The Northland's Week in Review - June 10-17, 2010

Thursday through Sunday, June 10-13 ? The Duluth Police Department announced that Level III sexual predator Dan Rico Sims, a 27-year-old African American, is now living in the area of 20th Avenue West and Superior Street. His history includes sex...

Thursday through Sunday, June 10-13

  • The Duluth Police Department announced that Level III sexual predator Dan Rico Sims, a 27-year-old African American, is now living in the area of 20th Avenue West and Superior Street. His history includes sexual contact with a 13-year-old female, a stranger whom he approached in a public place. For additional information, call 730-5464.
  • Following a domestic dispute Saturday night in Cherry Township, Minnesota State Trooper Travis Pearson, a seven-year veteran of the patrol, shot and killed Donnie Joe Lira, 66. Lira's wife (the couple had recently separated), Marie Lira, had called 911 saying that her estranged husband was outside shooting at the front of the house. Pearson, a seven-year veteran, is currently on paid administrative leave which is standard MSP procedure in deadly force incidents. The incident is under investigation by the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
  • On Sunday, Northlanders for Corporate Accountability, a group led by Nathan John Ness, protested two BP gas stations on Central Entrance. Derrick Ho wrote in a CNN feature that the London-based oil giant actually exited the retail gasoline business in 2008 and that the 11,500 gas stations that carry its logo in the United States are owned by independent franchisees.
  • The Duluth Central Labor Body announced its endorsements in the 2010 legislative races: Mary Murphy (District 6B), Tom Huntley (7A) and Kerry Gauthier (7B). The group's delegates also put their support behind Roger Reinert in his bid for State Senate in District 7.
  • On Friday, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar cosponsored a bill that would ensure that the families of the 11 workers killed in explosion of the BP oil rig that caused the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have access to the same compensation rights as those granted in other wrongful death cases at sea. Current law under the Death on the High Seas Act restricts the families of victims at sea from recouping anything other than direct financial losses, such as the lost income of a loved one, and denies them the full range of legal remedies afforded families of victims of wrongful death as the result of an airplane crash at sea. The Survivors Equality Act would remove this inconsistency and allow families of victims at sea to seek the full range of compensation.
  • The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reached an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Northland Constructors of Duluth LLC that resolved the alleged failure to follow the terms of a stormwater permit issued for the Highway 53 construction project in Duluth. The parties have completed all required actions and paid a $27,000 penalty.

Monday, June 14

  • The buyer of Park State Bank's original building in Morgan Park was revealed as Bay West, a company that was founded in Duluth in the '70s (and subsequently moved its headquarters to Saint Paul).
  • The Minnesota Department of Education has turned down Lake Superior School District's request to go to a four-day school week. According to a letter from the MDE, the department had seven areas of concern in the district's application, where MDE said information was missing. The district will be allowed to submit a "strengthened application" for review. If approved in the future, the district could still implement a four-day school week in a "future year," according to a story in the Lake County News Chronicle.
  • The Modest Home Makeover project raised the walls for Rick and Brenda Hallfrisch's home.
  • At Monday's Duluth City Council meeting, councilors voted 6-3 to add 20 minutes to the maximum amount of time that motorists can park at meters in the heart of downtown. Currently the limit at downtown's busiest spots is one hour, which will increase to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Reconfiguring the meters is expected to cost about $13,000.
  • U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and other senators sent a letter to BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward Sunday asking that the company establish a special $20 billion account to be used for payment of economic damages and clean-up costs in response to the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The account would ensure that there will be no delay in payments or attempts to evade responsibility for damages. An excerpt: "Although legislative action is forthcoming, the damages are immediate. In order to ensure BP fully and quickly covers the costs of this disaster, we are calling on BP to immediately establish a special account of $20 billion, administered by an independent trustee, to be used for payment of economic damages and clean-up costs. Establishment of this account would serve as an act of good faith and as a first step towards ensuring that there will be no delay in payments or attempt to evade responsibility for damages."

Tuesday, June 15

  • Mayor Don Ness announced that DEDA closed on the purchase of the NorShor and Temple Opera Block buildings from Eric Ringsred and said plans are already under way to re-establish the NorShor Theater as an important part of the Downtown Waterfront District. He said that during the next few months the theater will be cleaned and repaired, operational details will be formalized, and then in the fall the new NorShor's first full season of entertainment will begin.

Christine Gradl Seitz, the Duluth Playhouse's executive and artistic director, said the Playhouse is looking forward to helping return the NorShor to its former glory.
"We've already begun working with other Duluth arts organizations to start putting a management and marketing plan in place," said Seitz. "Soon, and for many years to come, the NorShor will be home to everything from opera and plays, to live music and more."

Ness said another benefit to the community with DEDA now owning the properties is that the city will be able to cost-effectively extend the Downtown Skywalk system to the Sheraton Hotel and SMDC, which the city is contractually committed to completing in a timely manner.


All existing leases with tenants in the NorShor Annex and Temple Opera Building will remain in place. DEDA will consider a contract with Oneida Realty to manage the facilities.

  • The Duluth School Board approved the layoffs of 22 tenured teachers at Tuesday's meeting, following last month's layoffs of 24 non-tenured teachers. The layoff of teachers is due mostly to declining enrollment and a flat funding level from the state, said Tim Sworsky, human resources manager for the district. Enrollment declined 2.5 percent last year and is predicted to go down another 3 percent next year. The district is making cuts to overcome a $4.5 million deficit in its operating budget.

At the same meeting, the board approved bid packages totaling $32.5 million for the new Lincoln Park Middle School. The total cost of the new middle school is predicted to be $45.3 million.
Wednesday, June 16

  • George Goldfarb of Maurices gave the Duluth Children's Museum's fundraising effort for a new home a jumpstart with a $25,000 donation as the capital campaign kicked off. Meanwhile, as another chunk of the Clyde Iron Works block heads for redevelopment, the owner of the beer distributing center left there is willing to sell, the News Tribune reported.
  • The attorney for Jimmy James, the Two Harbors bus driver accused of sexually assaulting children from North Shore Community School, told the court she still hasn't received all of the evidence she has requested from the prosecution.
  • The new Amsoil Arena floor is now ready for concrete, with 73,000 feet of pipe laid as part of the ice-making equipment.
  • BP agreed to pay about $20 billion into an independently controlled fund to compensate the people and businesses harmed by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • One felony count of damage to property has been filed against each of the three teens accused of causing more than $70,000 of damage in the North Hibbing Cemetery earlier this month.
  • The Superior woman accused of stealing nearly $30,000 while working at the U.S. Postal Service substation in the Snyder Super Stop in the Holiday Center plead guilty to misappropriation of postal funds.
  • Todd Stoehr, the Two Harbors man accused of animal cruelty after dozens of dead and live cats were found on his Duluth Township property, pleaded not guilty.
  • Two individuals, Samantha Greensky and Dennis Kiesel, received Lifesaver Awards for their courageous efforts to help save a life. On the evening of May 19, Todd Witte was at Country Lanes Volleyball Courts in the midst of a game with his team. In an instant, Todd collapsed and suffered cardiac arrest. While en route to the scene, the Fire Department crew was informed by another call that the patient had stopped breathing but CPR was in progress. Within three minutes, No. 7 Engine arrived at the scene to find Greensky and Kiesel performing CPR. Duluth firefighters used their semi-automatic external defibrillator to administer a shock to Todd. After a single shock was delivered, both individuals continued assisting with CPR. Shortly after delivery of the shock, and continued CPR, Todd began to breathe on his own and partially regained consciousness. Todd was taken by ambulance to the hospital and underwent surgery.

Both Greensky and Kiesel had been trained in CPR and acted quickly. Without their immediate recognition and intervention, the outcome would have been very different. Today, Witte is doing well and grateful to the two people who gave him another chance to enjoy life with his loving wife and kids.
Thursday, June 17

  • The Iron Range Resources Board today approved two loans to bring a manufacturer of photovoltaic solar panels to Mountain Iron. Meeting in Eveleth, the board voted 11-0 to loan $1.5 million to Silicon Energy for equipment and $3.6 million to the Economic Development Authority of Mountain Iron to construct a 25,000-square-foot building in the Mountain Iron Renewable Energy Park. The plant will be the park's first tenant. The $6.85 million project would create 15 or more full-time jobs paying at least $13 per hour plus benefits when it begins operations next year.

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Coming this weekend

  • Grandma's Marathon starts at 7:30 a.m. in Two Harbors. Check out road closure information on Page 1. Best of luck to all the runners!
  • Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery, will be celebrated locally from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 19, at the Central Hillside Community Center, 12 E. Fourth St. In addition to a health fair, children's activities and a performance by Voices of Vision, the African American Men's Group will be serving a free lunch for the community.
  • Portland, Maine, singer/songwriter Roy Davis will play a free in-store set at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 19, at the Electric Fetus.
  • "Rock and Roll for Cats and Kittens," a fundraiser for Superior's Animal Rescue Federation, will be held at 9 p.m. Saturday, June 19, at Norm's Beer and Brats, 1901 Broadway St. in Superior. Mercy Kill, Billy the Jack and the Modern Throwbacks, the Tinsel Fairies and Malec will perform. Cost is $5. Must be 21.
  • Nancy Lehman will be arriving in Superior coming from Walworth, Wisconsin, to portray Sybil Luddington in a presentation happening Saturday, June 19th, 10:30 a.m., in the classroom of the Superior Public Library, 1530 Tower Avenue. Nancy is on the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Speakers Staff. She formerly held the office of Historian for Wisconsin Society Daughters of the American Revolution, and is Registrar for the Walworth Historical Society. Sybil Luddington was the female Paul Revere. Nancy's presentation will be of interest to adults as well as school-age children. All are welcome to attend and the event is free. Light refreshments will be served by the Lake Superior Chapter, NSDAR. Call Cathy 715-394-5186 for further information.
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