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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Greenwood hosts a busy annual meeting

Jodi Summit
Posted 3/20/24

GREENWOOD TWP- Greenwood’s annual meeting, held here March 12, was contentious from the start. With a nearly full house, Carmen DeLuca asked for a paper ballot to select the meeting’s …

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Greenwood hosts a busy annual meeting


GREENWOOD TWP- Greenwood’s annual meeting, held here March 12, was contentious from the start. With a nearly full house, Carmen DeLuca asked for a paper ballot to select the meeting’s moderator. Election judges were summoned from the clerk’s office, where they were finalizing the vote counts from the township election, and they set out the voter registration rolls and handed out paper ballots so the roughly fifty registered voters at the meeting could choose between Mike Ralston and Jeff Maus, a choice that reflected the longstanding divide within the township.
Mike Ralston won the vote, 27-23, an outcome that at least suggested change was afoot in the township. Ralston called the meeting to order at 8:24 p.m. and while he tried to keep it moving, the meeting wasn’t adjourned until 10:35 p.m., after the residents had worked through a number of issues and reports.
Birch Point Extension
Supervisor Paul Skubic gave the road report, and since the township only has one township road to maintain, discussion quickly erupted on the condition of Township Rd. 4136, otherwise known as Birch Point Extension.
The town board has waivered on whether or not the 1.5 miles at the end of Birch Point Rd., is actually the township’s responsibility. But according to St. Louis County, the privately-built road is a township road because the township paid for plowing and maintenance for many years.
The township has been receiving county gas tax money since 2015, totaling around $35,000, but the money has been deposited in the township’s general fund rather than a road fund, as is typical of most other townships that maintain roads.
Former clerk Debby Spicer said the money had been put into a special fund, but current clerk JoAnn Bassing noted the township did not have a road fund. Spicer then said it was in the building/maintenance fund, but JoAnn Bassing said it had not been entered that way either.
Treasurer Jeff Maus said the money is in the general fund.
“It’s not missing, it is there,” Maus said. He added he had talked to the county road engineer about acceptable uses for those funds, and that he and clerk Bassing were working on determining how much the township had spent on maintenance that is allowable for those monies. The funds are not supposed to be used for snowplowing expenses, though board chair John Bassing said that other townships are using those funds for plowing.
A motion by Spicer to set up a dedicated road fund carried on a voice vote. Ralston noted that such motions at the annual meeting are just suggestions to the town board, who will make the actual decision.
Skubic explained the township had tried to do repairs on potholes last summer, but the contractor hired for the job was not able to complete the work. The township has also paid to have brushing done along the road. The road was originally paved using private funds and is not up to county road specifications. St. Louis County has refused to continue to plow the road because its poor condition makes it unsafe for the county’s new fleet of plow trucks. This year, the township had to hire a private contractor for plowing, but was unable to find a contractor to sand the road when it became icy.
The township has talked about assessing property owners for the cost of rebuilding the road, but no decisions have been made. One option discussed would be to remove the blacktop and maintain the road as gravel. The town board will be working on this issue.
Fire Department report
Fire Chief Jeff Maus reported that the department responded to 66 fire calls and 145 EMS calls. He reviewed the maintenance work done on equipment, purchase of new GPS units for the two fireboats, and training preparation underway for the early ice out (cold water rescue training), and wildland firefighting.
In answer to a question, Maus said they were doing some initial planning on the purchase of a one-ton extended cab long-box pickup to use as a fast vehicle response rig, with extrication and medical rescue equipment. He said the department is seeing if Bois Forte would be interested in helping fund the purchase and said the department would also be looking for grants. He estimated the cost for the vehicle, medical, and extrication equipment would top $110,000, but the department would then be able to sell their current one-ton truck and possibly some other equipment. Such a purchase would be several years down the road, he estimated.
Maus had a handout detailing department membership and their 2023 911-responses. As of next month, the department will have 12 members plus an administrative assistant. Six members are both firefighters and EMRs, three are firefighters only, and three are EMRs only. Six members are fully trained, and two are close to finishing the firefighter I and II classes, according to Maus. One new member is just hired, so will be starting their training which must be completed within two years, a new department requirement. Five of the EMRs are trained at the EMT level or above. All of the department members except for two had over 20 responses for emergency calls, not counting those who have just joined.
In 2022, there were eight EMR/firefighters, 10 firefighters, and three EMRs. Of those, 12 responded to between 0 and 5 calls in 2022, and nine responded to at least 15 or more calls.
Maus talked about the increase in training for department members, including EMR personnel, and their collaborative work with other area departments. He said members are working on quick response training exercises, simulating skills needed at a fire scene.
Lake Vermilion Pickleball Association (LVPA) President Paul Thompson addressed questions about the planned construction of three stand-alone pickleball courts near the pavilion at the town hall. With the unseasonably warm weather, pickleball enthusiasts had already set up the portable nets on the tennis courts and had spent the last two days playing outdoors.
“This is a great community project,” Thompson said, while holding up a handful of king size Snickers candy bars. The $25,000 the pickleball group was asking the township to contribute to the project works out to $16 cost per resident, the same amount he had spent on the candy bars.
The LVPA has raised a little over $50,000 since January, which includes a $15,000 grant from the IRRR. The group had applied for the maximum $30,000 matching grant, but not enough IRRR funding was available in this grant cycle.
About 60-percent of the members of the newly-formed LVPA have contributed so far, with an average donation of $500. The group wants to get the pad for the courts installed prior to the township’s repaving of the parking lot, to minimize any equipment damage to the new parking lot surface. Also, doing the project in conjunction with the parking lot paving helps with the blacktop cost.
The town board had previously decided not to put the requested $25,000 in the 2024 budget. Money voted on at this meeting will be part of the 2025 levy payment. Maus noted that the township does have adequate reserves to cover that cost, and in fact, will be receiving more than that in interest income from the township reserves they invested in a high-yield CD.
While some in the audience expressed concerns about the township helping to pay for the project, a motion by Jet Galonski, seconded by John Bassing, to ask the board to invest the $25,000 passed on a voice vote with no voiced opposition.
The courts will be owned by the township.
“The township is investing in recreation,” said Dale Horihan.
“It’s a piece of cake for all the joy it will bring,” said Galonski.
“Come play pickleball with us,” said Thompson. “It’s all free.”
The group also offers lessons for new players, and is also hoping to plan some tournament play once the new courts are completed.
Other business
• Heard that the town board is looking to hire someone to do updates on the township website, since the clerk is often too busy with other duties to get that work done in a timely fashion.
• Passed a motion to have the board select the Timberjay as the township’s official newspaper, citing the Timberjay’s website which offers unlimited access to legal notices without requiring a subscription.
• A resident who lives by the Greenwood paved trail asked the board to look into doing some maintenance work, because parts of the trail are in poor condition. The township levies $2,000 a year for maintenance on this trail, which was a condition of the grant monies they received when building the trail. A resident of Birch Point Road asked the town board to look at options for improving pedestrian safety on that road, also.