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Akeley water main work closes Highway 34 through town

Akeley's Paul Bunyan statue overlooks what could be a long summer of road construction. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Akeley's water main reconstruction project began this week, with detours sending vehicles - including semis - through the city neighborhoods.

Three blocks of Highway 34 - from Pleasant to Hulet - are now blocked from traffic, which is raising business owners' concerns.

The detour for the water main project is expected to span four to six weeks, which will be followed by Highway 34 road construction.

Casper Construction of Grand Rapids is the water main reconstruction contractor.

The project sent residents to this week's council meeting, Cleo Lanning stating the trucks "can't make the small corners" and reported two near-crashes.

Akeley merchants were meeting Thursday night to determine ways to manage the disruption the construction causes.

Mayor Jennifer Mitchell acknowledged the concerns. "But you need to realize things will be torn up for awhile," she told her constituents. "We are trying to improve the city."

She agreed to contact the engineer on the matter. "Don't scream at Denise (Rittgers)," Mitchell said. "If you're frustrated, let me know in a positive way. It's not ideal. But you've got to work with us."

She advised those with complaints to fill out the city form. "We will get back to you. Speak appropriately. Use no profanity. Be patient. Calm down. I expect everyone to be respectful. I know it's not ideal but keep working with us," she admonished.

In other action, the council, with Brian Hitchcock absent:

n Heard from Galen Negen who questioned why he was singled out for lack of a permit when he hooked up a water line and repositioned a sewer line for a client.

No one has applied for a permit in two years, Negen said. "I've talked to excavators. None of them has gotten a permit."

Police officer Jimmy Hansen had informed him of the oversight.

"I don't want you to feel singled out," Mitchell said. "But the public said they want us to enforce ordinances. Things haven't been enforced."

"Then you need to enforce equally," Negen said.

"We are trying to enforce an ordinance that's been in place since 2003," Mitchell said. "If people are going to work in a city, they need to be aware of the ordinances... I'm sorry you feel singled out."

n Learned results of the sale of $430,000 in general obligation temporary water revenue bonds, United Bankers' Bank of Bloomington the low bidder at 1.3487 percent.

n Reported a loss of $7,775 at the liquor store in May, manager Lacey Hitchcock attributing a flood in the basement, need for a water heater, ordering for the summer patronage and three pay periods to the negative earnings.

Year-to-date earnings total $4,947.