Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

2018 in review


January 3, 2019


Carlton County officials began examining the findings from the 2017 jail study. The 196-page document recommended the jail have a peak capacity of up to 119 beds, an increase from the 38 beds the county is licensed to operate currently.

Rick Rayburn started the long road legislative change at the federal level. The Finlayson resident met with members of Representative Rick Nolan's office in Duluth. Rayburn is part of a grass roots coalition battling estate liens enacted by the state to recover Medicaid services costs.

Federated Co-ops, Inc. announced on January 2 their intention to buy the fertilizer plant in Moose Lake. CEO Mike McMahon said the purchase of the fertilizer warehouse and its equipment located on the north end of Arrowhead lane was a "package deal" with the gas station and feed store, formerly owned by the Moose Lake Cooperative Association.

The Willow River City Council continued talks of removing the dam, regrouping after a community informational meeting held in December 2017. Mike Peloquin, regional manager for the Ecological and Water Resources division of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said he would like rock arch rapids to replace the dam.

Riverside Arena in Moose Lake received a new electric Olympia ice resurfacer on January 9. Its delivery marked the last of three upgrades to come to the arena. Improvements were made to the arena's air quality, fans, building infrastructure and energy consumption of the compressors that freeze the ice. Funding for the resurfacer came from the city of Moose Lake, along with the Moose Lake Area Hockey Association. The James Metzen Mighty Ducks grant also provided funds totaling $125,000. The total cost of the project — including an air exchanger, a dehumidification system and the ice resurfacer — totaled $250,000.

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota recognized the partnership between Fond du Lac and Carlton County for their work in called the Parallel Protection Plan. Over the past 12 years, the plan has been utilized to resolve the more complex child protection cases, utilizing a trained facilitator from Fond du Lac. The collaboration between tribal and county social workers diverts complicated child protection cases away from the historical path involving courtroom-based trials.

A three-judge panel approved a conditional release of Thomas R. Duvall, a client at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) on January 8. The discharge plan stated Duvall would live under intensive 24-hour supervision with GPS monitoring in a facility operated by Zumbro House and would not be allowed to leave unless accompanied by staff. Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper stated she will try to block the release, saying he "posed an exceptional risk to public safety."

Reports came out about Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler was investigated late in 2017 in response to complaints filed about Pertler. Complaints filed included the smell of alcohol on him at work, failure to file and important brief with the state attorney general's office, reimbursement for mileage claimed that had not been driven, and poor morale in the county attorney's office. Pertler had been denied a three percent pay raise at the commissioner's meeting January 3. In response to the claims, Pertler said the mileage claim was an error and denied the other two complaints.

Benoit's Bait on Arrowhead Lane in Moose Lake changed hands after Jordan Grimm purchased the business from Scott Benoit on November 1, 2017. In January, Grimm's Bait was officially open with plans to make the "business bigger and better and add more stock," Grimm said.

Barnum students participating in Businesses Professionals of America (BPA) were off to the regional conference in Grand Rapids. In its first year at Barnum High School, 11 students earning top ranks and advancing to the state competition in March.

A 21-year-old man from Cloquet was sentenced to 50 months of prison on January 30. Scott Kendrick Lindgren faced the sentencing after being convicted of kidnapping, assault and threats of violence. With no previous criminal history, a plea agreement was reached.


The Carlton County Board of Commissioners heard from attorney David Asp of Lockridge Grindal Naunen Law Firm. Asp's firm is participating in litigation against drug companies and drug supply houses in light of the opioid crisis. Carlton County has one of the highest opioid addiction rates in Minnesota. A committee was formed by the board to discuss entering the litigation and would come back to the board with a recommendation on whether or not to proceed with litigation.

Willow River students took first place in the Subsection 7A One-Act Play contest, while Barnum and Aitkin schools took second and third, respectively. The winning play from Willow River was entitled "… And Others". Barnum's play was called "The Winner".

Moose Lake-Willow River Rebels football player Danny Lilya was given the chance to watch the Super Bowl LII game, held at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on February 4. Lilya brought Head Coach Dave Louzek, father, Dan and brother, Michael, to the game with him. The tickets were provided to Lilya and company after he had been invited to U.S. Bank Stadium in December after winning the Spirit of Sport Award.

Members of the Moose Lake Cooperative Association voted to dissolve the cooperative in a vote of 79 for, seven against. Proceeds from the gas station, the feed store, and the fertilizer warehouse and equipment — all of which the cooperative owned — resulted in enough funds to pay of the long-term loan. A smaller short-term loan and all other bills would be paid off by March 1. The cooperative was forced into the liquidation of assets by Cobank, who held the loans, according to Richard Olson, attorney for the cooperative.

Tom and Sissy Brabec closed their Willow River sporting goods store, T&M Athletics, after 39 years in business. A changing business landscape and a drive to do something different influenced the couple's decision. A self-professed workaholic, Tom continues to trophies and bike repairs from home; he can be reached at (218) 390-0971.

Ronald Hillstrom and Kathy Fredericksen were inducted into the Moose Lake Community School's Wall of Fame on February 9 in recognition of their service to the school. Hillstrom taught in the English department for over 30 years. Fredrickson was Moose Lake's physical education teacher for over 40 years and an athletic director for 25 years.

The Moose Lake Police Department welcomed a new officer to the force. At the Moose Lake City Council meeting on February 15, Police Chief Bryce Bogenholm swore in Travis Magdzas as a full-time police officer.

Carlton County Commissioners voted to request proposals for a consultant to implement the jail study at the recommendation of County Coordinator Dennis Genereau and Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake.

At a special meeting for Moose Lake School Board, Superintendent Robert Indihar reported two offers had been submitted for the old school. Phoenix Companies had the highest offer of $170,000 with plans to develop the building into residential and commercial use. The board voted to proceed with the sale, setting a closing date of June 20.

The Rhonda Kay Skelton Birthing Center at Mercy Hospital received international recognition as a designated Baby-Friendly birth facility. Mercy is one of only two Critical Access Hospitals in Minnesota with this designation and is one of 13 total Baby-Friendly hospitals in the state. The recognition distinguishes the birthing center as committed to breastfeeding education and support while caring for their patients.


In an effort to reduce pressure on the county jail, Carlton County commissioners heard from Dave Lee, director of Health and Human Services about a 14 to 16 bed program for males struggling with substance abuse. The aim of the program would be to help repeat substance offenders stay sober. Commissioners approved a motion to form a committee to study the program proposal and examine potential sites.

Northwoods Credit Union opened its doors on Arrowhead Lane in Moose Lake on March 19. The credit union already participated in community events such as July Fourth and Agate Days.

After 17 students were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in April, 30 students walked out of Moose Lake High School. They missed 17 minutes of class to remember 17 lives lost.

The Barnum Bombatrons Robotics Team completed their third season in March at the Lake Superior Regional in Duluth. Their team grew to 20 students who designed, built and supported this year's robot.


Wintery conditions persisted into April, dumping up to 12 inches in parts of Carlton and Pine Counties. The late snow delayed outdoor spring sports.

Former cult leader and convicted sex offender Victor Barnard was granted a reduced sentence after a successful appeal by his public defender. On April 10, six months were subtracted from Barnard's original sentence of 30 years on two counts. Defender Amy Lawler appealed over two aspects: the first being Judge P. Hunter Anderson did not state on the record that Barnard's October 2016 sentence was an upward departure; additionally, Lawler noted, the report was not filed within the required 15 days of sentence. Barnard will serve a maximum of 12 years on each count consecutively with a minimum of eight years on each count for good conduct while in prison.

Protesters trespassed on Enbridge-owned property in Automba Township to demonstrate peacefully on April 9. The group was reportedly associated with the Catholic Workers Movement. After police were called and deputies arrived on the scene, representatives of Enbridge allowed the 20 people to stay.

Moose Lake Township property owners and other concerned citizens packed the city council chambers, with some seated on the floor, on April 11 to protest proposed annexation of Moose Lake Township by the city of Moose Lake. A letter from the township board had been sent to residents outlining an increase of taxes, stating a home of $150,000 would see an increase $240 to $694. At the meeting City Administrator Tim Peterson explained the only action taken so far was a study done to find a possible route forward. A motion was made by Councilor Doug Juntunen that the city would not initiate a hostile annexation at any time. Councilor Kris Huso seconded the motion, and it carried unanimously.

The Carlton County Board of Commissioners moved to hire a social worker for the county jail. The Community Based Coordinator, as the position is called, will call for screenigns for mental and chemical issues for individuals being considered for incarceration. One hope for the position is to curb the number of repeat offenders and reduce the need for jail services, Sheriff Kelly Lake said. The position will be funded through the rest of the budget year due to excess funding in the Health and Human Services budget.

Thrifty White Pharmacy relocated from their shop on Elm Avenue to Arrowhead Lane. They opened their doors with a ribbon cutting ceremony on April 9. Manager Kendra Metz noted the spaciousness of the new building and updated amenities offered there, including consulting rooms, drop-off and pick-up locations, a blood pressure machine and more.

The Moose Lake Area Historical Society unveiled a new mural painted by Brian Olson of Duluth on April 21. It depicts scenes from the 1918 Fires and stretches over 50 feet of wall space. A locomotive is a prominent feature of the mural, reflecting the catalyst to the fire. Natalie Frohrip spearheaded the project as the executive of the historical society. Partnering with Jeanne Doty of the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, the historical society applied for a grant from the council, from which the society received $5,000 towards the project.

Local athlete Danny Lilya received the Courage award from the National Football Foundation on April 29. Lilya is a member of the Moose Lake-Willow River Rebels football team as a holder.

Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler reported to the commissioners on April 23 that positive results are being seen from the new program, Adult Diversion Program. The program is meant for first time, low-level offenders. To avoid being convicted as a felon, the offenders are referred to courses like financial planning and anger management.

After Tom Cawcutt was placed on leave from Barnum Elementary School in December 2017 and handed in his resignation, Barnum made a motion to advertise for the position. Board members Paul Coughlin, Pat Poirier and Jessica Unkelhauser will be on a committee with three elementary teachers.

Willow River PTO hosted the First Ever Color Craze Fun Run on April 28 with great weather and good participation.


Pat McKone of the American Lung Association chapter in Duluth presented to Carlton County commissioners on the increase of youth smoking, following the rise and prevalence of e-cigarettes. The Committee of the Whole asked the County Board to work toward regulating the sale of e-cigarettes and upping the age for purchase of tobacco products to 21.

Moose Lake City Council approved a rebate tax for residents who build new homes in the city. The rebate is calculated based on assessed property value.

High E. coli populations were discovered in Blackhoof River, Skunk Creek, Net River, Nemadji River and Kettle River by the Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation District. The SWCD will work with agencies to see what can be done about the levels. Untreated human waste, livestock access, beaver activity, goose and duck populations, and excessive grazing to water courses can affect E. coli levels.

Pine County hired Lawrence Staples as a Cultural Community Coach. The new position is a joint effort between the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and Pine County Probation to address at-risk behavior and truancy in the area.

Craig Blacklock of Moose Lake received the George Morrison Artist Award from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council. Coinciding with the award announcement was Blacklock's release of his 17th book, "St. Croix & Namekagon Rivers: The Enduring Gift".

Windemere Township reinstated Road Maintenance Supervisor Mike Buetow after he had been placed on paid leave pending an investigation, which alleged unfair labor practices. Residents raised concern and requested the lawsuit be resolved as quickly as possible at the April meeting. Despite the reinstatement, Supervisor Pete Steen said the lawsuit is ongoing.

Moose Lake students participated in the East Central Art Invitational. Makayla Hoffman, Maddie Stadin, Ethan Sayler, Jenna Marlowe, Quinton Westerberg, Meghan Granquist, Spencer Lower, Adam and Andre, Oliver Ahlfs, and Alicia Miller all won awards at the competition.

Rose Jirovec Peterson, "Rosie the Riveter", received her diploma at age 93 from Willow River High School — 74 years after she would have received it originally. In 1941, family obligations landed her in St. Paul. Not long after the move, the 16-year-old answered the call to serve her country when the U.S. joined World War II. As a result, she never returned to school to finish her diploma, but earned plenty of life credit involved in manufacturing as a woman in the 1940s. On May 25, Willow River recognized her accomplishments and granted a diploma as commemoration.

Rhonda Kay Skelton, RN, was awarded posthumously the Louis Gorin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rural Health Care from the National Rural Health Association. Award recipients are chosen based on their creativity, selflessness, compassion and cooperative attitude when it comes to rural health. Skelton's leadership at Mercy Hospital in Moose Lake led it to earn the Baby-Friendly designation from Baby Friendly USA. Her daughters, Laura and Emma Skelton, accepted the award on Skelton's behalf in New Orleans, along with Trina Lower, Mercy's Director of Quality and Health Information.

Enbridge won their lawsuit in the Minnesota Tax Court, Judge Joanne Turner determining the pipelines were overvalued by $3.2 billion from 2012 to 2014 in 13 Minnesota counties, including Carlton. Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert said he believes the ruling will not be the end of the story, as he expected the state to appeal.

Skya Thompson broke the Moose Lake school record when she cleared 6'6" in the pole vault event. The previous record was set by Hannah Race in 2013 at 6'2".

At the annual Moose Lake Track and Field Day, second grader Khloey Schmidt broke two records — the first being the second grade girls' 200 meter dash; the second, the girls' 400 meter run. In the former, Schmidt ran a 38.54 race, beating the previous record held by Ellen Anderson in 2010 who ran a 39.45 race. For the latter, Schmidt broke Savannah Gamst's 2010 1:35 record by running a 1:32.07 race. Fourth grader Addison Rush tied Annie Adamczak's 1974 high jump record by clearing 3'8".


Heavy rains caused massive problems in parts Carlton and Pine Counties, causing a state of emergency to be declared. Flash flooding and damaged roads had to be contended with after the deluge. Highway 23 at the south fork of the Nemadji River sustained heavy damage, closing that part of the highway entirely.

A new pavilion in Automba Park was dedicated with a reunion of descendents of former residents. Names of early settlers were remembered on steel plaques mounted inside the pavilion.

In Willow River, the Department of Natural Resources announced a final decision had been made to replace the city's failed dam with a rock arch rapids design. Construction costs of rock arch rapids are less than dam construction and will minimize maintenance and operational costs, according to Mike Peloquin, regional manager for the Ecological and Water Resources division.

Joe and Ashley Bonniwell took over operation of the Chickadee Coffeehouse and Deli in Barnum after reports that its doors would be closing. The couple took over operations at the beginning of June and were working with Kris and Brig Fanning, former owners, for a smooth transition.

Trap shooters, Samuel Godbout and Noah Unkelhaeuser, approached Barnum School Board on using club funds and a school vehicle to attend the national competition in Mason, Michigan. While the board could not commit funding due to a tight budget, board member Pat Poirier told the boys after the meeting that his company, Environmental Consulting and Testing, Inc. would be the estimated $2,132 cost.

Barnum School Board approved the hire of Judi Vitito as the elementary principal.

On June 23, the Gracelynn Rae Stadin Memorial Playground was officially open for play after pea rock was donated by Dresel's Aggregate. Volunteers came together and put in the time and effort to rake and level the loads of rock, providing a safe and fun place for the Kerrick community.

Seventeen-year-old Tiffany Lonetto published her first novel, "No Ordinary Summer," with Sigma's Bookshelf, a company dedicated to publishing teen authors.

Enbridge Line 3 received the green light from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission after a vote on June 18. Twenty-nine permits need to be resolved from federal, state and local authorities before construction can commence.

A Moose Lake home burned down mid-morning on June 26. Danielle Johnson and Rick Lingle experienced a total loss of their home. No one was injured in the fire, though their dog, Caesar, was missing at the time of printing. A squirrel or chipmunk was the probable cause of the fire.


After a boater was reported missing in Surgeon Lake on July 7 at 4:24 p.m., John Fanning of Moose Lake was found dead 48 hours later. He was 28 years old.

Carlton County Engineer JinYeene Neumann reported to the board of commissioners that an estimated $2.5 million washed away in the summer downpours. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds were not available without having a higher level of loss and a state of emergency declared from the governor.

A new sign recognizing the Triple Crown achievement of the Lakers' volleyball, basketball and softball teams between 1981-1982 was unveiled. The sign is located near the Emergency Response Center on Highway 73.

The Moose Lake-Willow River 12U softball team went 14-0 in their regular season and entered playoffs.

Moose Lake School Board decided at a special meeting to consider the possibility of spending up to $3 million to complete the athletic field complex. The special election for the bond would take place in February or April 2019.

Moose Lake-Willow River 14U softball became Northern Minnesota State Champions after the tournament in Cloquet. Coaches Kelly Goeb and Troy Hoffman led the girls to nationals, where they finished up the season against top-notch teams from across the Midwest.


In a historical moment, the Fond du Lac tribal flag was placed in the third floor courtroom of the Carlton County Courthouse on August 7. Judge Leslie Beiers of the Sixth Judicial District presided. With her was Fond du Lac Chief Judge Suzanne Ojibway Townsend and Fond du Lac Chair Kevin Dupuis. Judges Robert Macauley and Dale Wolff with District Chief Judge Sally Tarnowski were in attendance as well.

Agate Encores Community Concerts, a new non-profit organization supporting local arts through music, announced their 2018-2019 season, including local performances from the Twin Ports Choral Project, the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra and more.

Moose Tracks in Moose Lake is closing up its doors and moving to Cloquet. Two dozen people are employed at Moose Tracks and no job loss is expected to occur.

A record number of people across the state and in Carlton County turned up to cast a ballot in the primary election. In Minnesota, voter turnout reached nearly 25 percent, compared to Carlton County's 32.56 percent. Pine County saw slightly decreased numbers from the 2014 primary; 3,750 voters cast a ballot this year versus 3,990 in 2014.

The Carlton-Cook-Lake-St. Louis Community health board was awarded to $2.1 million grant to expand their Healthy Families America home visiting program. Home visiting programs serve at-risk families, such as first-time moms and families facing mental illness, domestic abuse or substance abuse.

A new app in Barnum will allow students to anonymously report bullying. Videos and photos can be taken with the app and are linked to school administrative officials. The school plans to test it out over the year to see if it works well in the Barnum setting.

The Fond du Lac Band agreed to allow new pipeline to be laid through 11 miles of reservations land and drop their opposition to the permitting of the new pipeline. Details of the financial settlement will not be made public/

Paul R. Jeffers of Moose Lake was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being convicted of criminal sexual assault in the first degree on August 31 after his arrest in December 2017.


Cromwell will be seeing a new restaurant open in spring 2019. Derek Nyberg and Brandon Eilers shared their plans for Thom Finn's: The Eating House at Cromwell's Harvest Fest.

Moose Lake School Board members considered a bond up to $7,875,000, called a Super Equalization Bond. A bond of this amount would result in a tax increase of $19 a year; voter approval is needed. This is compared to an Abatement Bond, which could only be used for construction of parking lots; a tax increase with an abatement bond is $19 a year based on a $100,000 home.

Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission to become an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier. Under a newly formed corporation called Aaniin, affordable high-speed broadband service will be offered to more than 1,800 homes within a 120-square-mile area, whether or not residents are band members.

Moose Lake Power Commission complete their year-long generator project. The total installation came with a price tag of $601,998.60 — well below their $2.5 million budget.

Twenty one Carlton County 4-Hers represented the county at the annual Northeast Livestock Show. Two registered to show sheep, two showed swine, eight showed beef, three showed a rabbit, four showed poultry and two showed goats.

Dean Hovey, local author, released his latest novel, "Whistling Winds." It is the third book in his Whistle Pines Mystery series.

Junior setter DonnaMae Smit hit her 1000th set assist as a Rebel volleyball player in their game against South Ridge.

Cromwell-Wright School broke ground for a $5+ million industrial technology addition. Included in the addition will be space for wood-working, welding, metal fabrication and other tech skills.


The Moose Lake area gathered to remember the 1918 Fires, commemorating 100 years since the inferno swept through the surrounding areas. Programs, tours and services were held over the October 12 weekend as a way to honor and remember lives lost and lives changed.

Rebel football achieved a homecoming victory over the Crosby-Ironton Rangers — a first homecoming win in four years.

Shield616 donated protective gear to Moose Lake Police Department. Funding for the gear came from First National Bank, Hamlin-Hanson-Kosloski Funeral Home, Stor-Mor Storage, Lance and Laurie Olson and other donors.

Kettle River made progress on refurbishing their water tower, which had been a significant problem in the area. The total cost of the project was $50,000 plus additional expenses.

Area schools note similar problems: dropping enrollment.


Midterm results roll in with an impressive turnout in Carlton County with about 80 percent of eligible voters casting their vote. In a tight race, Mark Thell edged out incumbent Susan Zmyslony in the District 4 County Commissioner vote by only 16 votes. Lauri Ketola toppled incumbent Thom Pertler in the Carlton County Attorney race.

David Peltier, 59, was reported missing during the weekend opener of deer hunting. Peltier had been hunting in Nemadji State Forest.

The Rebels secured their 12th Section Championship title in 13 years, sending the football team off to the state tournament.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation awarded a $600,000 grant to the city of Moose Lake, which will be used to partially fund a walking and bicycling path from the bridge over Moose Horn River along Highway 73 to the roundabout. Until the Safe Routes to School grant is awarded in 2019, the full cost and extent of the project will not be fully known.

Tony Bastien, investigator for the Carlton County Sheriff's Office reported an uptick of drug overdose fatalities on reservations. The increase has prompted closer investigation to identify suppliers of the drugs.

Verizon dropped their proposal to build a cell phone tower or small cell tower in Moose Lake. Because the city had no ordinance in place regarding the zoning of wireless communications towers and facilities, one was drafted by the city attorney. Independent telecommunications consultant Rick Adams recommended the city not adopt the ordinance, as it would be difficult for a carrier to comply with it.


Justin Otsea, senior planner for the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, presented plans to develop the remainder of the land owned by the Moose Lake School District. The Small Area Plan includes room for three commercial lots between Shopko and Kwik Trip along Highway 73, as well as an extension of Opportunity Drive to Moose Horn Drive. Housing could be located above the commercial businesses, along with a residential area southeast of Kwik Trip.

The American Library Association gave $500 towards the Moose Lake Area School Media Center to help plan and implement youth coding programs.

Mercy CEO Michael Delfs submitted his resignation to Mercy Hospital's Board of Directors. Delfs is leaving Mercy to serve as CEO of Jamestown Regional Medical Center in North Dakota.

Three members of the USA Olympic Curling Team stopped by Willow River and Moose Lake schools to interact with the students and show their gold medals they earned during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. John Shuster, Tyler George and John Landsteiner took pictures with student-athletes as a special treat from community sponsors.

Pine County received a grant to help combat opioid and substance abuse from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Institute of Food and Agriculture. The Rural Health and Safety Education grant will be used to increase access to information when it comes to the opioid issue and conduct community forums on education, recovery and prevention.

Dr. Verna Thornton, gynecologist, was welcomed to Mercy Hospital.

After a mild December, snow accumulated fast and furious after Christmas, with snow accumulating up to 10 inches and counting at the time of print in areas of Pine and Carlton Counties.


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