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Shipwright John Finkle has been working with a crew of volunteers for the past 10 months to construct a wooden boat in a downtown Duluth storefront, but the vessel has occupied his imagination for a much longer time. He recalls singling out a crooked bur oak growing in the woods on a friend's property. "I saw it four years ago, and I was like — 'Dude, there's the bow of my boat,' " he said. Now that vessel is nearing completion, the product of a local boat-building initiative that Finkle also hopes will build a stronger sense of community.
The Lake Superior Zoo should be able to keep its doors open, thanks to some financial aid it will receive courtesy of the Duluth City Council. By a 6-2 vote Monday night, councilors agreed to provide up to an additional $200,000 in funding for the zoo, which this year already was set to receive $510,000 in local tourism tax revenues. The council also gave the zoo some extra financial breathing room by extending the terms of a $300,000 promissory note that was to have been repaid by Oct. 1. That deadline will now be pushed back to Oct. 1, 2018.
Altec Inc., a manufacturer of specialized aerial lift trucks, may be poised for another round of significant growth in Duluth. Monday night, the Duluth City Council will likely vote to authorize an application for $550,000 in state economic development funds to help the company expand. Altec already employs 229 people in Duluth and projects it could hire an additional 100 workers in the next couple of years, given the right help. The company anticipates an accompanying investment of about $12.5 million in the local production facility, located at the Clure Marine Terminal.
Six DFL gubernatorial hopefuls took the stage Friday afternoon in front of a sea of people wearing union-themed green T-shirts at the annual convention of the American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees Council 5, hosted this year by the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Through moderator Barbara Reyelts, the audience peppered the candidates for Minnesota governor with questions about their commitment to some of the key concerns in the room, including health care, pensions, anti-labor legislation and efforts to privatize public institutions.
The Duluth City Council learned Thursday that the Lake Superior Zoo will need a lifeline if it is to remain afloat financially for the remainder of this year. On Monday, councilors are set to vote on a resolution that could provide the zoo with up to a $200,000 grant and also extend the amount of time that the Lake Superior Zoological Society has to repay an outstanding $300,000 promissory note. That note, issued more than two years ago, was to have been repaid by Oct. 1, 2017 after a prior extension, but the deadline will be pushed out for another year, if the council approves.
The Duluth City Council will be asked to approve an additional $375,000 in overtime pay for the city's firefighters Monday evening. Staffing challenges in the department have been particularly acute this year, according to Duluth Fire Chief Dennis Edwards, who attributed much of the situation to one primary factor. "Mostly it's the ongoing military leave. We have a number of people who are in the Guards, and that puts stress on our overtime budget," Edwards said.
Morgan Park residents will have an opportunity to learn more about a proposed rental housing development at a neighborhood meeting Tuesday night. Plans now call for the construction of 96 units of rental housing on the site of the former Morgan Park Middle School. That's down from the 120 units previously proposed.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson aims to take a hard look at how the city has been spending $11.6 million in annual proceeds from its tourism tax collections. Toward that end, she has asked all recipients of the tourism tax funds to provide a detailed reckoning of how they've been using the money, how those dollars have been leveraged and to what degree they have indeed helped foster tourism in Duluth.
Any group that wants to use the Duluth City Hall as a venue for an event — whether it's a protest or a rally — will now need to pull a permit to do so. Earlier this month, Duluth rolled out its new City Hall Use Policy. "This is public space, so it's really important that the public be able to access it. It's also primarily a work space, where we have hundreds of people who are here to get their work done during the day. So we're just trying to find a way to balance all that," said Mayor Emily Larson.
Duluth's residents can expect to see a significant increase in the price they pay for tap water in the future. A resolution to veto higher water rates failed by a 2-7 vote Monday night, with city councilors Howie Hanson and Jay Fosle standing alone in their opposition to increased charges approved by the Duluth Public Utilities Commission last week.