TOWER— The city council here used its annual reorganization as a chance for apparent retaliation against Timberjay Publisher Marshall Helmberger over his recent news and editorial coverage critical …
TOWER— The city council here used its annual reorganization as a chance for apparent retaliation against Timberjay Publisher Marshall Helmberger over his recent news and editorial coverage critical of city actions.
Mayor Josh Carlson told the council that he wanted Helmberger removed from the Tower Economic Development Authority, for which he has served as president for the past year. Carlson had asked Helmberger and other members of the Tower-Soudan Community Development Corporation to serve on TEDA one year ago, as part of a city effort to reinvigorate the authority, which had been inactive for years under city council control.
Helmberger remains president of the community development corporation which local business owners and residents formed two years ago out of frustration with the sluggish pace of city-led economic development efforts.
It had been a productive year for TEDA, which worked closely with Orlyn Kringstad’s Tower Vision 2025 to facilitate the purchase and renovation of the former Standing Bear Marina. TEDA, with backing of the IRRRB, had also advanced a proposal, now in the design phase, to build a 9,000 square-foot light industrial building in the city’s business park to accommodate the expansion of Lamppa Manufacturing. TEDA also obtained a $125,000 grant from the IRRRB to fund initial engineering and other development costs associated with Kringstad’s town home project on the city’s harbor and had begun talks to develop a U.S. franchise of a Norwegian glass printing company, known as Glami-tec, in Tower.
Carlson proposed to appoint Steve Peterson Jr. to the board in place of Helmberger.
Peterson currently serves on the Vermilion Lake Town Board and works for Northern Minnesota Consulting. He is the son of Steve Peterson Sr., who is also on the TEDA board.
“You spoke to Steve Peterson on that?” asked Councilor Lance Dougherty after Carlson stated his selection. “I have,” responded Carlson. “And other people on the board, too?” Dougherty inquired. “Yes,” said Carlson.
In fact, the news came as a surprise to the majority of the members of the TEDA board, who were never contacted by Carlson. The Timberjay emailed Carlson following the meeting to find out who on the board he had contacted. Carlson did not respond as of presstime.
While Carlson never stated a reason for dismissing Helmberger, the move came in the wake of reporting by Helmberger on questionable city actions, including a decision to consume a significant portion of the community’s remaining sewage treatment capacity by connecting the Hoodoo Point Campground, which is now likely to hamper prospects for economic development in Tower for at least the next few years. Helmberger has also urged the city to reconfigure a plan to shift to a paid on-call system for its ambulance service to avoid deficits in the ambulance fund. In October, Helmberger also revealed a pattern of city violations of the state’s Open Meeting Law.
Just moments before ousting Helmberger from TEDA, Carlson had made a motion to replace the Timberjay as the city’s official newspaper, in favor of the Tower News. The bids from both newspapers proved inconclusive as the Timberjay had bid 39¢ a column inch for legal publishing, compared to the Tower News bid of 65¢ per column inch. The Timberjay had bid $2.75 per column inch for display advertising, while the Tower News had bid $2.50 per inch.
After an extended silence from the council, Carlson made the motion to give the business to the Tower News, and the council went along unanimously.
Carlson made only a few other changes to the city’s reorganization. Carlson added Mike Larson to both the Gunderson Trust Board, the Forestry Board, and the Board of Adjustment, and added an Eveleth resident, Brian Clennon, to the Forestry Board. Carlson said Clennon, a registered forester, would like to make a presentation to the Forestry Board at their next meeting to outline what he sees as good opportunities for timber harvesting on city lands.
City salaries and reimbursements were mostly left unchanged. The only exceptions were an increase in the ambulance training officer’s salary from $500 a month to $550, an increase in the fire department training officer’s salary from $200 to $250 per month, and a one-cent increase in the mileage reimbursement rate.
In other action, the council:
• Approved a verbal quote from Chuck Winger for replacement of sewer laterals at Hoodoo Point Campground.
• Approved the sale of a city-owned 40-acre parcel north of the Mud Creek Road for $30,000. The property had been on the market since 2015.
• Approved missions and job descriptions for city committees and commissions.
• Approved the transfer of a Hoodoo Point cabin lease to Gary Wargin.