Arts and conservation efforts recognized, TH receives taconite tax revenues
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Two Harbors has been named a Legacy Destination City for the community’s use of Legacy funds for conservation and the arts. These funds are the result of a 2008 amendment to the Minnesota Constitution passed by voters, which increased the state sales tax by three-eighths of one percent to “protect drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve arts and cultural heritage; to support parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater,” according to the Minnesota Legacy website.
The award, one of only 11 in the state, was presented by MCA’s executive director Sheila Smith at last Tuesday’s city council meeting. The council, representatives from the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District, and arts organizations that have received the funds, were on hand to share the recognition.
John Gregor, chair of the Two Harbors Arts and Beautification Commission, addressed the city council after the presentation. He recognized the value and contributions of local arts organizations such as Arts on Superior, Two Harbors City Band, Friends of the Band Shell Park, North Shore Players, Arrowhead Regional Arts Commission and many more, as well as individual artists who have enriched the area through creative efforts and programs. In closing his remarks, he asking the council to formally recognize arts and artists by making Friday, June 20, Arts Appreciation Day in Two Harbors. The date coincides with the summer solstice celebration initiated by the late Ellen Anderson, a well-known resident and supporter of the arts in Two Harbors. The council later adopted a resolution in keeping with Gregor’s request.
As the recipient of Legacy funds for conservation projects, the Lake County Soil & Water Conservation District was recognized for efforts to restore stream banks on the Knife and Stewart Rivers. Jennifer Thiemann, LCSWCD’s district manager was in attendance representing her agency.
Two Harbors Community Radio seeks council support
On June 20, Two Harbors Community Radio will be hosting an open house from 5-7 p.m. at the Two Harbors Public Library. The purpose will be to provide information to the community about plans for a low power FM radio station. THCR says it is in the process of applying for 501c3 non-profit status and hopes to begin raising funds in the near future. It will encourage people at the open house to make financial pledges and it asked the city council to write a letter of support. Funders and grantors often ask for evidence of community support before loosening their purse strings, according to THCR spokesperson, Leo Babeu. Council president Jerry Norberg said the council would consider THCR’s request, but would not make a decision immediately.
Council votes to hire engineering firm to help resolve utility pole attachment tangle
The utilities commission recommended council approval of a proposal from Power Systems Engineering. PSE would provide professional engineering services to help resolve the pole attachment issues which continue to bedevil Lake Connections and Frontier Communications negotiations. The parties are wrangling over where fiber cable should be placed on Frontier’s utility poles for the county’s ambitious broadband project. City Attorney Steve Overom said that negotiations over the ownership of utility poles have been moving forward, but that further assistance is needed with the attachment matter, prompting the recommendation to hire PSE.
Several councilors expressed concern about the additional cost involved in hiring PSE and the lack of progress in the negotiations.
“We don’t have a lot of choice,” said Councilor Simonson, “the city is trying to stay neutral, but it’s being dragged along because it owns some of the poles.”
“The City is trying to assist, but not because of anything we did. We’ve been put in this position,” said Councilor McDonald. “ My hope is that these efforts will bear fruit at some time.”
In the end, the council adopted a resolution to accept the proposal from PSE. Overom said that PSE had come highly recommended by Minnesota Power and would facilitate negotiations by providing engineering solutions when Lake Connections’ and Frontier Communications’ reach an impasse.
Bird-dogging results in huge pay-off for city
City administrator, Lee Klein praised Councilor Erickson’s “bird-dogging” of the legislature, which ultimately resulted in the city receiving a $927,000 share of revenues from the recent hike in the taconite tax. The money will significantly reduce the city’s out-of-pocket cost for improvements to its wastewater treatment system. Erickson said that by making a request when the legislature began discussing the tax increase, Two Harbors got a larger share of the money than cities that waited.
The farmer’s market will have a home in Thomas Owens Park this summer, starting June 22 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m., and upgrades to the playground equipment in Segog were approved by the council. A public hearing on the county’s planned improvements to Fourth Street will be held at 7 p.m. Aug.12, in the city council chambers.
Council says thanks for Memorial Day events
Finally, Councilor Glaser publically thanked Vince Sando of Lake County Veterans Services for an outstanding Memorial Day program. She also acknowledged the moving speech given by Vietnam vet Keith Larson and thanked him for sharing the story of his experiences in military service.