Briefly: Feb. 1Brief news items from around the county.
County Board passes resolution backing land exchange
On Jan. 29, the Lake County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in support of a land exchange that would allow state-owned lands inside the Boundary Waters Canoe and Wilderness Area to be traded for federal land outside of the protected area, where it would generate revenue for the state’s school districts.
The resolution stated that Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties would realize an extra $1 million in funding after a land swap, “providing badly needed property tax relief to residents.”
The proposed land exchange has been the subject of criticism from environmental groups, many of whom charge that lands previously protected by federal environmental law, will be subject to less stringent protections under state law. The relaxation of protections could pave the way for logging or mining on the land.
The resolution mirrors the one passed by the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners in December. The Lake County Board has been discussing the resolution for weeks. Present for Tuesday’s vote were Commissioners Rich Sve, Pete Walsh and Rick Goutermont. Commissioners Brad Jones and Paul Bergman were absent.
Four-day-week meetings planned
The Lake Superior School District switched from a 5-day to a 4-day school week in 2010 in an effort to save money. This year the district must reapply to retain the 4-day week and public meetings are part of that reapplication process. Community members are encouraged to attend the upcoming public meetings.
The meetings all take place at 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 5 at Two Harbors High School Choir Room
Feb. 7 at William Kelley School Cafeteria
Feb. 26 at Two Harbors High School Choir Room
TXT4Life grant reaches 300-500 individuals a month
TXT4Life, a text messaging-based intervention program for youth and young adults considering suicide that began in August 2011, is having success in Lake County and across the region. The program is focused in Northeastern Minnesota, but the text center has received messages from young adults all over Minnesota and the nation. Text messages sent to TXT4Life are received at the HSI Crisis Connection, a counseling service offering numerous intervention services for those experiencing mental health issues.
According to a release from TXT4Life, 300-500 young adults use the service every month. Trained counselors respond to the texts and over 800 referrals have been made for mental health services or non-mental health services via the service. Officials cite young peoples’ comfort with text messaging as part of the program’s success, and say many prefer texting over traditional phone calls—making call-based suicide hot lines obsolete for the younger generation.
Individuals can send text “Life” to TEXTME (839863) where they will be “connected with a counselor who will listen, won’t judge and will help you get through whatever challenge you are facing,” according to the TXT4Life website.
DNR employee discharged
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that an employee, who was discharged Jan. 11 had been wrongfully accessing driver's license and motor vehicle records during off-duty hours without a job-related reason to do so.
According to a statement from the DNR, the employee, John A. Hunt, administrative manager in the DNR’s Enforcement Division had access to the records, but for law enforcement purposes only. A Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation, however, indicated that Hunt viewed the data of approximately 5,000 people while off-duty and without a job related reason to do so. Among those whose data he accessed were over 200 DNR employees and their family members.
"This employee not only violated the law, but betrayed the trust of the agency, his supervisors, and fellow employees," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. "His behavior does not meet the high standards of integrity that we expect from our law enforcement officers or from all employees."
Hunt was discharged because unauthorized access of the database is a violation of state and federal law, as well as DNR policy and the agency's standards of behavior.
Landwehr said that the agency is conducting a review of DNR employee access to data and
redoubling the training required to access the data.
DNR busts angler with nearly 250 fish more than the legal limit
A conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently netted an angler with nearly 250 fish more than the legal limit.
Conservation Officer Shane Osborne of Evansville, Minn., approached Ronald Wayne Johnson, 69, of Carlos, as he was about to pull his portable fish house off West Spitzer Lake in Otter Tail County.
“I asked how the fishing was and he said he caught some fish, but it wasn’t that great,” Osborne said. When asked if he had any fish at home, Johnson said he wasn’t sure.
“He then asked if I thought he had too many fish,” Osborne said. “I said I wouldn’t know that until I counted all of the fish he had. He said I could follow him home and check.”
Osborne, accompanied by Conservation Officer Mitch Lawler went to Johnson’s home and found a total of 228 sunfish, seven bass and six northern pike more than the legal limit, in an assortment of containers. The restitution value of the fish was $1,560, according to the DNR.
If convicted, Johnson could face the forfeiture of his fishing license for three years, up to $3,000 in fines and one year in jail. He is scheduled to appear in Douglas County Court in February.
Ice road on Lake Vermillion deemed unsafe
On Monday the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office reported that the ice road on Lake Vermillion between Hoodoo and Everett Points is no longer safe due to several days of warmer temperatures. The sheriff’s office received two reports of a vehicle being disabled in deep water as the driver attempted to cross the ice. The driver and passengers escaped the vehicle and safely made it to shore, but the public is reminded that caution should always be used as ice conditions are ever changing.