Safe Routes to School expands throughout county

With Esko's Safe Routes to School trail alignment already in place and in its final design phase, the rest of the county isn't far behind. At Tuesday's meeting of the Carlton County Board, commissioners unanimously agreed to act as sponsor for a ...


With Esko's Safe Routes to School trail alignment already in place and in its final design phase, the rest of the county isn't far behind.

At Tuesday's meeting of the Carlton County Board, commissioners unanimously agreed to act as sponsor for a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Infrastructure Grant for Moose Lake - a requirement since federal dollars are involved in the funding.

Milt Hagen of the County Transportation Department explained the lack of sidewalks in the neighborhoods surrounding the Moose Lake School is a safety barrier for local kids traveling to school. Hagen said Meghann Condit, regional coordinator for the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), has reported that five streets in the neighborhood have been identified by the SRTS Coalition in Moose Lake as part of a possible route to improve the safety of pedestrians, particularly students.

"Moose Lake has gone through a planning process, developed an action plan and has been implementing SRTS activities for about three years," explained Condit in an interview later that day.

She said the community applied for non-infrastructure implementation funds last spring (April 2012), and received a grant for about $10,000 to work on some of their action plan items (mostly focused on education and encouragement activities).


"Moose Lake has a current Bicycling and Walking to School Policy in place and has also worked directly with the city, county and state to implement engineering changes," said Condit. "Moose Lake School is also a site for the SRTS Curriculum Pilot. This infrastructure piece will further their efforts."

The board agreed to write a letter of support on behalf of the project as part of the grant application.

Hagen also discussed a second Safe Routes to School proposal with commissioners , this one involving a non-infrastructure implementation. He said Condit has met with schools throughout the county regarding the idea of applying for a SRTS grant to purchase a fleet of bicycles for use in physical education classes in the county.

"Through this grant, the county will purchase a bike fleet to be used by all eight school districts in Carlton County," Condit elaborated. "The bike fleet will teach bicycle use and safety, encourage exercise and use of bicycles for getting to school, and increase the use of bicycles as transportation in general. The bicycle fleet will contain a trailer that houses 30 bicycles that can be transported from school to school in the fall and spring."

The county would be in charge of transportation and scheduling for the program.

Both grants are due this Friday, Feb. 15, and Condit said the county should find out soon afterward if the grants have been approved.

Commissioner Marv Bodie questioned whether the grant amount would include the purchase of bike helmets as well, and the board unanimously agreed that it should be part of the application if safety is to be stressed.

In other business to come before the board, a public hearing was held to considering granting a new off-sale liquor license to TJ's Country Corner in Mahtowa. No one stepped up to speak in opposition to the issue, and no letters of comment were received by the board. TJ's manager Tom Bislow did address the board, however.


"The grocery business has changed so much," said Bislow, referring to the fact that stores such as Wal-Mart, and the soon-to-be-opened Walgreens store in Cloquet, are now selling groceries in addition to other items, making it difficult for small grocery stores to compete. He said that is why the business is proposing to open an off-sale liquor establishment.

"It's time to try to keep us in Mahtowa," he concluded.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the license, pending approval of the application by the county attorney.

Commissioners approved an economic development loan to the Oldenburg House LLC of Carlton in the amount of $10,000, at 5 percent interest with a 4-year amortization schedule. Pat Oman, Carlton County economic development director, explained that owner Helen Swanson plans to use the money for upgrades to the house, which recently received approval to operate as a bed and breakfast.

An economic development loan in the amount of $26,000 was also approved for the Northern Harvest Farm of Wrenshall, at 3 percent interest with a 20-year amortization schedule. Oman explained that owner Carole Balow plans to use the loan as gap financing for the planned community-supported agriculture business.

The board approved a contract with the Minnesota Investment Fund that will provide $1,722,000 in loans for commercial rehabilitation in Carlton County.

A measure was endorsed that will provide temporary services to victims of sexual and domestic abuse in the county. The Carlton County Sexual and Domestic Abuse Program ceased operation last October due to non-renewal of its grant funding, leaving $9,694 in its budget to cover services of that type. According to Dave Lee, director of Carlton County Health and Human Services, a program known as WINDOW Victim Services based in Pine and Kanabec counties is interested in expanding its services to Carlton County while more permanent options are being explored.

David Moeller of Minnesota Power was on hand to update commissioners on the planning progress of the proposed Great Northern Transmission Line, which will eventually convey power generated in Manitoba over the Minnesota border through Grand Rapids and across to the Arrowhead Substation in Hermantown. Moeller explained a portion of the line is slated to run through northern Carlton County. He said the purpose of the new line is to provide additional energy for Minnesota Power and other utilities, and the company hopes to have the line in service by 2020. He said public meetings are being held with homeowners and stakeholders along the proposed corridor to discuss and evaluate location of the line on public and private lands. Moeller explained that before the project can be approved, the company must formally establish the need for it in writing and then apply for a route permit after that. He said the state prefers that the new line stay within the existing corridors as much as possible, but he added that it may have to divert from that course in certain areas of northern Minnesota.


Finally, the board approved the appointment of Loren Bergstedt of Esko to the Community Health Board.

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