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

By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

2019 in review


January 2, 2020


Jim and Barb Roth returned to Moose Lake to open Roth Chiropractic. The couple lived in Hawaii for a time before returning to the area for an ailing family member.

Alan and Sharon Finifrock won Outstanding Conservationists from the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District.

Teen vaping was reportedly on the rise nationally and locally and had been declared an epidemic by the Federal Food and Drug Administration in September of the previous year.

District 11 Senator Tony Lourey was sworn in on January 7 as the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services, prompting a special election to fill his vacant seat in the Senate.

Mercy Hospital welcomed Michael Yousa as their new CEO.

The Five Sisters store reopened at its new location on Arrowhead Lane.

Moose Lake Mayor Ted Shaw, Councilor Doug Juntunen, and new council member Walter Lower III were sworn into office.

Minnesota faced its longest federal government shutdown.

A rare super blood moon lunar eclipse was a spectacular sight in the latter half of January.

The Moose Lake School Board approved a 3-year contract for Superintendent Robert Indihar in a contested vote.

Moose Lake Water and Light announced new electronic meters coming for local residents that would allow them to read meters remotely.

The Moose Lake Star-Gazette welcomed new editor Bethany Helwig (and accompanying office dog Buddy).


On February 5, Jason Rarick won the election for the District 11 seat on the Senate, securing 52 percent of the votes cast. Another special election was scheduled to fill Rarick’s vacancy in the House of Representatives.

George Mack was charged with the attempted murder of an MSOP employee.

Long-time employee of the Minnesota Flyer and Franklin Newspapers, Charlotte Swanson, passed away after a brief illness.

Tom Bislow, owner of TJ’s Country Corner store in Mahtowa, and one of the best advocates for the community, passed away.

Three protestors were arrested after causing serious damage to property at the pipeline job site in Carlton County.

A train derailed on the Fond du Lac Reservation involving some 40 cars carrying coal, partially going into the St. Louis River.

The original concrete bank sign for First National Bank was returned to the bank in honor of the bank’s 100th anniversary, and now rests on display in the entrance to the building.


The Rebels 12UB girls hockey team won the state tournament after an undefeated season of 40-0.

Kym Garvey, a wood burning artist and donkey rescuer, opened The Gift Gallery in Barnum, offering art classes as well as art for sale.

Local schools’ robotics teams headed to the DECC in Duluth to participate in the FIRST Robotics Competition with the theme “Destination: Deep Space.”

Barnum Schools’ Superintendent Dave Bottem announced he would be retiring after many years of service to the school district.

George Mack was sentenced to 20 years for the attempted murder of an MSOP employee.

The Moose Lake Motel was a total loss after a fire destroyed the building on March 13.

The City of Barnum hired an architectural firm, Meyer Group, to design a building to replace the community center, liquor store, and city hall.

The Shopko Hometown store in Moose Lake announced it would be closing along with other Shopko stores that had originally remained open after the corporation filed for bankruptcy.


Agate Encores presented their season finale featuring the UMD Faculty Woodwind Quintet at Moose Lake School.

The Seam Sisters held a Quilt Show at the Moose Lake Depot, sharing their passion for quilting, with visitors coming from all over the state.

More utility tax court cases were ruled on, issuing refunds to utility providers for overpaid taxes. The burden of repaying those taxes is to fall to local cities, townships, school districts, and the county.

Conservation Officer Eugene Wynn of Pine City died in the line of duty following an incident on Cross Lake.

Rebekka Stumme was appointed as District Court Judge in Minnesota’ Sixth Judicial District, chambered at the Carlton County Courthouse.

The County Board of Commissioners voted to proceed with final plans for the construction of a new jail.

Mike McNulty was hired as the new Superintendent for the Barnum School District.


Chance Lunde won the Moose Run 5K with a time of 19:01 and Nicholas Allard won the 10K with a time of 38:26.

TJ’s Country Store in Mahtowa was purchased by the Gaffney family who wished to continue the store’s traditions.

Pickleball started at the Riverside Arena.

The Moose Lake School Bond Referendum failed to pass after a public vote; 610 voted no and 384 voted yes to a proposed bond referendum for additions to Moose Lake School.

Dr. Thomas Stillwell, a urology specialist who worked at Mercy Hospital, died in a tragic plane crash. Dr. Stillwell engaged in hospital outreach programs and frequently flew to his destinations.

A resident of Windemere Township was arrested when he assaulted officers and attempted to grab one of their firearms. He was charged with two felonies.

The Moose Lake City Park was updated with 15 new picnic tables assembled and furnished by employees of First National Bank as part of their 100th anniversary celebration.

The Barnum Area Community Club announced Doug and Nancy Hoffman as the Grand Marshals for Spring Fever Days.


The Moose Lake Star-Gazette, along with other publications owned by Tim Franklin in the region, was purchased by Northstar Media, Inc.

Brandon Johnson of Blackhoof Township won the Last Runner Standing trail race, officially completing 129.27 miles in 31 hours.

Danny Lilya of Moose Lake won the state championship in shot put for the second year in a row and came in second in the discus throw at the state tournament.

Moose Lake native David Moonen went to compete on the popular show American Ninja Warrior.

Shelby Rotengaine was hired as the new Library Director for the Moose Lake Public Library.

The Carlton County Commissioners began discussions of how to fund building a new/renovated shop building at the Carlton County Transportation Center in Barnum, considering a wheelage tax or using monies from the county sales tax.

Carlton County filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors alleging deceptive marketing tactics with the intent to maximize profits while minimizing both the addictive nature of these drugs and the health risks to patients.

Walter Lower II was named the 2019 Grand Marshal of the Fourth of July parade.

The Lake Theatre in Moose Lake (formerly the Strand Theatre) owned by the Lower family celebrated its 100th anniversary of providing movies to the local community.

The Rebels freshman boys basketball team took the state title with an overtime victory.


Sturgeon Lake rose to alarming heights, 15 inches over the normal water level, and continued to rise. The ongoing problem and potential solutions continue to be discussed.

The Moose Lake City Council approved a plan to improve the city’s infrastructure.

Tony Lourey resigned as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services after only six months.

Councilor Rick Lewis of the Sturgeon Lake City Council announced plans for a new housing development in Sturgeon Lake.

Andrew Zabel won the Moose Lake Triathlon with an official time of 58:51, a new record for the race.

Groups of cyclists with Bike & Build, a nonprofit organization, stopped at the Moose Lake Depot on their way to help with affordable housing projects.

The Gustafson family of Mahtowa was named Carlton County’s “2019 Farm Family of the Year” by the University of Minnesota.

An officer-involved shooting took place at Hillside Terraces Mobile Home Park while officers were serving a warrant.


Jamie Jungers resigned from the Moose Lake School Board.

The County Board of Commissioners voted to approve funding for the Barnum Transportation Garage with a $15 wheelage tax and $150,000 a year from the ½% sales tax funds; the motion passed with a vote of 3-2.

Gary and Judy Marsyla were named Ma and Pa Kettle for the Ma and Pa Kettle Days parade, and Marcia Sarvela was named the Grand Marshal.

Electric car chargers were installed on Arrowhead Lane near the Moose Lake Municipal Liquor Store.

The position of County Auditor/Treasurer changed from an elective position to an appointive one.

Mercy Hospital voted to request proposals to partner with a larger health care system.

Barnum High School’s principal resigned and Willow River’s Principal Gregg Campbell accepted the position.

The Moose Lake Area Chamber of Commerce welcomed its new executive director, Allison Jones.


Moose Lake Police Chief Bryce Bogenholm went on administrative leave.

The Moose Lake Golf Club celebrated its 90th anniversary.

A proposed ordinance to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21 was presented at the Committee of the Whole meeting of the Carlton County Board of Commissioners.

The results of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) were released.

A Willow River man, Preston Prokasky, was charged was vehicular homicide. Prokasky allegedly decided to drive across the Kettle River. When the vehicle sank, one of his passengers, Eugene Oestreich, was unable to escape the submerged vehicle, and died as a result.

The Moose Lake Water and Light Commission became known as Moose Lake Power and updated its logo.

The Carlton County Board of Commissioners approved continuing the $20 excise tax which is one of the revenue streams that goes towards improving the county’s infrastructure.

The City of Barnum rejected all bids for the new liquor store/community center/city hall project. The city council was unwilling to put a greater tax burden on citizens, deciding to wait until they had a better plan in place that they could afford.


Straightline Surveying, First National Bank, and Hamlin Hansen Kosloski Funeral Home all celebrated their 100th anniversary of being in business.

Carlton County declared a state of emergency after heavy rains flooded the southern portion of the county.

More housing development was discussed for Sturgeon Lake, using shipping containers as the base for houses as presented by Tanner Krauz.

Maverick Koecher, Lilly Petty, and Coriella Sheetz of the ML/WR/Barnum cross country team were 2019 Cross Country Polar League Champions.

Marketplace Foods began breaking ground for the new addition to the store which will include a Caribou Coffee, bait and tackle shop, and expanded deli, bakery, dairy, and produce sections.

A Minneapolis man was charged after shooting an attendee at a funeral in Cloquet.

Sturgeon Lake continued to rise. Multiple homeowners were flooded and Sturgeon Island Road was under water.

Pine County was attacked by a hacker and up to 4,400 residents potentially had their personal information exposed.

Mercy Hospital’s Board of Directors passed a motion to explore a partnership with Essentia Health.


The Rebels football team headed to the State Tournament for the 14th time during Couch Dave Louzek’s 21 seasons.

After reviewing the officer-involved shooting at the Hillside Manor trailer park that occurred earlier in the year, the use of deadly force was ruled necessary, justified, and authorized by law by the Carlton County Attorney.

The Moose Lake City Council discussed significant changes at the police department in an effort to save money.

Barnum senior Allison Began participated in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as part of the Spirit of America Dance Productions.

Moose Lake High School’s first ever foreign exchange student from 1961 returned to the area for a visit.

The Barnum School Board approved working with Watson Consulting Group to conduct an audit of their transportation system.


Multiple nurses appeared at a meeting of Mercy Hospital’s board to voice their concerns over a possible partnership or merger with Essentia Health.

Moose Lake freshman Amania Sheetz performed the leading student role of Clara in Minnesota Ballet’s presentation of “The Nutcracker” at the DECC.

Concerned parents spoke up about the goals set by Moose Lake School, wanting more information about what was being done to help students meet those goals.

More utility tax court cases were ruled on, ending in refunds being awarded to utility companies. The full and final tax impact is still to be determined.

The City of Sturgeon Lake changed its voting procedures so voting will be done by mail or absentee ballot instead of at a designated polling place.

Natalie Mikrot of the MLWR Rebels made her 1000th point at a girls basketball game against Mesabi East.

The Carlton County Board of Commissioners hired a construction manager to handle the $10 million project to remodel and add onto the transportation garage in Barnum.

Both Moose Lake and Barnum School Districts agreed to look into forming a cooperative transportation system.


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