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Hitchcock reseated on Akeley council; request heard for Bunyan Days funding

Brian Hitchcock, returning from his tour of duty with the Minnesota Army National Guard in Iraq, has rejoined the Akeley Council.

"I am ready to end my leave of absence and return to my position of council member," he wrote in a letter to the council, earning a unanimous vote for reinstatement effective April 1.

Council member Jon Johnson resigned at Wednesday's meeting, effective March 31.

In other action, the council:

n Learned Denice Johnson will once again chair Paul Bunyan Days, despite announcing she and other committee members were stepping down after last year's event.

She submitted a written plea for funding for the event, after last year's council decision, based on attorney Steve Bolton's advice, not to contribute.

Bolton determined a public entity cannot contribute to a private entity.

But in this week's letter, Johnson stated the committee members "are not, nor have we ever been, a private group or organization. Any money left at the end of expenses being paid is used for the following year's event. We are and always have been a subcommittee of the Civic and Commerce" association, she stated.

The letter was accompanied by a breakdown of expenses for the 2008 and 2009 events, with donations from the fire department, VFW and city in 2008 listed.

Expenses in 2008 totaled $19,287, according to the report and donations were $9,000.

Donations of $5,000 in 2009 offset expenses of $13,292.

No other income was included in the report.

Contacted after the meeting, she said there is currently $3,700 in the account. Paul Bunyan Days proceeds, she said, are derived mainly from the treasure hunt, button sales and vendors.

The fund is down from past years, which she attributed to the carnival's no show the past two years.

Ironically, a carnival owner's phone call expressing interest in providing rides and entertainment at the 2010 event piqued Johnson's interest in spearheading the event again this year.

The father of the caller from T&M Enterprises owned one of the first carnivals to appear at the event, she said.

"It's a good civic promotion," Johnson said. "It's fun filled," and leaves a lasting impression of Akeley being "a nice place to visit."

The "year off," she said, was meant to make a statement, to draw other players to the table.

The Miss/Mister Akeley pageants may be eliminated this year, however, because the orchestration is "too time consuming."

n Learned liquor store manager Bob Winner is retiring, effective April 1.

The liquor store reported negative earnings of $3,149 in February, $729 year to date.

n Learned the city "did not follow protocol" after the water main break on Highway 34.

Minnesota Department of Transportation operations supervisor Gary Kennedy arrived at the meeting to explain necessary procedure, including calling him in the event of such an emergency.

"Without proper traffic control, it becomes a liability issue," he told the council. "And working without a permit can shut down operations."

He also urged the city to begin work on water and sewer upgrades prior to Highway 34 construction in the city, targeted for the spring of 2011.

Frank Thelin suggested the city confer with the MnDOT engineer in Bemidji.

n Discussed polling the city via a survey in the water bills to determine what components should be included in the city's Capital Improvement Plan.

Thelin requested the survey as a means to determine priorities, including drainage issues.

n Scheduled a work session for 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 6.

n Agreed to move the regular monthly meeting time from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m.