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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Flood tops city council agenda on Thursday

David Colburn
Posted 7/4/24

COOK- In its first regular meeting on Thursday since the flood, Mayor Harold Johnston opened the proceedings with the obvious. “We’re going to talk about to begin with, obviously, the …

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Flood tops city council agenda on Thursday


COOK- In its first regular meeting on Thursday since the flood, Mayor Harold Johnston opened the proceedings with the obvious.
“We’re going to talk about to begin with, obviously, the elephant in the room, which is our flood,” he said.
St. Louis County Emergency Operations Manager Josh Brinkman led off the discussion by recapping the nonprofit-based resources that have been providing assistance, including the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
“They can’t do everything, but they do have a lot of tools in their toolboxes to help out in little ways that often make a big difference,” Brinkman said.
Brinkman said the assessment process is underway to determine who may qualify for a county property tax abatement because of the disaster. People could qualify for up to two years of tax abatement, depending on the extent of damage to their property, Brinkman said.
Damage assessment remains an ongoing priority for the county, Brinkman said.
When referencing pending FEMA disaster assistance (which was approved the next day on Friday), Brinkman had encouraging news for city infrastructure damage, which would include the Cook Public Library.
“What the city might be eligible for is reimbursement for debris removal, actions for repairs of roads, repairs to utilities, sewers, and waterways, water control facilities, and reimbursement for reconstruction or remodeling of buildings, such as the public library. If approved, that will be at 100 percent reimbursement."
The picture for homeowners and businesses, however, was more cloudy.
“A lot of the language is very confusing,” Brinkman said. “It’s confusing to me who does this day in and day out. Historically, essentially since Hurricane Katrina, FEMA no longer issues grants for private property, they no longer issue grant money for businesses. All of the money expended is expected to be returned and repaid in the form of a loan.”
“One thing we need to mention is getting our businesses back,” Johston added. “We’ve been in touch with the IRRRB, the county and the state and there are funds you might be able to tap. We’re working on that right now.”
Johnston acknowledged volunteer Missy Bakker Roach for stepping up to coordinate the overall volunteer effort in town, and gave thanks to the various organizations that have supported the recovery effort.
“I’d also like to thank our ambulance and the fire department, particularly Shane Johnson, who has spent many sleepless nights in service,” Johnston said.
Council members also reaffirmed a previously approved disaster declaration for the city, a symbolic gesture given that the city was already automatically covered by St. Louis County’s declaration made to facilitate the FEMA process.
The city’s engineer, John Jamnick, reported that the North River St. road construction project did not experience any significant problems from the flooding. He did ask for the approval of a change order to put in an additional culvert between Second St. and Second Ave. to facilitate drainage of stormwater runoff.
Johnston, council member Liza Root, and City Administrator Theresa Martinson all stressed the need for a timely and thorough assessment of the city’s flood response. Martinson said a lot of information has been collected already, and that the city would be conducting a survey for public input.

Timber Days fireworks
Colette Huisenga spoke with the council about the potential fire hazard creates by hot fireworks debris from the Timber Days fireworks show raining down on residences along nearby Lund Rd.
“I feel a little silly standing up here talking about fireworks tonight with all this water that we’ve been experiencing, but I did have this on the agenda before the flood,” Huisenga said.
“What happens is that each year those fireworks are caught up in the wind and they come into our residential area,” she continued. “The first year I lived in that house was in 2020, and I had fireworks coming down hot in my yard. I am concerned that I will have damage to my property and my neighbor’s property. And if these woods catch on fire, people that live at the end of this road have no way to get out.”
Huisenga said she’s approached the Timber Days committee about the problem for four years, but nothing has been done.
“They just kind of threw their hands up, so at this point I’m bringing it to the city council. As this is city property, I think we need to address this issue,” Huisenga said.
Huisenga noted that the area is too small for fireworks, saying that if the fireworks were directed away from Lund Dr. they would fall on spectators watching the show on Gopher Dr.
“It’s just not big enough,” she said.
Huisenga suggested a lighted drone show as an alternative to fireworks, noting that many big cities have switched to synchronized drone shows.
Council members appeared receptive to Huisenga’s concerns and suggested the possibility of a committee to look into the matter and come up with a solution. No formal action was taken.
Baseball field
Tammy Palmer, representing both Friends of the Parks and Cook Youth Baseball, asked the council to approve holding a Saturday, Aug, 24 fundraiser to be called “Dan Swanson Day” that would be used for repairs to the ball diamonds next to the community center. Palmer said their were issues with flooding and damaged fences. The day long event would have a variety of activities for community members to enjoy. Palmer also asked the council for permission to apply for grants from the Minnesota Twins and other organizations to support upgrades at the diamonds. Approval was granted.