The Tower News

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 P.O. Box 447, Tower, MN 55790

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November 16, 2018

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 Chaos and Grit


Monday evening fire destroys Zup's Food Market in Cook

By GDA

At 8:47 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office received a report of a structure fire at Zup's Food Market in Cook. A Sheriff's Deputy arrived on the scene within a minute and observed smoke and flames coming from the rear of the store. The deputy immediately requested mutual aid from the surrounding fire agencies to assist in fighting the fire. Multiple fire crews arrived and battled the fire in temperatures around 8 degrees. They started pouring water on the fire around 9 p.m. The Cook Fire Department stopped pouring water on the fire at 4 a.m. after a long, freezing night fighting this fire. The Zup's building was apparently totally destroyed, making a hardship for Cook and the surrounding communities as it is the only grocery store or supermarket in Cook.
The firefighters from area fire departments had to wait for a backhoe to gain access to the building and the fire. State Patrol and County Deputies were soon on the scene as was the Cook Ambulance Squad. There were no reported injuries from the fire.
Throughout the night, residents of Cook and the surrounding area came and parked across Highway 53 as they watched their supermarket being destroyed. Huge clouds of smoke poured from the building and drifted east. There was concern that some tanks could explode, but that didn't happen.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Sheriff's Office and is being assisted by the Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Office.
McDonald's Restaurant next to Zup's was virtually closed for business as the hose from the fire hydrant in the back of the restaurant's lot provided water to fight the fire. The drive-thru lane was blocked by the Sheriff's Deputies. McDonald's employees Michael and Jessica worked through the night providing coffee and food for the firefighters. They were still on duty when daylight came. Many of the 40 plus employees of Zup's congregated somberly in McDonald's Tuesday morning to talk of the fire, their futures, the loss of this business and what it would mean to Cook.
The store, which has been one of the busiest in the Zup's Food Market chain, will undoubtedly be rebuilt, but this could take six months to a year. So far, no word has been given on the future rebuilding.
The mood around Cook was somber as residents tried to figure how they would handle the loss of their supermarket. The Zup's Food Market in Tower is one answer for area residents. Customers are urged to go to that store to help Zup's as they rebuild. Pelican Bay Foods in Orr is another viable option as they are only 15 minutes or so away.
Orr can remember what it was like when they lost their store years ago before the present one was built. Many residents would do the shopping for their neighbors, especially elder citizens who couldn't get out. Ride sharing was prevalent and they survived. Cook area residents will have to look at doing things like this. Many said that they didn't realize how much they used their local supermarket.
In the meantime, Zup's manager Matt Zupancich and some of his staff will have their hands full, cleaning up the old store, designing a new one, getting a contractor and having it built. One thing is sure, those of us who live here are survivors and Cook and the surrounding area will survive this loss and look forward to the new store.
It is a sad time for the area.


Breitung Town Board meets on Wednesday afternoon

 

by Al Reller

Members of the Breitung Town Board met on Wednesday afternoon of this week, with the meeting called to order by Chairman Tim Tomsich. The agenda was brief and the board handled it with its usual alacrity.
A representative of the United States Census Bureau, Sarah Priest, informed the Board about the upcoming United States Census. She was asking for help to get the word out about the 2020 Census jobs. Those who are interested and would like more information may call 1-855-562-2002. There are many jobs available to ordinary citizens. Hiring starts in 2011 to recruit managers. Those who love to ask questions and meet "new" people are alerted to the fact that the Bureau will start accepting "Recruiting Assistants."
The Board approved a "partial" payment, $73,985.05 to George Bougalis and Sons Company for the work on the West Street Sewer project.
A decision was made to apply for a Community Development Block Grant to cover the costs of accessibility improvements to the Town Hall and Post Office.
Rates for McKinley Park Campgrounds and its manager's salary were discussed. Also on the agenda were the Fire Boat, gravel pit and Mesabi Bituminous.
The Fire Department Ordinance 2018-18 authorizing the assessment of fees and penalties for repeated false alarms was given the second reading.
The next regular Township meeting is Wednesday, November 28, at 4:00 p.m.


Attorney says Greenwood Personnel Policy invalid

by Anthony Sikora

One of the first items of business at the regular Tuesday, November 13 meeting of the Greenwood Town Board of Supervisors was to permanently rearrange its agenda, placing public input and correspondence at the end of each township meeting. In September and October the town board experimented with accepting input at the end of those meetings and now seem convinced that it allows the board a better opportunity to conduct its business before hearing a recital of public concerns. This practice also allows the board of supervisors the opportunity to research and think about those concerns before returning to the next meeting ready to address them. 
A September 30 grievance, by firefighter Jeff Maus, alleges Greenwood Township did not "consider an employee grievance in good faith" and alleges members of the town board made "derogatory comments" and "untrue statements." The Greenwood Town Board, in accordance with policy, turned the complaint over to its attorney Mike Couri. 
The township has now heard from its attorney on the matter. According to Couri the township does not have a Personnel Policy in place. There is a Personnel Policy document on the township website reportedly adopted by the Town Board of Supervisors on July 11, of last year, when Dr. John Bassing was chairman of the town board. However, according to this recent communication from the township attorney that policy has not been adopted and is not part of the township's official policies and cannot be used in determining the outcome of a complaint lodged against the board. The multi-page letter acknowledged that the attorney listened to hours of meeting audio recordings and read the township's minutes before determining that the township simply has not adopted any such policy. Board Chairman Mike Ralston asked Clerk Sue Drobac to read the lengthy letter into the public record. The letter negates the validity of the township policy dealing with employees and suggests the township deny any claims of wrongdoing, based upon a nonexistent Personnel Policy relating to the Maus complaint and to remove the unapproved policy from the township website.
Following the advice the town board received in its attorney's letter, Supervisor Carmen DeLuca moved to "find that there was not any disrespect on behalf of the township board." The motion received unanimous support following the second which was provided by Supervisor Paul Skubic.
"That piece of paper cost about a thousand bucks," Chairman Ralston said following the conclusion of the vote.
Later in the meeting, under public input, Bassing said that he believed that the township attorney is wrong and that the township did indeed approve the Personnel Policy, as reported in the township's official newspaper back in 2017. "I don't believe this is defensible," Bassing said.
Still the July 11, 2017 minutes posted on the township's website, officially approved by review and vote on August 8, 2017,  show no mention of any such policy.
The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry is still investigating Maus' other complaint relating to training study time pay. Ralston reported that the township has received notice that its insurance carrier will no longer provide coverage to defend the township against that investigation. The town board unanimously approved conducting a 6:30 p.m. meeting at the town hall on Monday, November 26 to determine its best course of action.
Greenwood has long offered its citizens low-interest septic project loans and Frandsen Bank in Tower has now informed the township that it can no longer administer those loans on behalf of the township. The 27-year-old program started with a $40,000 grant and the township now has $97,000 but needs to find a way to administer the short, currently two-year, two-percent loans for residents. There is a township resident ready to borrow money for a septic project currently under construction Rodgers told the board. She said that she can handle some of the details of administration, but first the township needs to determine what restrictions govern this fund. The dedicated bridge and trail funds should also be reviewed, Rodgers said. The board took the loan program under advisement and is expected to address these issues in the near future.
In other action, the Greenwood Town Board of Supervisors:
· Approved the minutes of both the October 9 regular meeting and October 15 special meeting of the town board
· Learned, in a report from Supervisor Byron Beihoffer, that he has not yet been able to find any well drillers interested in drilling a shallow well at the township's pavilion. It is expected the issue may again be addressed next spring
· Discussed high speed, broadband internet issues in a conversation led by Treasurer Pam Rodgers. According to Rodgers the township was the recipient of a Northeast Services Co-op program which brought broadband fiber to the township doorstep, however she does not believe the township has hooked up yet. She will look into what needs to be done to accomplish the connection and report back to the town board
· Approved paying $6,456.13 in bills claimed due against the township
· Listened to Fire Chief Dave Fazio complete the second reading of the Standard Operating Guidelines and the Paid on Call Guidelines for the Greenwood Fire Department and the town board unanimously voted to adopt the guidelines following this reading
· Learned that Chairman Ralston has now received copies of the township inventory from the Fire Chief and Town Clerk. The township will post the inventory on the cloud and is available for review at the town hall office, Ralston said
· Approved purchasing 400 feet of rubber hose to aid in flooding the ice skating rink and to be used at other times where water is needed a distance from the town hall well
· Approved spending $336 for a metal sign to be placed at the recycling canisters warning the public against unlawful dumping and the consequences which will be meted out against scofflaws
· Authorized Ralston to use the township plow truck to plow the ice rink when needed
· Approved a new rental agreement for the town hall and pavilion and discussed the need to determine a procedure to determine if renters have left the facilities clean and removed all garbage before reservation deposits are refunded
· Approved paying Ed Borchardt throughout the winter as Safety Director on the township fire department. It was noted that he works on township firefighter safety and training even when he is out of the area during winter months
· Approved removing the township Personnel Policy from the township's website
· Learned, from Clerk Drobac, that 606 voters cast ballots in the November 6 midterm election
· Learned that Greenwood Township Fire Department responded with six firefighters to the Cook Zup's Grocery store fire and three of those members were Bois Forte Band members confirming the excellent working relationship between both Greenwood communities
· Gave Clerk Drobac authority to spend up to $3,500 to obtain a new photo copier for the township office
· Established the Greenwood Town Hall as the official polling place for the upcoming March township election
· Accepted the only bid the township received in its call for bids for snowplowing. The bid was from Vermilion Snow Management, the same business which provided services last year, at a charge of $100 per hour of service.


Also In This Issue:

Veterans Day Program at Tower-Soudan School

Veteran's Day remembrance at Northeast Range School

Those Were the Days!