Back to the Nov-Dec 2022 issue

Bits & Briefs

Duluth Offers Mini-Grants to Revive Community Sites

Duluth neighbors beautify the Harbor Highlands neighborhood playground. (Photo courtesy City of Duluth)

Want a cleaner city? Duluth is rewarding residents who are willing to restore neglected community sites. The city’s Love Your Block program awards minigrants up to $1,500 to volunteer-led projects aimed at cleaning up Duluth’s public and private spaces.

The program is funded by a grant from Cities of Service — an organization formed to bring city leaders and residents together to build stronger neighborhoods, one block at a time. Duluth is one of eight U.S. cities to receive two years of funding, training, and mentoring from the Johns Hopkins-based center.

Relying on the creativity and collaboration of their citizens, grants can be applied to a range of projects provided they are volunteer led and bring neighbors together to reduce blight.

Residents and local grassroots organizations kicked off the initiative in spring 2022, banding together to make their neighborhoods safer, healthier, and more vibrant places. Completed projects include gardens, fencing, a neighborhood cleanup event, restoration of overgrown lots, building repairs, murals, and more.

So far, the program, project leaders, community partners, and donors have invested more than $18,000 across 13 project sites in Duluth. Additional minigrants are scheduled to be to be awarded in 2023.

Learn more at duluthmn.gov/love-your-block/.


Broadband Is Coming to Rice Lake

Rice Lake City Hall, along with more than 200 local households and businesses, will soon have broadband internet connection after St. Louis County voted earlier this year to commit $400,000 to provide wider-spread connection.

The county’s $400,000 commitment is made possible through the use of money from the St. Louis County Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, which is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.

A collaboration of local governments in the Rice Lake area had previously sought a larger federal grant to connect more than 2,000 local homes and businesses. And although that effort was unsuccessful, the collaboration hopes the smaller project will be a good foundation for future broadband connections.


State Fair Awards St. Peter’s Drinking Water Top Place

If you’re thirsty, you might want to consider adding a trip to the City of St. Peter to your travel schedule. The city’s drinking water was recently named the best among 22 communities participating in an annual contest held at the 2022 Minnesota State Fair and sponsored by the Minnesota Section of American Water Works Association and the Minnesota Department of Health.

Participating cities submit water samples that are judged through a taste test event held at the Fair’s Eco Experience Building. Audience members are allowed to taste water samples and choose four finalists. In addition to St. Peter’s winning entry, 2022 finalists were the cities of Bloomington, Chaska, and East Grand Forks.

The competition has been held since 2012 to help promote the high quality of drinking water throughout Minnesota. Through media coverage of the event during the Fair, sponsors have opportunities to share information and messages about our state’s excellent water quality and its importance for the health of Minnesota residents.

A City of St. Peter news release noted that, “As new challenges to drinking water emerge, the St. Peter community remains vigilant in meeting source water protection, water conservation, and community education goals, while continuing to serve the needs of all our water users.”


Virginia Is Home to World’s Largest Floating Loon

Virginia, MN's big loon
Photo courtesy of Paul Pluskwik

You probably know that Minnesota’s state bird is the loon. You might also know that Minnesota has more loons than any other state besides Alaska. But did you know that a northeastern Minnesota city is home to the world’s largest floating loon?

It’s unclear whether the 20-foot icon that has taken up residence in Virginia’s Silver Lake every summer for the past 40 years has a name. According to the city, it does not, but some historic references claim the larger-than-life loon goes by the name of “Ginny.”

Every summer the beloved roadside attraction is taken out of storage, touched up with paint, adorned with spikes, and placed on a float to kick off the annual Land of the Loon Parade and Art Festival in the City of Virginia. Once the festival is over, the loon returns to the lake for the summer. During the winter, the loon is stored and cared for by city staff.

While the loon has occasionally made treks to local parades, in August it headed south on a historic road trip to the Minnesota State Fair’s Eco Experience building exhibit, hosted by state agencies and partnering organizations to promote clean air, water, recycling, climate change mitigation, and more.

Despite the loon’s longstanding presence in our state’s lakes, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency notes that we shouldn’t take our feathered friends with the distinctive call for granted because pollution from lead-based fishing tackle is hazardous to loons.


Questions About New THC Edibles Law Answered on LMC Webpage

An unforeseen new THC edibles law adopted shortly before the conclusion of the Minnesota state legislative session has left cities scrambling to answer questions about regulation, taxing, employment, and more. The new law allows certain edible and beverage products infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to be sold, and its eleventh-hour passage was a surprise to many stakeholders and legislators.

Since the law’s enactment, the League has researched and collected information for member cities seeking clarity on questions pertaining to local regulatory authority, law enforcement, taxing, and employment. Members can visit the League’s Cities and Regulation of Edible Cannabinoid Products webpage for guidance on questions ranging from where THC products are allowed to be sold, to how the new law will affect city employment and personnel.

The League will continually update the webpage as information becomes available in order to assist members in making decisions related to the law. Learn more at lmc.org/THC.