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Menahga police chief threatens resignation if cuts are made

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The more councilman Dennis Komulainen suggests cutting law enforcement officers, the more the chief expresses dissent.

"I'm sick and tired of it," Menahga police chief Scott Koennicke told the council Monday. "I don't mean to be disrespectful ... but I'd like to see it finished once and for all."

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During his monthly report to the council, Koennicke was asked once again by councilman Komulainen if the committee has discussed cutting officers down from three to two.

"The day you go down to two, you're going down to one," Koennicke replied, explaining that he would resign if that's the direction the council decides to go.

People may think the Menahga Police Department is overstaffed because of the number of squad cars they see patrolling the streets, but the shifts overlap for a couple of hours each day, and there are no duplications, Koennicke said.

Officers work 11.5 hours every day plus call time, which provides 24-hour coverage.

If the council decides Menahga only needs two officers, it needs to come up with a list of reasons, but "there is no practical reason for it as this point," Koennicke said in an interview.

In other business:

-Menahga Civic & Commerce board member Dave Treinen suggested creating new ATV and snowmobile routes through town that would increase traffic, tourism and benefit local businesses.

If people know they don't have to load up their ATVs or snowmobiles to travel from point A to point B, then they'll come through town more often, Treinen said.

Installing the signs would cost about $500. Treinen said some businesses are willing to donate to the cost if they were promoted on the signs.

There would also be enough volunteers to install signs, but the city's Street/Park/Beach Department would have to handle any future maintenance.

However, the routes include back alleys that may be dangerous for some residents like former mayor Donna Anderson, who expressed concerns at the meeting.

Councilwoman Kim Rasmussen said the public should be able to give input before a final decision is made.

But so far, nine out of 10 are in favor of allowing ATVs and snowmobiles in town, Koennicke said.

The police committee has been discussing details of this issue and will bring a final recommendation to the council at the June meeting.

"I think if we incorporate the ordinance with a little bit of common sense ... in the long-run, it'll work out fine," Koennicke said.

-Treinen told the council the C&C has been discussing replacing the Menahga welcome signs on the north and south ends of town.

"Our goal is to turn ownership to the city of Menahga with future maintenance," he said.

The C&C would like to move the north sign to the right hand side as drivers come into town, which means it'll need the council's approval for a sign easement on that property.

The south sign would stay at its current location, but the city still needs to find out who the owner of that property is in order to give the C&C a sign easement.

-City administrator Teri Osterman reported the city's portion of the CSAH 21 project was estimated by the engineers at about $1.3 million.

-Tom Gerszewski reported there was an anonymous complaint to the Wadena County Public Health Department regarding the liquor store serving sloppy Joes during pool and dart leagues in the winter.

The department didn't impose any fines and the issue was resolved by discontinuing the service. Gerszewski added he's working on obtaining a food or catering license to be able to serve sloppy Joes by the beginning of hunting season.

-The council carried a motion to purchase a 3-acre property owned by Mike Markkula for $84,000. The Greenwood Connections building surrounds that property.

Greenwood Connections administrator Clair Erickson said owning the property would be beneficial for any future building expansion.

But Larson and Rasmussen disagreed.

"With us not knowing what we're doing as far as building, is this the proper time?" Larson said.

Councilwoman Maxine Norman said according to what the architects said during last week's interviews, the city's elderly population will continue to grow.

"Are we going to be future-looking or are we going to fight ourselves (and) not do anything," she said.

Two houses and a storage unit currently sit on that property, which Wadena County estimated at $73,600, Larson said.

Norman, Komulainen and Joel Mickelson voted to purchase the property while Larson and Rasmussen opposed.

-After evaluating Erickson at the end of the regular meeting, Norman made a motion to schedule Osterman's evaluation in the presence of city attorney Jeff Pederson. The motion passed.

-Norman stressed the importance of moving forward with a comprehensive plan for the city.

"I think I'd find decisions easier if we knew where we're going," she said.

Ben Oleson, a planner from Community Growth Institute, will talk to the council about comprehensive planning at the next council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 8.

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