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Roundabout project delayed to 2019

Park Rapids police officers who were recently promoted took the Oath of Honor at Tuesday's city council meeting in front of family and friends followed by a pinning ceremony. The officers are, from left, Patrol Officer Dannon Yliniemi, Sergeant Dan Garner, Detective Sergeant Sabin Rasmus and Sergeant Justin Frette. (Kevin Cederstrom/Enterprise)

The timeline for construction of a roundabout at Highway 71 and CSAH 15 in Park Rapids originally planned to begin in 2018 has been pushed back to 2019.

The City Council on Tuesday was expected to pass a resolution of support for the MnDOT project which includes the city's portion of the frontage road reconstruction along Highway 71 from Eighth Street south to CSAH 15/Industrial Park Road to coincide with the state roundabout.

Jon Olson of Apex Engineering informed the council of the state's decision to delay the project.

The project will be a cooperative effort between the state and the city. Olson said he originally intended to present the preliminary engineering report for the Highway 71 improvement projects on Tuesday but learned earlier in the day of the change from 2018 to 2019.

"It's looking like we have a little more time than we were originally anticipating," Olson said. "The reason for that is this was an extremely aggressive design schedule and it didn't allow for an early bid date. With this delay it's going to allow the design to come together in a much more organic fashion and I think it's going to be in everyone's best interest."

Olson said the design of the city's frontage road project will continue and he plans to present a preliminary engineering report in the coming months. He emphasized the state Department of Transportation portion of the project will be the roundabout and the Highway 71 improvements. The city will be responsible for only the frontage road improvements and the utilities.

"We have done quite a bit of work on this project and put in quite a bit of effort into it, however, this additional time will allow us a much, much better coordination with the DOT and city to develop a more comprehensive preliminary engineering report."

Roundabouts are designed to provide an alternative to traffic signals and are usually built with a circular raised island and splitter medians on all approaches to help slow vehicles and direct traffic into the counterclockwise flow around the center.

According to the DOT, the roundabout at the intersection would provide a continuous flow of traffic and slow vehicles upon approaching the intersection on both the major and minor legs.

Tall grass nuisance

The council voted unanimously to adopt changes to the city's nuisance ordinance regarding tall grass. City Planner Ryan Mathisrud reported to the council each year staff receives complaints relating to tall grass nuisances. Typically, a complaint is received, the owner notified, and the nuisance is abated within a week when the property owner cuts the grass. However, there are cases where the owner is unreachable, unresponsive, or otherwise unable to abate the nuisance in a timely manner.

If the property is vacated staff attempts to track down the owner and if unsuccessful the parks department will cut the grass. Mathisrud explained this process does cost the city in staff time and resources.

The amended ordinance will give staff the ability to administer a fee and collect the costs of performing those services from the property owner. The fee amount will now be $100 for an abatement administrative charge and $50 assessment charge.

Mathisrud explained this new ordinance clarifies the process which will reduce uncertainty in the process at the staff level. The ordinance increases the allowed grass height from six to seven inches. It creates a process for improving areas for official native plantings that are not required to be mowed. It addresses brush piles and accumulation of yard debris, creates a system for giving violators due process. It does create an assessment procedure the city can follow easily, and clarifies the penalties associated with the process.

If a property owner doesn't pay the fee it will be applied to their taxes.

Police department promotions

Chief Jeff Appel presented four police officers who recently were promoted and took the Oath of Honor during Tuesday's meeting. The new hire takes the oath after the one year probation period. Oath of Honor represents a trust between the community and the law enforcement officer. The Oath of Honor is a binding representation of this trust.

Justin Frette has worked for the department since 2008 and promoted to Patrol Sergeant in Aug. of 2016. Dan Garner has worked for the department since 2010 and was promoted to Patrol Sergeant in August of 2016. Sabin Rasmus was promoted to Detective Sergeant in December of 2016 and has been with the department since 2011. Officer Dan Yliniemi was moved to full-time status in January of 2017 and has worked for the department since 2014.

After taking the oath, the officers had their badges pinned on them by family.