The Tower News

Since June 4, 1900 - News About the Greatest People in the World - Our Own!

 P.O. Box 447, Tower, MN 55790


  Phone: 218-753-7777

 Fax: 218-753-7778

January 11, 2019






 Chaos and Grit

The Range loses a legend as Tommy Rukavina passes on


A legend in politics and serving the people, Tommy Rukavina passed away on Monday at the age of 68. Tommy Rukavina, former state representative, St. Louis County commissioner, and school board member for Pike and Virginia, will always be known as a Ranger. He was known for his fighting to keep the mines open, especially for a bill signed by Gov. Arne Carlson in the 1990s to keep the taconite mines up and running despite shutdowns and bankruptcies.
Tommy will always be remembered as that short Ranger who fought like a banty rooster for his beloved Range and the miners. His favorite phrase was "for the little fellers, not the Rockefellers."
He passed away on Monday after fighting leukemia. The disease stopped him from running for re-election as a St. Louis County commissioner last year. He was at the University of Minnesota Medical Center where he was being treated to receive a bone marrow transplant. His death brought tributes from political leaders of both parties. Tommy was a leader of the DFL party, but had many friends on the other side of the aisle.
His roots go back to Orr where his maternal grandfather homesteaded, and to the Iron Range where his paternal grandfather was a miner. He grew up in Virginia on the edge of a mine pit where he played. His father was a miner and also a staunch organizer for the United Steelworkers of America.
Tommy will be missed by both parties, especially the sight of him rising up and shouting his views on many subjects. Besides being a miner, he was a representative in the Minnesota Legislature for more than a quarter century and he will always be remembered there. He was never a quiet member, sitting on the sidelines. He was there to represent the Range and did it in a style that will probably never be the same. He was known as a "passionate giant for the little guy."
The Range won't be the same without Tommy. A friend, a political antagonist, a true Ranger, and now he is gone.

St. Louis County issues statement on passing of Tom Rukavina
Following the news of the death of Commissioner Tom Rukavina, St. Louis County Administrator Kevin Gray stated the following: "We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Tom Rukavina. As a commissioner and former state representative, he was a passionate advocate for the people of his district. His legacy will live on in many places ­ perhaps the most notable from his time as county commissioner was the establishment of a scholarship fund using iron ore royalties to assist students at community colleges in St. Louis County. Our county is a better place because of Tom's dedicated service, and we will miss him."

Vermilion Lake Township Clerk Resigns

It took three nights and lengthy discussions to complete the December meeting of the Vermilion Lake Town board and accept the resignation of Steve Peterson, Jr. as Town Clerk. Mr. Peterson has accepted a new fulltime job and he informed the Town Board that "he would not be able to give the hours demanded by the Town Clerk job." The Board appointed him as interim clerk until March, when the Township Clerk position will be on the ballot for the March election.
Mr. Peterson also suggested that some of his duties could be handled by board members. Board member Pratt said that Cemetery Sexton could be one of those jobs. This is a time-consuming job and should be handled by board members that can be available during business hours, which was one of the duties Mr. Peterson had difficulty in performing, due to his day job. Board member Schmitt already is in charge of roads, which is another timeconsuming job.
Another lengthy discussion ensued on the decision to ask former Vermilion Lake Town Clerk Fran Silverberg to come back as Deputy Clerk until the March election to assist Mr. Peterson until a new Town Clerk is seated after the March election. Filings are open until January 15 at the clerk's office (by appointment) by calling 218-780-7717. The treasurer's position and one supervisor position also will be on the March ballot.
A lengthy discussion followed on wording for the posting for the position and assuring that dates that have to be followed by posting laws are met. At one point, there was discussion on posting for Deputy Clerk, but it was finally decided to post for the Town Clerk position. Postings will be in the newspaper and at Zup's Grocery in Tower, the Tower Post Office, the Little Church and Black Bear Café in Vermilion Lake Township.
With what turned out to be the longest discussion of the meeting, Ambulance Director Steve Altenburg appeared before the board to present an update on the Tower Area Ambulance Commission meeting and the ambulance replacement fund. The next meeting is set for the same night as the Vermilion Lake Town Board meeting in January and because representation from Vermilion Lake has been lacking at 2018 meetings, Altenburg gave the information to board members that will be discussed at the January 7th meeting. He has also provided this information to Greenwood Township and Eagles Nest Township and will be going to Kugler next week.
It is not necessary for the boards to make decisions on the matter after Altenburg's presentation. Decisions will be made at the January 7th Ambulance Commission meeting. Although throughout the presentation, which at times was contentious, the Vermilion Lake board members questioned Altenburg about costs of the new ambulance and the costs of transfers versus medical emergencies. Vermilion Lake board members suggested that transfers were more costly and more than likely the bigger reason for the increase in the ambulance subsidy. At one point, former Ambulance Commission member, now Vermilion Lake Chairman Phil Anderson threw his arms in the air and shouted, "Why are you trying to ram this down our throats?" to which Altenburg again reiterated that he was not looking for a decision at that time and again said his being at the Vermilion Lake meeting was "informational only" and a decision would be made at the next Tower Ambulance Commission meeting. Township Chairman Anderson asked for more exact numbers on mileage for the ambulance runs, to which Altenburg said he would get the information to the board.
In other business, because of the clerk's resignation, a new office space may be needed. Discussion included ideas from designation of an area for the office in the present town hall, an addition to the present town hall building to a stand-alone office building. Board members will continue to seek options and funding for the project.
During discussion of the possible hiring of a new firefighter, Board member Pratt asked that Fire Department minutes be sent to the Town Board since ultimately the township residents are responsible for department decision and the Board represents Vermilion Lake residents. The Town Board should have all the information from the fire department in the event a decision needed to be made by the Board.
Sara Schmitt reported on the roads and said most were in good condition. She also stated that they had not received the letter from the Erickson family about the snow plowing agreement with Vermilion Lake Township. Supervisor Bob Pratt had asked for an easement agreement, but Town Board members decided to go with just a letter, but now the Board has not received that letter.
Concerns on the bottom line figure of 2018 road repairs prompted Supervisor Pratt to ask for competitive bidding for the project in 2019, especially since there is a taxpayer in the township that does road repair work. "We need to make fair decisions."
Steve Lotz reported on the Lake Vermilion Trail Joint Power meeting that fiscal agencies for non-profit fund raising had been designated.
Supervisor Pratt reported on those not paying the Lodging Tax for rentals in Vermilion Lake Township. A letter informing the violators of their responsibility will be sent to the three properties in the township not paying the tax.
Clerk Peterson announced that the St. Louis County Association of Townships will take up the subject of "Obnoxious Weeds" at its January meeting and would like one of the Vermilion Lake Board members to attend. Sara Schmitt said she would try to attend that meeting, which will be held in Carlton. Board members agreed that the County should check its property as well.
Supervisor Bob Pratt said that he had invited Jim Fisher, Minnesota Association of Townships Regional Representative and Chairman of the Minnesota Board of Fire Fighter Training Committee to the January meeting. Mr. Pratt said "this is their job" to assist and give useful information to townships and fire departments in his region.
The next Vermilion Lake Town Board meeting was rescheduled for January 10 at 6:00 p.m. to allow board members to attend the Tower Ambulance Commission meeting on January 7.

Filings open in area townships

Filings for the seats which become vacant in area townships opened on January 1 and will close next Tuesday, January 15. The elections will be held on March 12.
The only filings to date are those of the incumbents, Tim Tomsich for supervisor and Jorgine Gornick for treasurer.
Filing for Supervisor Position 4 are Carmen DeLuca, incumbent, and John Bassing. Pam Rodgers is seeking re-election to the position of treasurer.

Also In This Issue:

Guest Editorial
No evidence on Helmberger claims, City learns
a response to a request for review of Ambulance Department Budgeting


Those Were the Days!