, and Birch Grove. The mask-making project is for students from kindergarten to 12th grade. 
 
School District 166 Art teacher Mila Horak is taking the lead on this project, a collaboration with the Grand Marais Art Colony.  Horak says the Art Colony received generous donations from the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and the North Shore Hospital of white cotton masks and has purchased art supplies through Joy & Co. for every student in the county to tie-dye one mask, and make a beaded fastener to go with it.
 
The event will be held with COVID-19 precautions--all participants must wear a mask and stay six feet apart. To make that possible, families are asked to sign up for a specific time slot on one of the days. Families are encouraged to come together, but a separate time is required for each child. Find the signup page here. 
 
During the event, there will be stations. First, a stop for a plain white mask pickup--each mask will have a student name, written in permanent marker.  Students will then visit stations where the dye will be applied. They will also have the opportunity to make a beaded connector for their mask. It's not a make-and-take event, masks need to be finished and washed. Volunteers will do that and will have the masks at the schools by August 12. 
 
Horak said in addition to the Art Colony, hospital and clinic, the school is working with the North Shore Fiber Guild, Sew Good Goods, Material Girl and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota. Additional masks are being made for students by local sewers and BCBS employees. She said the goal is to have five masks per student. 
 
Use the signup page to participate. For more information or to volunteer with this project, email Mila Horak at mhorak@isd166.org or call 218-370-0106 and leave a message. 
 
WTIP's Rhonda Silence spoke with Art Teacher Mila Horak to learn how this will work. 
Listen: 

 
City Councilor Tim Kennedy - File photo by Rhonda Silence, 2015

City Councilor Tim Kennedy will not run for reelection

There has been a great deal of election news on WTIP Community Radio lately, with the primary election coming up on August 11. The senate and local county commissioner races are not the only things voters in the city of Grand Marais should consider. however. The filing period to run for a seat on the Grand Marais city council is open now. 
 
The filing period is open now until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11. There is no primary for these positions. All candidates who file will be on the city's November general election ballot.
 
For the city council, two four-year councilor positions and the two-year mayoral seat will be on the ballot. Incumbents are Councilors Tim Kennedy and Craig Schulte and Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux. There is a filing fee of $2 to run for city office.  For information about filing for city offices from the Minnesota Secretary of State, click here. 
 
WTIP Community Radio has heard from one city official—Tim Kennedy, a Grand Marais city councilor, who has announced that he will not be running for re-election. 
 
WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Kennedy about his time on the council and his advice to someone thinking of stepping up to be part of local government. 
 
In related news, the filing period is the same for the School District 166 school board and the North Shore Health hospital district board, July 28 to August 11. 
Listen: 

 
Superintendent Bill Crandall and ISD 166 board member Carrie Jansen at the July 28 board meeting. Photo by Rhonda Silence

With governor's announcement, local schools can continue planning for fall

Governor Tim Walz and other Minnesota state officials unveiled a plan this afternoon to reopen schools this fall during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The plan gives districts some flexibility to combine in-person and online learning, but reserves the right for the state to step in if the coronavirus gets out of control.
 
Governor Walz acknowledged the importance of schools and the value of in-person learning, but said the state’s top priority is safety. 
 
The news is about what was anticipated by School District 166 board members and Superintendent Bill Crandall. At their meeting on July 28, ISD 166 staff said they hoped, districts could receive guidance from the state Health and Education departments to determine whether to use in-person instruction, online learning or a hybrid model.
 
And, as expected, schools will also have the ability to become more or less restrictive depending on the virus.
 
The plan requires both public schools and charter schools to allow students and teachers to choose remote learning, no matter what model the district chooses. This gives families with concerns about health conditions the option to avoid potential spread of COVID-19.
 
The guidance comes as coronavirus cases have been moving upward in some parts of the state. Minnesota reported 745 new cases on July 30—slightly higher than the seven-day average—and five new deaths. State officials have warned of rising hospitalizations, but that number dipped slightly in Thursday’s data.
 
State health and education officials last month asked school districts to prepare for three scenarios: in-person learning for all students, distance learning as in the spring, or a hybrid learning scenario with social distancing and capacity limits.
 
President Donald Trump has pressed schools nationwide to open for in-person learning, and as many teachers have expressed fears of doing so. Education Minnesota, the state teachers’ union, last week released a survey with just one in five teachers supporting in-person learning.
 
Administrators for Minneapolis Public Schools, one of the largest districts in the state, said Tuesday they plan to start the school year Sept. 8 with distance learning. Their plan would require remote learning as the primary method of instruction, though buildings would remain open for tutoring, technology and mental health support for students and families.
 
Back in mid-March 2020, Walz ordered Minnesota public and charter schools to close and switch to distance learning as COVID-19 cases began to appear in the state, affecting nearly 900,000 students and their families. As the number of coronavirus cases in Minnesota grew, the governor extended the closure through the school year and prohibited large-scale high school and college graduation ceremonies.
 
How this will impact local schools is an evolving story. Stay tuned as WTIP  reaches out to local schools for more information.