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Vandalism plagues Menahga city beach, campground baths

Vandalism at Menahga City Campground bathrooms and the city beach has the Menahga City Council contemplating a security camera system.

Bashed in light switches have been replaced about three times this summer, City Administrator/Treasurer Janette Bower told the council at Monday’s meeting.

Utilities Supervisor Frank Thelin has had to clean feces off the walls and around the buildings, added Mayor Pat Foss.

The council reviewed quotes from West Central Telephone Association to install three exterior, infrared cameras at the campground and two at the beach. The equipment may be leased or purchased. There is a one-time installation fee of $1,125. The city would have 24-hour access to view a live feed and playback. To handle the bandwidth, internet speeds would have to increase at an approximate cost of $20 per month.

The council considered the one-year lease option, totaling $2,409, which includes installation and increased internet costs.

Council member Roger Henstorf noted that a similar suggestion had been rejected by the council numerous times in the past.

"It’s was a problem before but not to the degree as the last few years," Foss said.

Council member Craig Lawrey suggested industrial grade light switches or cages.

Henstorf questioned how cameras would solve the problem and identify thieves.

"Having cameras will stop some, not all," Foss said. "With a camera there, I think it’ll discourage some of the abuse."

Council member Kim Rasmussen said cameras may also help in cases of assault, if someone is attacked while going to the bathrooms when it’s dark.

Clair Erickson, retiring Greenwoods Connections administrator, said he’s been happy with the quality of infrared cameras at the nursing home. In one instance, the cameras clearly identified someone driving away

Henstorf expressed frustration that he hadn’t heard anything about the vandalism, even though he’s on the parks and beach liaison committee. "I don’t like to be blindsided," he said.

Foss explained the matter came up at an administration liaison meeting while discussing water and sewer rates with Thelin.

Rasmussen proposed tabling the resolution and sending it back to the parks and beach committee for further review. The council agreed.

In other business, the council did the following:

-Approved a variance request from RSBR Investments LLC, which is developing the new Dollar General Store, to reduce the number of required parking spaces from 90 to 30. The zoning commission recommended approving the variance since the request is due to the unique circumstances of the property and 30 spaces are sufficient for the Dollar General Store.

-Tabled payment to Di-Mar Construction and Ulteig, in the amounts of $29,275 and $16,217, respectively.

"There are a few hiccups that need to be addressed," Foss said. "The water is so much better, but we also have some issues."

The council agreed to withhold the final payments until all water treatment plant problems are resolved.

-Accepted a $174,381 Assistance to Firefighters Grant for the purchase of personal protection equipment. The Menahga Fire Department was also awarded $3,825 from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety for the purchase and installation of a turnout gear washer/extractor. The council also approved appropriating $40,565 from the fire department fund to pay the city’s required share of equipment costs.

-Waived a portion of the Methodist Church’s water bill since the parsonage supplied approximately 400 gallons of water for the Midsummer Celebration dunk tank. Their water bill will be reduced by about $50.

-Held the first reading of an ordinance granting Minnesota Energy Resources permission to operate within Menahga’s city limits. The original franchise agreement will expire Aug. 28. The new ordinance renews the agreement for another 25 years.

Foss said it’s similar to the franchise agreement with West Central Telephone Association.

-Discussed the need for cemetery rules regarding flowers and decorations at gravesites. Henstorf noted that some plants are left year ’round, even though they are supposed to be removed by a certain date.

Everything from little statutes to stuffed animals are left at sites all year. "I think everything should come off so it’s easier to trim and mow in the spring," Rasmussen said.

Foss said the city will need to expand the cemetery since it’s running out of space. He’s also received requests for a water spigot from those who beautify and regularly care for gravesites.

No action was taken.

-Discussed the 6-hour power outage that occurred at Greenwood Connections last weekend. Erickson said he would investigate prices for an additional generator for the assisted living facility and see if it fits within this year’s budget.

"People in assisted living are more vulnerable than when we started 20 years ago," he said, adding that some are on oxygen or receive 24-hour care.

A grant request to Minnesota Power was denied, said Greenwood Connections Administrator Laura Ahlf, because the facility’s overall kW load is too small to qualify for funding.

Greenwood   Connections currently has 75 kW and 80 kW generators, dating from 1975 and the 1980s.

-Learned that property and liability insurance for Greenwood Connections decreased from $44,967 to $41,810; however, workers compensation rates increased from $60,251 to $84,670 due to some claims.

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