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Menahga City Council approves sale of tax-forfeited parcels

The Menahga City Council authorized the sale of tax-forfeited properties within city limits.

Wadena County identified 20 parcels — ranging in estimated market value from $600 to $38,100 — with outstanding special assessments or unpaid taxes.

Mayor Pat Foss recommended accepting the resolution so the parcels "can be returned to private ownership and hopefully get onto the tax rolls."

City Administrator Janette Bower said the council has several options with regard to tax-forfeited parcels. The city could give the property to Wadena County, purchase the property or put it up for public sale.

The council unanimously agreed to sell the parcels to the public. They chose not reduce the special assessments, which varied from $1,522 to $21,722.

Wadena County will post the bid date and set the prices, Bower said. In the past, the county set prices at 30 percent of the estimated market value, she noted.

The county will also disclose the special assessment owed to any potential buyers. The new owners will be responsible for those unpaid assessments.

The council set a work meeting for 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 21 to review a $21,722 special assessment on a parcel with an estimated market value of $8,300.

Campground improvements

The city council authorized that water and electricity be installed at 10 campsites within Menahga Memorial Forest Campground. Two additional sites will be upgraded to receive water only.

Two sites at the city campground will remain without water or electricity, said Bower.

"They're nicely positioned in trees and primitive, and we do have quite a few tents that set up in there," she explained, adding that, in the future, "there are options for us to put in primitive sites pretty easily because people do like to camp."

The council agreed to appropriate $15,000 from an unassigned fund balance to pay for the improvements.

Foss expressed concern about where the money would come from. Earlier in the year, the council explored developing eight seasonal campsites at Memorial Forest Campground, but some council members balked at the expense and that project failed for lack of a motion.

Councilmember Maxine McNeece replied that there is a big difference $15,000 and $80,000, the estimated cost of the seasonal campsite expansion.

"We're making an improvement on a facility that's being used and we're upgrading it for improved use," she said of the less risky and less costly project.

Foss said seasonal campsites would have been an improvement as well.

Special election

The council opted to delay a special election asking voters to give the city authority to issue liquor licenses and regarding Sunday on-sale liquor licenses until Nov. 2018.

Presently, the City of Menahga is not authorized by voters to issue any type of license other than a club license (VFW, American Legion, etc.)

By Minnesota Statute, no city may issue additional licenses until a special election is held and voters have authorized it.

"I have a concern about bringing this to a special election in a non-general election year," Foss said. "How many people are going to show up?"

Public input was sought at two June meetings, but attendance was poor. The three people who spoke weren't even city residents, Foss noted.

The cost of a special election is estimated at $5,000.

Councilmember Dennis Komulainen agreed with Foss and made the motion to change the special election date from 2017 to 2018. Councilmember Craig Lawrey seconded it.

"I think this is a responsible use of taxpayer dollars to delay this decision," McNeece said.

The amendment passed 4-1, with Councilmember Tim Ellingson opposed.

"I like the idea of saving money, but I think the people have already spoken by not showing up, so I don't think delaying it is going to help anything," Ellingson said. "Since we've already had a request from a local business to move this forward, I think we should move forward now rather than wait."

The council voted 4-1, again with Ellingson opposed, to proceed with a special election in Nov. 2018.

In other business, the city council also did the following:

• Adopted a procurement standards policy in order to comply with federal grant guidelines, per the recommendation of the city's auditor, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. Bower noted the policy will be applied to all city purchases.

• Reviewed the renewal quote for property, liability and auto insurance at Greenwood Connections. Greenwood Administrator Laura Ahlf reported that the insurance premium rose $2,000 mostly due to inflation for property and increased business income. The new premium is $43,711 from GuideOne/CNA. Greenwood Connections also purchased $1 million in cyber liability insurance for an additional $1,800. Workers compensation insurance premium decreased. The new premium is $79,873.

• Learned that Greenwood Connections maintenance staff reshingled the garage roof and removed concrete in the courtyard. Ahlf reported that new boilers were installed. A concrete slab is also ready for the new generator, which is expected to be installed by the end of July.

• Bower announced that the city will receive $14,490 from the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Small Cities Assistance Program for repair and/or maintenance of city streets. She anticipates the funds will be used to put class 5 gravel on several areas in town that need it, particularly 3rd Street. The roadway on the east side of city hall also needs to be upgraded for fire trucks, she said.