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Superior, Duluth Officials Engaging in 'Ongoing Talks' to Create Regional Response Team

Ryan Juntti
Updated: October 02, 2019 10:17 AM

Superior's emergency response team is being re-evaluated after what turned out to be an inactive object forced a portion of Tower Avenue to close on Tuesday.

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Tower Avenue was shut down around 9:00 Tuesday morning after someone found what police say looked to be a "possible homemade explosive device." 

The new fire department headquarters and a nearby business were evacuated as a precaution. 

"Not your typical Tuesday morning to start," said Grizzly's Assistant General Manager Tyler Plunkett who was one of many surprised by how things unfolded.

Related: Tower Avenue Partially Reopening, Object Not a Threat

Police say a "suspicious item" was found on the sidewalk near the new fire department headquarters by a passerby on a bike. This prompted an emergency response that included the FBI and Marathon County Bomb Squad, but Marathon County is about three and a half hours from Superior, and this isn't the first time they've been needed there.

There have been three other instances. The most recent was back in December of 2016 when a suspicious backpack was found in the east end of town. They were also called to respond for two instances in 2015 - one with a suspicious package at UW-Superior, and the other with a suspicious item at the Holiday Inn.

"We rely very heavily on the Marathon County Bomb Squad, and they respond to almost all of our incidents," said Superior Police Officer Bradley Jago.

Jago says in a dire situation they could reach out to a closer bomb squad.

"Should there be an absolute emergency, we can attempt to reach out to a closer bomb squad, but really we utilize the Wisconsin resources first," said Jago.

And in this case he says they were able to determine early on that they could afford to wait for Marathon County.

"Initial inspection of the device through the robot would indicate that it's certainly suspicious, but small enough to the point where we could control our scene here," said Jago.

Now Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander says there are ongoing talks with Duluth and Superior Police Departments about creating a regional response team.

"There is a cost to waiting for another team to respond in terms of the cost of the businesses, the inconvenience to the community, staff hours to secure and maintain the scene until they can arrive, so obviously having it would be a benefit," said Alexander.

And it's something Superior Mayor Jim Paine says he would welcome as well.

"This was a major disruption and the sooner we can eliminate the disruption, the better, and so we need to be working on a regional bomb squad that can respond faster," said Paine.

In the past the Air National Guard in Duluth has responded to bomb threats in Superior, but that's not the case anymore.

The "suspicious item" has been collected as evidence. Police say it contained a "grainy residue" that has not yet been tested. It will now be sent to a crime lab.

Credits

Ryan Juntti

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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