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Akeley council discusses impact of Highway 34 construction on town

The Akeley Council learned plans are complete for the Highway 34 construction project that will extend from the east side of Park Rapids to Akeley, with bid letting to be April 22 and construction expected to begin in mid-June.

Phil Bergem, a design engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said the bulk of the work will be from July 4 to Labor Day. He indicated MnDOT is attempting to coordinate the schedule based on community events.

Highway 226 to Dorset will also undergo upgrades.

A detour will send westbound motorists south on Highway 64 to 87 from Akeley to Park Rapids.

Bergem indicated a large part of the project will be removing the existing blacktop. In town, plans call for milling 32 feet of roadway to eliminate cost to the city. Standard is 24 feet.

Brian Hitchcock questioned where the project would begin, which Bergem indicated would be at the contractor's discretion.

In other action, the council:

n Swore in Terry Chalich as council member, the city having received a single letter of intent.

He fills the vacancy created by Cliff Johnson who resigned after being re-elected in November.

Chalich's name was also on the ballot.

n Approved the 5 percent increase in the amount the city pays for fire protection, as requested by the Eastern Hubbard County Fire District.

Hitchcock suggested the department consider cuts in personnel, indicating the number of EHCFD firefighters is disproportional in comparison with area towns. He also proposed cutting the number of meetings, for which fire fighters are reimbursed.

Hitchcock, Jennifer Mitchell and Heather Moore voted in favor of a motion to approve the increase. Firefighter Troy Hegg abstained and Chalich voted in opposition.

n Approved an engineering services agreement with Short Elliott Hendrickson for design, advertising of bids and construction administration of the water main reconstruction.

SEH hopes to coordinate the project with Highway 34 reconstruction this summer.

The project is estimated to cost $381,000 with $245,000 expected in grant funding. The remaining amount will be a loan via the Public Facilities Authority, with temporary financing to be sought.

SEH engineer Jeff Ledin suggested the city also look at refinancing existing debt at that time.

n Approved the purchase of a hand-held receiver to read water meters at a cost of $7,328, the current receiver "obsolete."

The city will purchase the receiver from Ferguson Waterworks in Fargo.

n Police officer Jimmy Hansen reported meeting with city attorney Steve Bolton on the dog ordinance.

The city cannot ban breeds of dogs but if a dog is deemed dangerous, the owner can be required to purchase additional insurance, Hansen said. A second bite labels the dog as dangerous.

Hansen indicated two dogs attacked individuals, both times unprovoked. "I heard the dogs have been removed," he told the council.

n Learned the police squad car "has issues" and is in need of replacement. Hansen said he is looking at a used squad car in the range of $6,000 to $8,000.

n Heard the Akeley Horizons Committee will sponsor the first annual community-wide garage sale May 21.

Churches, businesses, individuals and organizations can have sales at their residence or site or at the Akeley Regional Community Center.

Horizons is covering the cost of space at the ARCC and will purchase advertising.

"Salers" are asked to respond to Peg Davies at by March 15. Or call her at 652-2139 or 252-1541.

n Learned the liquor's net income in January was $4,384.

Manager Lacey Hitchcock received approval to put coupons in water bills.

n Learned Arvig Communication Systems will remove the telephone booth on Highway 34. Once a staple part of communities, phone booths are now considered an antiquity, a collectible for some.