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Menahga's Oak Avenue, Blueberry Drive will not undergo construction

The Menahga City Council voted Monday to eliminate three phases from the proposed CSAH 21 construction project.

Oak Avenue, Blueberry Drive and the tarring of the two will be removed from the plan, which means only CSAH 21 will undergo full construction.

Ulteig Engineers representative Chris Thorson said during a public hearing Monday that bids came in at 10 percent lower on June 30.

He presented different scenarios the council could take and the assessment costs residents would be charged based on each one.

If the council would have gone with the full project, which included CSAH 21, Blueberry Drive and Oak Avenue, average assessments would have been lower across the board.

Average assessment per lot along CSAH 21 would have been $10,500, along Oak Avenue would have been $17,500 and along Blueberry Drive would have been $17,000.

But now property owners along CSAH 21 will be assessed around $12,700.

The more contractors are doing, the more the costs are spread out, which is why it's cheaper to do the whole project, Thorson said.

But several Oak Avenue and Blueberry Drive residents said they didn't need new water and sewer lines and are not in favor of the full project going through.

"I have not seen one person that said they wanted this to go through," said Brad Carlson, who owns property on Blueberry Drive. "I don't know why we're sitting here right now, it seems like a lot of people can't afford it."

But another CSAH 21 resident said his septic system is not up to code and that Wadena County will charge him to get it fixed if the project isn't approved.

"We'd rather put this through," said Jeff Warnick, adding that it's cheaper to upgrade his septic system with the project.

Other property owners on Oak Avenue said they live on fixed incomes and have no way of paying assessments that come with this project.

Others suggested eliminating the project as a whole.

But City Administrator Teri Osterman said the engineering and planning fees are now up to $24,000, which residents will still get assessed for if this project is put on hold for another year or more.

Thorson didn't recommend putting the project on hold either since contractor bids came in low this year.

Although council members discussed that to be fair, the whole project must be done, they all voted unanimously against construction of Oak Avenue and Blueberry Drive.

Councilwoman Kim Rasmussen said she's skeptical about voting since she was told at last month's meeting that she had a conflict of interest because she owns property on Oak Avenue.

She said she doesn't believe she has a conflict of interest, however, "in order to keep peace at this table, I have to step back."

Mayor Tom Larson disagreed and said he strongly values Rasmussen's opinion and that Councilman Dennis Komulainen is wrong on this issue.

The council's decision was proposed to the Wadena County Board this week and if approved, construction will begin July 20.

In other business:

The council voted to move ahead with the bonding process. One of two finance managers will be selected to finance CSAH 21 project depending on their fees. Either Ehlers & Associates or Public Financial Management, Inc. will be chosen.