County to provide $30K for Mary Mac upgradeThe Lake County Board has voted to provide $30,000 toward remodeling and upgrading the Mary MacDonald Center in Silver Bay.
By: Karin Smith, Lake County News Chronicle
The Lake County Board has voted to provide $30,000 toward remodeling and upgrading the Mary MacDonald Center in Silver Bay.
The former elementary school houses some county offices and has become a successful small business incubator for the community. Most of the money will be used to put in a loading dock to facilitate shipping and deliveries.
Wilderness Family Naturals (WFN), a natural products internet-based business renting in the building, recently held an open house. Commissioner Rick Goutermont toured their facilities.
Goutermont described the WFN operation as "rather astounding." The business started eight years ago and moved into the building about three years ago. It has grown steadily each year to an annual gross of almost $3 million, with 38 employees.
WFN orders ingredients from around the world, dealing in everything thing from grass-fed beef to virgin coconut oil, in addition to offering wild herbs collected locally. They conduct on-site research and development of their own products, and ship nationally and internationally.
"From what I see, they'll be on the map," said Goutermont.
The company is now leasing about half the building and looking at more. They have put their own money into configuring the rental space for their operations, said Goutermont. The building could use a loading dock to eliminate the double handling of pallets that have to be trucked by hand through the existing door.
WFN is a good example of the kind of economic development politicians have always talked about, said Goutermont. They also have a low environmental impact with nothing going up the smokestack or into the sewer system. He recommended the county help the City of Silver Bay pay for the structural modification to building.
Commissioner Scott Larson said that beyond just trying to recruit big businesses into the county, the focus should be on retention and growth of existing small businesses like this one, he said.
Commissioner Thomas Clifford pointed out that WFN had done it on their own, without all the support other entrepreneurs have asked for. Their success could give others in the county ideas for mail order businesses, he said.
Commissioner Lenore Johnson agreed with the need for the loading dock, and said the kind of help they were talking about was just modification to a city-owned building, not making payroll. She said it was a small need, and that they should address it.
ATV use on North Shore Trail
Representatives from Lake, Cook and St. Louis County boards, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the United States Forest Service (USFS) met in January to discuss ATV use on the North Shore Trail. The 146-mile trail runs from Duluth to Grand Marais. It is primarily used for snowmobiling, but is also available for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.
It was determined that each county would look at ATV use separately. Board chair Scott Larson said Lake County is very interested in an ATV trail connecting the multi-use county demonstration forest outside Two Harbors with the ATV trails west of Finland.
The 28-mile grant-in-aid Red Dot ATV trail from Beaver Bay to Silver Bay travels through Tettegouche State Park to connect with the 26-mile Moose Walk-Moose Run ATV trail. There, ATVs are already allowed on a six- mile stretch of the North Shore Trail.
Lake County will seek support from the state legislature to add ATV use to more of the North Shore Trail, said Larson.
Most of the North Shore Trail in Lake County goes through county land, and the necessary bridges are in place. The trail crosses some USFS land and the county would need their cooperation. There also are a few private parcels where owners have given permission for winter use by snowmobiles, but have not yet allowed for summer ATV use.
Tom Peterson, DNR area supervisor for trails and waterways, said that the main cost of the proposed trail would be for areas where the trail goes through wetlands. A feasibility study published by the DNR in 2006 also noted concerns about impacts to designated trout streams and tributaries.
At that time, the report estimated the cost of modifications, treadway stabilization, wetland mitigation and re-routes needed along the entire trail at just under $600,000, a figure which Peterson said would have increased by now. There would be additional and ongoing administrative, staffing, maintenance and enforcement costs, which the 2006 report described as “substantial.”
Larson said the area's state legislators were "very supportive" of the county’s proposed use of the trail by ATVs. No predictions are being made about a timeline.
County gravel pits
In a related matter, Lake County Attorney Russ Conrow referred the board to an article in theMinnesota Counties Insurance Trust (MCIT) Bulletin about liability for recreational use of gravel pits. Conrow agreed with the recommendations in the article about the need for fencing and signing to reduce the county's exposure to lawsuits from anyone injured while using the pits recreationally.
He suggested that at this time, posting the entrances was a reasonable option. Signs would change the status of recreational users to "trespassers," decreasing the county's liability.
Lake County Ambulance district
The county board is planning to establish a special taxing district for emergency medical services and is seeking resolutions of support from the cities and townships it serves.
Lake County Ambulance provides emergency services to areas outside the county boundaries, and having the tax district means parts of St. Louis and Cook counties would share the costs with Lake County.
At the Feb. 28 board meeting, Commissioner Paul Bergman asked Two Harbors City Council president Randy Bolen why their resolution of support had been tabled until the next meeting. Bolen said that one of the counselors had concerns about rising tax burden and they wanted more information before taking a vote.
Although ambulance users are billed for the service, district property owners will be sharing the cost of having the emergency service available to anyone in the area.
Cliffs-Erie and Northshore
Mining rail connection
The board received a letter from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) notifying forest users about a proposed interchange in Bassett Township joining two area freight lines.
Cliffs-Erie would link their railroad to Taconite Harbors with Northshore Mining's line to Silver Bay to facilitate transport of materials.
The location is about 10 miles out of Babbitt and 14 miles north east of Hoyt Lakes, near the St. Louis and Lake County line. The proposed 1500-foot interchange is in a forested area, and comments are sought by the USFS to identify any issues that should be addressed in an environmental analysis.
No action was taken by the board.
Movies in the Park
The board voted to support the second year of free Movies in the Park with a $2,500 contribution. Bolen, appearing before the board to request the assistance, said that the city is aiming to make the 10-film series self-supporting, and is seeking sponsors again from the business community. The Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce is also supporting the effort.
Bolen said the events were also attended by people coming down to Two Harbors from up the shore--not just by city residents--although the free bus service from Silver Bay offered on some of the nights hadn’t been used much.
Clifford suggested that at least one of the films be shown in Silver Bay. Bolen said the schedule had been set for 2008, but they would consider it for 2009.
The season kicks off Saturday, June 21, with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade at the football field near Burlington Bay. It runs weekly through August 30, when Ratatouille is scheduled. No film will be shown Aug. 16, the weekend of the Lake County Fair.
Silver Bay stationbuilding for sale
The building used as the Lake County Sheriff’s station on Outer Drive in Silver Bay is being put up for sale, with a minimum bid of $225,000. The sale will be at 10 a.m., Monday, April 14, at the Lake County Courthouse. For more information, call the Lake County Land Commissioner, Tom Martinson, (218) 834-8340.