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Seniors enlisted the aid of an old tractor and a homemade grader to level the roadway south of the senior center. But the work on city streets rankled mayor Jennifer Mitchell who was concerned with liabiltity and possible damage to a manhole cover. Jim Moore, left, served as "operating engineer," Howard Peterson was technical advisor and Elaine Kelsey, crew chief. The trio did not attend the meeting Wednesday. (Submitted photo)

Akeley resident asks for demolition of house destroyed by fire

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The condition of Akeley's yards and structures drew fire again at this week's meeting, Bobbie Emery questioning why the burned house on Highway 34 remains standing.

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"The property belonging to Mark Johnson needs to be torn down," Emery wrote on a citizen complaint form. "The property is an eyesore, safety hazard and environmental issue. There are smells that come from there. I've seen kids going to snoop.

"There are ordinances against your lawn being too long, junk in yards. So why is it allowed that this property is still standing?" she asked, noting this is the second complaint she's filed. "I'm not the only citizen of Akeley who is mad about this property. How would you fell about living next to property like this?"

She said skunks have taken up residence and a deer carcass is decaying on the property.

"I'm tired of looking at it," said Emery, promising to continue to complain until the matter is resolved.

Council member Brian Hitchcock said he's spoken with Johnson who indicated he had "issues" related to the fire that needed to be resolved before the home could be torn down. The fire was determined to be arson.

Hitchcock said demolition is expected to begin soon, however.

"It's the whole town," Harry Lecy said of buildings and lots in need of work, citing a home that was recently left vacant.

"The city could be held liable if something happens on the property," Lecy warned.

Mayor Jennifer Mitchell commended Emery for being proactive. She asked that a letter be drafted requiring action on the structure's demolition, agreeing it's a liability risk.

In other action, the council:

n Heard a reprimand from Mitchell on seniors repairing the alleyway behind the senior center, learning of it via publication of a photo in the Enterprise.

Frustrated with inaction on the part of the city, a group of seniors enlisted the aid of an old garden tractor and a homemade grader to level the roadway south of the senior center, LeRoy Miller had reported, submitting the photograph. All of the volunteers were 80-plus years old.

"Re-grading in the back of the Senior Citizens Center is not something private citizens should be doing," Mitchell said, noting a manhole cover was in close proximity. Damage would be "at huge cost to the city. It's not acceptable for people to take things into their own hands.

"In the future, I would ask you to come to the council to get this stuff done," Mitchell said.

n Reported liquor store earnings of $8,057 in October, $30,422 year to date.

n Denied a request from Fred Rogers of the Minnesota Folklore Theater for the city to use its equipment to spread Class 5, which he will purchase.

"We will have to say no or everyone will want it," Johnson said.

"We'd be setting a precedent," Mitchell agreed.

n Agreed to look into expanding city office hours to include Fridays, at Sebrina Hegg's suggestion.

"I see no reason the part-timer can't work an eight-hour shift on Fridays," she said, referring to the clerk assistant.

Hegg also suggested implementing a time clock to assure "accountability" on the part of the staff.

"It's all on trust and faith," she said, indicating this was not accusatory but a precautionary measure.

n Responded to police officer Jimmy Hansen's request for clarification on use of the squad car.

"I feel there is no need for ride-alongs," Johnson said, Mitchell adding, unless they are retired officers.

The squad car should not leave city limits unless the officer has been called to assist, Mitchell said.

The policy relating to the matter was updated in January, they told him.

n Canvassed the election returns with mayoral incumbent Mitchell receiving 95 votes, council candidates Heather Moore, 106; Brian Hitchcock, 98; Cliff Johnson, 64; Terry Chalich, 58 and 41 write-ins.

Johnson indicated he was withdrawing prior to the election. He must formally decline the position in January, however, at which time the council may appoint at members' discretion.

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