By Terry Carlson
A complaint filed with the State of Minnesota by Dr. Joann Bassing against two Greenwood Township firefighters was dismissed on August 13 for failing "to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that Respondents violated Minn. Stat. ß 211B.09 by compelling persons to take part in a political activity. "
Minn. Stat. ß 211B.09 states:
"An employee or official of the state or of a political subdivision may not use official authority or influence to compel a person to apply for membership in or become a member of a political organization, to pay or promise to pay a political contribution, or to take part in political activity. A political subdivision may not impose or enforce additional limitations on the political activities of its employees."
Bassing alleged that Chief Dave Fazio and Assistant Chief Mike Indehar pressured other firefighters to add their names to a newspaper advertisement that Fazio paid for endorsing several candidates in advance of the March 9 election. 18 individuals freely agreed to add their names to the ad that was published on March 5 in The Tower News.
A panel of three administrative law judges from the State of Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings concluded that Bassing presented no evidence that either Fazio or Indihar had compelled any of the firefighters to add their names to the ad. It is estimated that the price tag to be picked up by Greenwood taxpayers for the legal action will be $10,000-$20,000.
Bassing has the right to seek judicial review of the ALJs' decision by filing a writ of certiorari with the Minnesota Court of Appeals within 30 days.
County authorizes $26 million in bonds for new Tower-Embarrass Public Works facility
The St. Louis County Board has authorized $26 million in bonds to build 3 rural Public Works facilities.
The new garages will replace ones first built in the 1930s and will better fit today's larger road maintenance and snow-removal equipment, proponents said, while also offering amenities for employees not in place at existing locations.
The project was billed as continued modernization of county infrastructure, and one that would benefit staff and operators while also providing improved housing for the fleet of road maintenance and snow-clearing equipment.
The new facilities would be built to last up to 100 years, using insulated concrete panels, and consolidate existing locations, such as making Tower and Embarrass garages into one centralized spot in Kugler Township.
Commissioners voted unanimously to issue the general obligation bonds, setting in motion Public Works facilities to also go up in Culver Township and near Whiteface Reservoir. For the new locations, the county is using its own tax-forfeited lands.
The county Public Works manages 18 sites in all, including 73 buildings.
"This move to the Kugler garage is going to be huge for taxpayers, but also for the employees there," Commissioner Paul McDonald, of Ely, said. "Everything is together at the same time; it's going to benefit employees and taxpayers."
Snowplow operators who are already capturing 28 lane miles of road per day --an impressive figure, commissioners agreed - figure to be better positioned in the new locations for even more efficient operations.
The commissioners and county staff noted that the existing facilities being replaced were steel and metal buildings constructed in the 1930s. Modern plow trucks have outgrown those quarters, and the buildings are outdated and failing in some cases.
"It's amazing it lasted as long as it did," McDonald said of the Embarrass facility on Highway 21.
The county has been using bonding to accentuate its capital and road projects for a number of years. In October, it snared a 1.67% interest rate on $25.4 million aimed at fortifying the county's existing road and bridge projects through 2024.
The process allows the county to accelerate the amount of work it can get done while interest rates are low.
Duluth News Tribune
Changes are coming to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and they might not be entirely welcomed by consumers, who will pay more for stamps starting in late August while facing longer delivery times for mail.
The increase in prices the second rate hike this calendar yearwas approved in late July by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), the federal regulator that oversees the postal agency, which claimed that the higher prices are in line with postal regulations. Barring a successful legal challenge, first-class stamps will cost 58 cents, a 6.9% jump. The higher price will kick in on August 29, according to the USPS.
Also, nonprofit and periodical mail would experience an average increase of 7.8%, ranging from 5.7% to 14.6%, depending on the category and class.
But that's not all hand-in-hand with the higher rates will be a deliberate slowdown in delivery, especially in rural areas. It is anticipated that mail delivery to-and-from Tower-Soudan and the rest of the Iron Range will average 13% to 17.9% longer than it does now due to our distance from the state's "centers of population" in the Twin Cities.
The USPS says it expects that customers would be happier if the service provides on-time delivery within a five-day window, rather than late delivery of some mail within its current three-delay delivery .
"I do not believe that the Postal Service has proven its case for reducing service standards for all Americans," wrote PRC commissioner Ashley Poling in PRC's 230-page advisory opinion on the Postal Services' proposal to revise service standards. Poling was nominated to the commission by former President Donald Trump.
She added, "The plan also fails to provide sufficient evidence to justify exceptionally limited cost savings projections, use of a flawed demand model, and unfounded notions that the majority of American citizens and businesses will actually experience increased satisfaction with these sweeping service cuts."
A motion for a stay is the second attempt to halt the rates, brought in a lawsuit coalition of organizations representing commercial and nonprofit users
challenging the Postal Regulatory Commission's authority to allow rate increases beyond the inflation-based cap in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.'
Sources: USPS, Aradius Group
Also In This Issue:
"Immigrants of the Northland" adds new life to Tower-Soudan heritage
Vermilion Lake Association holds annual meeting
Those Were the Days!