A story that’s gone mostly unreported in the central UP for the last several months is now the subject of a federal investigation by the Inspector General of the Department of Agriculture.
Here’s the narrative: The US Forest Service brought in a new law enforcement officer to the Hiawatha National Forest last summer. His name is Louis Cote. He’s reportedly got a military background which can be helpful but apparently he’s also brought in a somewhat militaristic–some would say, belligerent–attitude with him to the job.
Complaints against him mounted through the summer and fall. Complaints about unwarranted traffic stops–for “driving over the center line of a gravel road” and for having snow on the license plate.
Complaints about unwarranted, frightening nighttime visits by the officer to check on the welfare of children.
Complaints about harassing hunters, canoers, longtime elderly residents, drivers minding their own business.
Complaints about excessive fines for minor, even nonexistent violations.
Munising mayor Rod DesJardins estimates they’ve compiled between 50 and 100 complaints against the officer, and says he’s heard at least 100 other stories of harassment.
And the harassment, the critics say, has been frequently accompanied by outright intimidation–“Hands in the air!”, handcuffs and threats.
At one point, a sign was posted in Chatham advising citizens who were pulled over by officer Cote to call the State Police or 911.
At the very least, the critics say, the officer has been overzealous in carrying out his duties. More to the point, they say, he’s scared them.
They took the matter to the City Commission and County Commission and got them on board. They took the matter to the Forest Service itself but got no action from the agency. They then went to Congressman Benishek’s office and informed him of the problem.
Now the case is before Inspector General of the US Department of Agriculture. Official word from the Forest Service and Benishek’s office is, the case is now pending. No other comments.
A word of caution here. Nothing has been proven, nothing’s gone to court. The officer may simply have been doing the job he thought he was supposed to do. But when there’s this much concern, this much fear, this much distrust between a community and a governmental officer, something needs to change.
Everybody’s favorite new Mexican restaurant, Sol Azteca, has some good news. It’s finally found and bought a liquor license.
Now it needs a final okay from a government inspector before it can start serving alcohol.
Could be in days or weeks, maybe longer, but it’s coming.
Not a day too soon according to many diners who’d like a Corona or margarita to wash down their enchiladas and tacos.
You gotta think it’s a relief to restaurant management, as well. It’s tough to make big money on a pricey piece of real estate when you’re charging only eight or ten dollars for lunches and dinners.
WLUC has some good-sized shoes to fill.
Tyler Czarnopis, who’s managed the station’s website for the last three years, has just accepted a new job with the Department of Natural Resources in Lansing. He’ll be the agency’s social media coordinator.
Czarnopis has overseen huge growth on the WLUC website during his tenure. Three years ago, website page views totaled 1.4 million a month. Last month the figure was four million, and just a couple of months ago, aided by all the school closures and weather alerts, the station’s website pulled in nearly eight million page views.
Huge numbers for a small market TV station.
Czarnopis leaves on May 23rd. His successor hasn’t been selected yet.
The new Thomas Theatre complex in the Township opens Friday at 2:30.
Hardly a secret but it is big news.
Fancy complex, attractive building, one huge screen–not Imax, contrary to rumors, but it is huge. Also VIP seating. Also, it seems, slightly higher prices: nine bucks for adults.
What’s playing? Godzilla, Spiderman 2, Million Dollar Arm, among others. A similar lineup to what Carmike is offering a couple of miles away.
Wonder who’s gonna get the bigger crowds this weekend?
You may not have heard about it, especially if you don’t make it to Ishpeming all that much, but there’s a gem of a store downtown.
It’s Rare Earth Goods, run by Pamela Perkins, the wife of businessman and roofer Dan Perkins.
Here’s what the store offers: arts and crafts from more than 100 local artists, wood furniture crafted by a blind carpenter, more than 60 beers, a wide array of Michigan wines, bulk foods, Dead River coffee, Guinden farm meats, specialty foods…and open mic sessions every Tuesday night.
It’s a one-of-a-kind store.
And it’s in downtown Ishpeming, which could be a problem. There’s not a ton of pedestrian traffic there, and you’ve got to wonder, is there even the demographic mix there to allow an ultra-local, offbeat business to succeed?
Let’s hope so. All towns could use a Rare Earth Goods.
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