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Walter Salo began as Menahga's city administrator Sept. 13.

Walter Salo's introduction to Menahga city administration didn't go exactly as planned.

Shortly after the city's new administrator started his job last month, deputy city clerk Susie Larson and administrative secretary Joline Floyd abruptly submitted their resignations.

That prompted rumors the women were dissatisfied with prospective changes Salo wanted to implement and unhappy with the city council.

Council members gave both women raises while they held the municipal ship together after the resignation of former administrator Teri Osterman.

But the council voted last month to return the women to their previous salaries Sept. 27, which Larson argued was premature while Salo was training. The resignations followed.

Even Salo had supported keeping the raises in place for a few more weeks. The council disagreed.

Larson and Floyd issued a statement Thursday that said:

"We prefer to leave in a positive manner knowing that we did our best to serve the community. We will miss the contact we had with the wonderful citizens of Menahga."

Salo said his workload tripled overnight. The women's resignations will leave the city without a notary public and have complicated Salo's transition into his new job.

But he was optimistic Tuesday it was a temporary situation. Nevertheless, he told the council the city administration was "near crisis," which prompted a motion to hire temporary help to get through the transition.

"There's some irregularities in our accounting," Salo told the council, quickly noting any possible errors were ones of "entries in the wrong places that need to be cleared up."

The city has advertised for the women's replacements.

"If you have to close the office half a day to take care of it, do it," said council member Maxine Norman.

Council members have pitched in helping Salo get acquainted with city procedures.

He was well prepared at Tuesday's meeting except for a few minor glitches over whether certain materials had been included in council packets.

In other business, the council:

n Finalized building inspection contract language with Fargo architect Ronald Dick, the only applicant.

The absence of a building inspector has stalled the issuance of building permits.

But having a building inspector may also affect insurance rates, which are based on protection classes.

New public property-casualty rules include factoring in an ISO rating into those protection classes.

ISO is a New Jersey-based analyst of property and casualty risk. Its Public Protection Classification establishes rates for fire insurance premiums for residential and commercial properties.

ISO collects information on municipal fire-protection efforts in communities throughout the United States, then assigns classifications from 1 to 10. Class 1 generally represents superior property fire protection, and Class 10 indicates that the area's fire-suppression program doesn't meet ISO's minimum criteria.

Having a building inspector could boost ISO ratings, reasoned council member Kim Rasmussen, thus lowering insurance premiums throughout the city.

n Heard the Greenwood Connections nursing home's census is rising incrementally.

"We had 57 beds filled with five to seven in the pipeline," administrator Clair Erickson told the council.

The facility's fiscal year ended Sept. 30. Auditors will assess the business this month.

At a 71.6 percent occupancy rate, Erickson voiced optimism the census "would hopefully be better in October."

The nursing home has transitioned to serving physical therapy patients on a short-term basis, Erickson explained earlier this year. It has few long-term patients.

n Denied a Menahga resident permission to continue housing chickens within city limits, and declined to revamp the city's farm animal ordinance.

Brian Peterson recently learned the chickens he's kept the past six months aren't allowed within city limits.

He argued his neighbors did not view the poultry as a nuisance and asked the city for some lenience in enforcing the ordinance banning farm animals from city residences.

"There's a reason for the ordinance," Rasmussen told Peterson. "It's to make sure everybody gets along, that we treat everybody the same. If you make exceptions to chickens will you make an exception to cows?" she questioned.

"Not all residents want chickens as neighbors," council member Joel Mickelson said. "It will undoubtedly cause other issues."

"I think the council wants to stick with the ordinance as is," Mayor Tom Larson said to a disappointed Peterson.

n Took no action on a proposal by a troop of Girl Scouts to plant a garden near the city's fishing pier and clear away some brush and weeds that has grown out of control.

The council sent the scouts back to get a better cost estimate and determine whether native grasses planted on the site can co-exist with a flower bed or should be removed.

The city must also replace deteriorating railroad ties that border the garden site. The scouts propose planting annuals, perennials and wildflowers near the municipal fishing pier.

n Voted to proceed with a cold storage building even though city firefighters only have half of the estimated $19,000 cost in hand.

Firefighters said they will save the city money using sweat equity to erect the building, which will house a generator and city equipment and picnic tables.

The council also voted to replace a fire department pickup truck, not to exceed $20,000 from the city's equipment fund.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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