Normalcy is slowly coming back for the ISD 2142 St. Louis County Schools. Their regular monthly board meeting was held Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 5 p.m., in the South Ridge School as the district got back to holding a meeting in every school. There were five board members present, with Tower-Soudan's Troy Swanson and Northeast Range's Chris Koivisto absent, along with Supt. Reggie Engebritson who attended the meeting on Zoom due to a bad cold.
The surprising part of the meeting was the approval of the Teachers Contract for 2021-2023. Board member Chet Larson of Cotton said he thought they got this matter done in record time after only five meetings. Most school districts around the state of Minnesota will be working on their teachers contracts for some time. This contract gave teachers a 1 percent one-time stipend, plus a raise of 1.25 percent. They will also receive an additional personal day. The board unanimously approved the contract, which would be voted on by the teachers this week.
Supt. Reggie Engebritson gave a brief report saying they are now working on Academic Assessments for the students and added that the district is going well and still mask-free.
Two St. Scholastica College members who work with Upward Bound gave a report. They are working with 17 students at North Woods and 15 students at South Ridge. Their goal is to help students finish high school. They are usually lower income students whose parents aren't college graduates. Their program is free and starts with students who are freshmen. They want to make sure these students are never left alone, that they always have someone guiding them. Their program is quite successful with 98 percent of those in it finishing high school and 86 percent receiving college degrees.
Jim Nemec, a bus driver for South Ridge, spoke about the desperate need for bus drivers as there is a big shortage. He spoke of making sure the kids get to school as they are the heart of our district. He asked the board, "What is your plan of action?" He spoke of the district "going backwards" and said they should "up the ante."
South Ridge principal Andrew Bernard thanked the custodians at his school for getting it ready for the year and then thanked Gabrielle Christianson, the school nurse, and Suzie Janke, her assistant, for all the contact tracing and communicating with families about COVID protocols. He told the board that South Ridge has 70+ new students with elementary attendance at 266, high school at 278, and 45 in three Kindergarten Readiness classes for a total of 589 students. Principal Bernard spoke of a restorative practice to handle behavior consequences. There are behavior projects and Fix-Its where students correct their indiscretions. He also reported that a College Fair will be held on Dec. 9.
Bernard was especially proud that the St. Louis County Commissioners held their Sept. 28 meeting at South Ridge and the foods class, taught by Mr. Wisocki, prepared their lunch. The commissioners were given a tour of the school and stayed around for some time, talking to students, teachers and staff.
The board also approved the sale of General Obligation Bonds for refunding an earlier bond. The bond sale was for $7,520,000 with BNY Mellon Capital Management of Pittsburgh, Pa., the low bidder with an interest rate of 0.3483 percent. The board had thought the rate might be around 0.7 percent, so this is a big savings. This refinancing saves the taxpayers of ISD 2142 $350,000. The district has a AAA bond rating.
The board also approved the sale of the bus garage in Orr to the City of Orr for $10,000 with the stipulation that ISD 2142 will have one stall reserved for a bus as long as there is a bus route in Orr.
Madelaine McGrath was hired for 0.1 FTE Visual Arts at SR, and Sophia Magnuson 0.5 FTE Special Ed. and 0.2 FTE Phy. Ed. at Cherry.
Support staff hired included paraprofessionals Shaina Rapp for SR, Michelle Summerland for NW, Paul Kienitz for T-S, and Mattie Gross for SR. Maria Zahorik was hired as a Nutrition Employee I for Cherry.
Next on the agenda was rehiring the 16 boys and girls basketball coaches for the year, plus hiring Jay Asuma as assistant football coach for Cherry, and Samantha Kangas as assistant girls basketball coach for Cherry.
Community Education staff hired were Lily Sampson for SR, Abigail Rinerson for Cherry, and Jani Jordan for T-S.
Donations totaling $4,454 for Cherry, Northeast Range and North Woods were also accepted.
Board members wished the teams in the district good luck in the playoffs before the meeting adjourned at 6:25 p.m.
High trihalomethanes in water explained to City council
By Steve Altenburg
Tower MN The second meeting of the month held on October 25th, provided the city with a clear explanation from wastewater manager Matt Tuchel on the report the city received from the Minnesota Department of Health. The letter contained the technical data and results from annual testing done on August 10th 2021 and stated that the water had failed in one of the disinfecting byproducts (trihalomethanes).
The exceeded levels must be remedied, and quarterly testing will now be done. Tuchel explained that this rise has happened before but went down the next quarter when monitored. He further explained that because the wells are fed by a high level of surface water (40%) that the drought conditions have added to the amount of organics in the water. This is combated by higher chlorine levels to disinfect the water, however the chlorine directly raises byproducts such as trihalomethanes from the disinfection process.
Tuchel also reminded the city that the new water plant which is working on a spring of 2022 construction start, will remove/treat more organics that also cause discoloration of the water without raising chemical levels. The new plant, which is Surface Water Act compliant, is designed to handle exactly the kind of treatment issues the current filtration system was not.
Three of four beaver dams have already been removed which increase the surface water infiltration to the well and raises contaminants. The trihalomet-hanes are expected to decrease in this quarter as the weather changes and demand drops just as before when the level fell out of compliance.
Also discussed at the meeting was a letter from the from the State Demographer regarding the 2020 census. According to the census the population of Tower has dropped to 430 and noted 70 vacancies (unlived in residences). According to Victoria Ranua, the City has 30 known vacancies given water/sewer active connections.
New clerk/treasurer Michael Shultz was officially on the job and attended this meeting. Ranua went through the agenda items with the council as Shultz had not prepared the agenda packet and was unfamiliar with topics to be discussed.
Other city business covered included:
· Information, but no action, on repairing the grader which will cost $25,000-$30,000 to repair. Leasing is to expensive and there is no reliable source to hire when needed as has been stated by Morin who has been working on this issue. Councilor Marjela wants to just eliminate/not repair the grader but has provide no viable alternative or information.
· Still no action on selling the police vehicle which Joe Morin, Kevin Norby, and Dave Setterberg have indicated can just be kept, as it cost little to insure and is used by staff for various city related business when needed ,as well as a back-up city vehicle since there is only one truck. Sheldon Majerle has continued to insist on selling it, but no suitable offer has been obtained or received.
· A police contract with Breitung is in final stages and is hoped to be brought to the council in November.
· Ordinance #1 (water) is going to be reworked to update/include any amendments since its original 1929 passing.
· A special meeting will be called in which Gunderson Trust member Steve Wilson will be asked to present the investment strategy that will return the trust to financial gains. Wilson has done the lions share of work that was needed to bring the trust back to proper management and investment.
An explosion rocked a structure on Everett Bay Road Wednesday morning and together with the ensuing fire claimed the life of one and seriously injured another.
The injured party was air transported to Duluth, and firefighters recovered the body of the other victim later Wednesday afternoon. Names were withheld pending notification of relatives.
No further information was available at press time, but the structure appeared to be a total loss.
Also In This Issue:
T-S Class of '70
Those Were the Days!