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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Greenwood meetings now livestreamed on Facebook

Jodi Summit
Posted 6/13/24

GREENWOOD TWP- Greenwood Town Board meetings have long drawn a crowd, but now that includes spectators who can watch the blow-by-blow from the comfort of their own home. Township officials have hired …

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Greenwood meetings now livestreamed on Facebook


GREENWOOD TWP- Greenwood Town Board meetings have long drawn a crowd, but now that includes spectators who can watch the blow-by-blow from the comfort of their own home. Township officials have hired a videographer and meetings are now being streamed live on Facebook, and made available for viewing at a later time as well.
But that didn’t stop the usual audience of about 40 people from attending in person on Tuesday.
Township Road 4136, Birch Point Extension, again took up a major part of the agenda, and that included agreeing to seek a legal opinion on whether the gravel extension actually qualifies as a township road, rather than a private road.
The town board, at the same time, rejected for now a motion by supervisor Rick Stoehr to utilize the township attorney to guide the township through the legal steps necessary to assess residents of the extension for any improvements. Chairman Lois Roskoski said having the attorney look at assessment options was premature.
“They outline the steps in MAT [Minnesota Association of Townships] materials,” she said. “We are years out from doing that project.” The township has hired a contractor to repair potholes on the road this summer, but it appears a more extensive upgrade isn’t in the immediate future.
Township resident Steve Lenertz again asked the board to form a citizen committee to investigate options, township obligations, and the legal foundation of the road.
Resident Lee Peterson, a frequent critic, noted the township had no involvement in the paving on the road, and that the property owners on that road should be “fiscally responsible” for the costs of any upgrades.
“There is an alternative,” Peterson said. “They can form their own road association and take care of the road at their own expense.”
The township began paying for plowing and maintenance on the road many years ago, possibly without any formal township approval at the start. At a certain point, state law says such private roads do become township roads, at least according to information provided to the township.
Most of the other private roads in the township have road associations which fund costs related to plowing and road maintenance.
Roskoski said that St. Louis County has determined the road is a township road, and the township has been receiving road aid from the county for maintenance of the road.
Roskoski asked that any residents who have factual information about the road issue to send it to the town clerk by June 18, so they can forward the information to attorney Mike Couri.

Arsenic in the water
The potable water source that the township provides at the town hall for area residents is again testing at high levels for arsenic, a naturally-occurring mineral in the area’s bedrock. The town clerk posted a sign by the spigot warning residents about the test results.
But this sign raised the ire of other members of the board as well as some former township officials in the audience.
Stoehr had told the clerk to remove the sign.
“This board runs the building, not the clerk,” he said. “This should have been taken up by the board.”
Roskoski said it was an emergency, and the clerk was following instructions she received after calling the Minnesota Department of Health.
“I thought she did a great job by calling MDH,” Roskoski said.
“It’s a board decision, not the clerk’s decision,” said former supervisor and clerk Sue Drobac from the audience.
Spicer said the public had the right to know.
“This was an emergency,” Roskoski said.
“I beg to differ,” Stoehr said. “Find me someone who has expired in the township from arsenic poisoning.” Stoehr said the township should have followed the guidelines in the MAT handbook.
Back in the fall of 2021, water testing showed unacceptably high levels of arsenic, at 102 parts per billion. The acceptable level is 0.5 ppb, and the action level set by the state health department is 10 ppb.
Testing done in May showed levels rising to around 30 ppb, from last summer’s readings of 9.5 ppb.
The Minnesota Department of Health warns that consuming water even with low levels of arsenic over a long period of time is associated with diabetes and the increased risk of several types of cancer, including bladder, lung, liver, and other organs. Ingesting arsenic can also contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory disease, reduced intelligence in children, and skin problems such as lesions, discoloration, and the development of corns. The health impacts of arsenic may take many years to develop.
The town board is not sure why the water treatment system installed is not removing the arsenic, as it had been doing, after some initial hiccups. They had received some recommendations from well driller Froe Brothers, which would cost over $9,000 but aren’t guaranteed to fix the problem.
The board voted to post water testing results, which will be updated monthly. They will also make sure to be installing new filters every three weeks, to see if this can bring the levels down, and to be sure the water softener filters are also changed regularly.

Helicopter landing zone
Fire chief Jeff Maus asked if the pickleball court fencing could be moved in about 15 ft. to accommodate a wider area for the helicopter landing zone. The Greenwood parking lot is used to land emergency medical flights.
“The township was formed for fire protection and emergency services,” Maus noted. “But we do want to respect the pickleball plan.”
Maus said they were doing training recently, and felt the stakes put in for the new pickleball fence perimeter looked too close to the landing zone area. The department is doing a helicopter training this week and will talk to the pilot.
“We want what is safest for the people on the helicopter,” Maus said.
There were two people in the audience with real life experience as helicopter pilots, but they disagreed on the space needed. They did agree that the parking lot area has plenty of other hazards, including power lines, trees, and the windsock flagpole.
The pickleball court fence will be 10-ft. tall, some wondered if it would make a difference to have the fence a few feet shorter on the edge facing the parking lot. Changing the size of the courts at this point in time would be problematic, since the recreation committee has already signed contracts for the work.
A motion by Stoehr to reduce the size of the court by 15 feet lost on a 2-3 vote, with Roskoski, Craig Gilbert, and Paul Skubic voting against.
Officials did note that cars could sustain damage during a helicopter landing from the dust and rocks that get kicked up. They recommended that cars not be left unattended. In case of a helicopter landing, there would be ample time for any at the town hall or recreation area to move their cars from the landing zone area.

Other business
In other business, the board:
• Formally hired Brian Trancheff as fire captain and David DeJoode as EMS captain. The board also heard that Trancheff had completed his EMR training.
• Approved new guidelines for separation of duties, which spells out specific duties for both the clerk and treasurer in an attempt to clarify responsibilities. Both the clerk and treasurer said they agreed with these guidelines. Supervisor John Bassing has written up guidelines for internal controls, which will be reviewed at the next meeting. The board also authorized the clerk to make corrections to the CTAS program, dating back to 2015. Bassing and Stoehr voting no on this motion.
• Disagreed on whether or not the deputy clerk and treasurer should be given a set of permanent keys to the clerk’s office, or only when needed. Bassing said the township policies clearly state that deputies do get their own set of keys, but Roskoski said she didn’t think that meant a permanent set of keys. Deputies are appointed by the clerk and treasurer, with no input from the board. Treasurer Jeff Maus appointed former clerk JoAnn Bassing as his deputy. The motion to clarify that deputies get keys passed 4-1 with Roskoski voting against.
• Supervisor Craig Gilbert gave an update on the broadband project. Bois Forte’s Randy Long told Gilbert that while the project in Greenwood should be getting final approval next week, there are issues with Lake Country Power allowing the fiber optic cables to be strung on existing poles in spots where it is not possible to bury the lines. It looks like the project will need to install new poles in some areas, which will add to final project cost. Gilbert said Long is seeking more funding for the project. They don’t expect the project to be completed until next summer at the earliest.
• Passed a motion to clarify that the township’s firearm policy applies to both employees and elected officials. It does not allow firearms in the town hall or in township vehicles. Law enforcement officials are not included.
• Announced that it is looking for a volunteer to lower the town hall flag to half-staff when required.
• Donated $100 to the Tower-Soudan Fourth of July.
• Heard the 2023 population estimate for the township is 1,019.