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Top Carlton County stories of the year

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A Cloquet home and a gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright made local and national news in 2016, while there were plenty of stories locally regarding school construction and consolidation, along with a healthy dose of politics in a big election year. Sadly, we lost a number of elders to old age and disease, people who had contributed in many ways to making Carlton County what it is today. We look back over what we think are the Top 10 stories of the year — in no particular order — and then some.

PHOTO OF GAS STATION WITH JUMP

Cloquet home and gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright get new owners

Designed by Wright in 1952 and named Mäntylä — Finnish for “house among the pines” — Cloquet’s only Frank Lloyd Wright house was commissioned and built in Cloquet for Ray and Emma Lindholm.

Long off-limits to tourists and FLW fans, the world found out the home was no longer located in Cloquet in late June. On the market for years with no buyers, the home was donated by owners Peter and Julene McKinney — Peter is the youngest McKinney brother — to the non-profit Usonian Preservation Inc. It was shipped, brick by brick, to a 130-acre “architectural park” in Pennsylvania, where it will eventually be reconstructed, preserved, open to the public and monitored by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.

“The decision to relocate the house was a very difficult one for us. The house has been in our family for over 60 years and our son, David, grew up there. The three of us believe this solution is best for the long-term survival of the house,” Peter said in a statement provided to media.

Elder brother Mike McKinney remembered playing in the woods behind his grandparents home before they became Cloquet’s Pine Valley park. He remembered an interior of cypress, with built-in shelves and free-standing furniture, all designed by Wright. He also remembered a dog house built by Wright’s representative, Bob Pond.

“This is a decision we didn’t take lightly and I know some people might be upset that a (Wright) house is leaving Minnesota, but I must say that we think more and more and more people will have an opportunity to see it out there than ever had the opportunity to see it in Cloquet,” said Minneapolis architect Tim Quigley, one of the architects who oversaw the relocation.

The older McKinney brothers also inked a deal to sell the R.W. Lindholm Service Station, aka the Frank Lloyd Wright gas station, at the corner of Highway 33 and Cloquet Avenue. Mike McKinney said the family sought to make sure the iconic building would remain in town, preferably being used as it was intended.

They signed a purchase agreement in September with Chris Chartier, who has worked at the station since 1982, most of those years with his brother, Terry. Chartier will be the majority partner with Don McKay, another mechanic, to become the station’s new owners. The sale has yet to go through, said McKay Wednesday.

Chartier said it will remain a gas station and Best Service auto repair business too.

It will also remain a tourist destination.

Completed in 1958, the R.W. Lindholm Service Station is the only gas station ever built by Wright. The station was refurbished and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008.

On a related note, the woman who introduced the Lindholms to the architecture of FLW — their daughter, Joyce Lindholm McKinney — passed away Oct. 17 at the age of 90. Like her parents and her sons, she and her husband owned the iconic gas station for a time.

PHOTO OF KEVIN DUPUIS SR.

Fond du Lac Band elects new leadership

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa elected Kevin Dupuis Sr. its new chairperson in June. Dupuis topped Wayne Dupuis, 622 votes to 442, to take the election with 58.5 percent of the vote.

Kevin Dupuis Sr. replaced Karen Diver atop the Reservation Business Committee. Diver was in her second term as chairwoman when left in the fall of 2015 for a position in Washington, D.C., in President Barack Obama’s administration as special assistant to the president for Native American affairs.

Vanessa L. Northrup and Roger M. Smith Sr. were also elected to the RBC — with Northrup defeating Wally Dupuis, 452-240, in District I, and Smith topping Phillip J. Savage, 109-88, in District III. Wally Dupuis had been the interim RBC chairperson since November, following Diver’s departure.

New school construction continues

The official groundbreaking for the new Cloquet Middle School project, expected to cost close to $39 million, was held April 11. Construction has been ongoing ever since.

The new middle school will accommodate grades five through eight — shifting the fifth-graders into middle school will open up needed space at the elementary schools — and will allow for the sharing of resources, transportation, school staff and other spaces for instruction and activities with the high school. The school also will offer opportunities for the community in the form of an eight-lane swimming pool, meeting and classroom space and a three-station gymnasium.

Students are expected to move into the new middle school in the fall of 2017, if all goes according to plan.

That’s the same time that students in grades K-12 are expected to move into the new $34.7 million Moose Lake K-12 school being constructed on County Road 10, a much higher locale than the school’s previously flooded buildings near the lake.

Plans for the new 138,000 square-foot school show two wings extending from a central core area that includes administrative officers, the auditorium, a student commons area, two gymnasiums, plus art, science and industrial technology rooms and a kitchen. The high school wing extends out to the south side, while a two-pronged wing juts out toward the north side — one branch for Early Childhood and Family Education (ECFE) and the other branch for elementary-school classrooms. Areas for outdoor play surround the northern wing, while a parking lot sits in front of the high school wing. Each wing has its own circular library.

JOE NOWAK AND JIM NORTHRUP PHOTOS

Community mourns deaths of longtime leaders, advocates

Some of the area’s most cherished elders passed away in 2016. With their passing, residents of Carlton County and the Fond du Lac Reservation lost not only strong people who made in difference in the world, they also lost a piece of history with each man’s death.

Peter “Pete” Defoe Jr., former chairman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and former president of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, died June 20 at the age of 77. Defoe was Band secretary and treasurer for 16 years before retiring in 2002 to care for his wife. He was elected chairman in July 2004 after defeating Robert “Sonny” Peacock, who had been the band's chairman since 1988. Defoe was also elected president of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe in 1998 and again in 2000. Defoe was instrumental in the creation of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet — serving on the task force which developed plans for the unique tribal-state educational institution in the 1980s — as well as a major expansion of the band’s successful Black Bear Casino Resort operations.

Like Defoe, former Carlton County Commissioners Gordon Aanerud and Ted Pihlman spent decades in local politics. Pihlman died Aug. 19, after fighting cancer for three years. Aanerud passed away Sept. 1, after a farm tractor accident.

Pihlman served on the Moose Lake City Council and close to 25 years on the Carlton County Board of Commissioners, representing southern Carlton County.

Aanerud was first elected to the board in fall 1991 and he served until 2010. Aanerud listed among his proudest accomplishments the construction of the Carlton County Transportation Building and the Community Services Building in downtown Cloquet.

Ojibwe storyteller, Vietnam veteran, author, playwright, poet, cultural ambassador and family man Jim Northrup died Aug. 1 at age 73 from cancer. Northrup was a voice to be reckoned with, on and off the Fond du Lac Reservation, whether he was speaking Ojibwe or English, reciting his poetry by heart or writing pointed, yet humorous columns about life on the reservation, his experiences as a Marine in Vietnam or issues such as the proposed oil pipeline that could impact his beloved wild rice.

Northrup and his wife, Pat, also started a highly successful Ojibwe language camp on the reservation in 2010 that is now an annual event.

Legendary ski coach, outdoorsman, teacher and friend Joe Nowak left behind a litany of legacies when he died Oct. 27, at the age of 88.

As a jumper, Nowak set 11 ski jump records in the United States, Europe and Canada. As head coach of the Cloquet High School ski team, he — assisted by Nordic coach Mike Marciniak and alpine coach John Luomala — coached the Cloquet High School boys ski teams to 13 state championships in a 15-year period.

His most enduring legacy is probably Pine Valley, where runners and walkers enjoy wooded trails in the summer and Nordic skiers and ski jumpers occupy the park throughout the winter months. Nowak envisioned what became the hub of skiing in Cloquet, then made it happen by requesting many donations from area businesses and recruiting volunteers to help build and shape the park.

Wrenshall-Carlton school consolidation debate, redux

After school board members for the neighboring Carlton and Wrenshall School districts failed to agree on a plan to consolidate the two tiny school in 2014-15, residents revived the debate in 2016. The citizens — calling themselves “Better Together” — outlined a plan that would have kept a school in each community: one at the current South Terrace Elementary School site and the other at the current Wrenshall K-12 school site. After months of committee and community meetings, the two school boards ended the debate in exactly the same place it ended before, with each board voting unanimously to support consolidation with one prekindergarten-through-12th grade facility in their own city. Official end of discussion … or at least until the next community petition or school board election.

Stormy weather

Although the floodwaters did not reach the levels of the 2012 flash floods, they certainly threatened to. Officials and residents across southern Carlton County breathed a collective sigh of relief in July, as floodwaters crested far short of records set in 2012 and receded more quickly than predicted. Still, 10 homes were damaged in Moose Lake, where city crews also were forced to discharge untreated sewage into Moosehead Lake and Moose Horn River for a time to avoid overwhelming the wastewater treatment plant. Barnum saw flooding too — the city park was submerged again — and Willow River was hit hard.

Northland residents then faced high winds on July 21 and again on Aug. 4. Residents and campers at Big Lake got hit during both storms, but the Duluth area saw even greater damages from the high winds, clocked at up to 100 mph there.

Band builds new $2.2 million solar farm to harvest the power of the sun

The solar farm near Black Bear Casino Resort completed in August is just the latest effort by the Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to reduce its own carbon footprint and make the world a better place for future generations.

Rows and rows of solar panels stretch across five acres of land in what was once a gravel pit off Moorhead Road. After nearly a year of construction from start to finish, it is an example of what a renewable energy future looks like, and will generate enough electricity to power more than 150 homes, or about 10 percent of the casino’s electric needs.

Cloquet HRA wins big in affordable housing

The Cloquet-Carlton Housing and Redevelopment Authority learned this fall that the state allocated $542,000 from Minnesota Housing Investment funds plus $5,717,724 of an estimated 9 percent tax credit equity toward the estimated total development cost of $6,375,046 for the HRA’s proposed White Pine Apartments.

The new building will be constructed next to the existing Aspen Arms apartment building on 14th Street in Cloquet and will include 35 rental units. Plans include six one-bedroom units, 26 with two bedrooms and three units with three bedrooms. Seven of the units will have supportive contracts for people with an illness or mental health issues.

However, plans to repurpose the existing Cloquet Middle School into a 50-unit apartment building were not included in the list of projects to be funded. Superintendent Ken Scarbrough said the district received a cancellation agreement from Sherman Associates regarding the purchase agreement executed in May. Currently the school district is in talks with a different developer interested in repurposing the middle school.

Election brings big change at the top, less locally

Across the country and in Carlton County, the 2016 election brought change, most notably Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s win of the electoral college votes (279 to 228), although Democratic Hillary Clinton actually garnered more actual votes. The vote was close in Carlton County too, with Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine getting 8,460 (46.5 percent) votes to Donald Trump and Michael Pence getting 8,160 votes (44.8 percent).

Locally there were a few upsets. In Cloquet, challenger and bar owner Adam Bailey defeated one-term incumbent Lara Wilkinson for the At-Large councilor seat. On the other hand, Ward 5 Councilor Steve Langley — another one-term incumbent — retained his seat easily.

Man shot and killed, suspect in custody

Cloquet’s Wayne Joseph Bosto was charged with second-degree murder in the Dec. 23 shooting death of John F. Korby in Sixth District Carlton County Court on Tuesday, Dec. 27.

Assistant Carlton County Attorney Jeffrey Boucher described Bosto, 33, as shooting Korby, 36, of Cloquet, multiple times in the limbs before standing over the victim and delivering a final shot to his head that only later caused his death. Korby died after he’d arrived at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth.

Bail was set at $1 million for Bosto, who has a lengthy criminal record. This criminal case will likely be ongoing for some time.

Honorable mentions for 2016

-Friends of Animals Humane Society buys new digs on Avenue B in downtown Cloquet, will be even bigger news when they move in and sell their old building and land between WalMart and Highway 33.

-Jesse Jay Bohanon, 23, of Virginia, Minn., was charged July 26 with second-degree attempted murder, assault in the second degree, drive-by shooting and several other charges after allegedly chasing and shooting several times at three people in another vehicle on Brevator Road in Cloquet and the Fond du Lac Reservation. He hit the driver in the hand and one passenger in the back seat in the back. That case is still working its way through the court system.

-Cloquet students got March 17 off as the district declared its first-ever (and possibly the first in the state) malware day, after particularly virulent computer virus spread from computer to computer, locking up access to network servers and turning documents into gibberish before offering “help” in the form of a request for payment to provide a “key” to unlock the files. It took district staff weeks to recover all the computers, which meant teachers had to go “old school” with lesson plans. That meant dry-erase markers, chalk and paper, lots of paper.

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