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An artists' venue has opened on Main Avenue, Blank Canvas, as the name allegorically implies, holding an ever-evolving display by area talent. The idea for Blank Canvas Gallery and Education Center was sparked a year ago when Alan Zemek - attorney, entrepreneur and author - approached artist Bickey Bender on forming a cooperative and using the former armory for exhibitions.
In a record-setting 10-minute meeting, the Nevis Council learned the Fire Relief Association is solvent, approved the liquor store serving drinks Sunday, July 11, for the pig races and Halvorson Beach signs will soon be erected, acknowledging the donation of the property to the city. The previous brevity record was held by former assistant mayor Bev Romer, who conducted city business within a 13-minute timeframe. Firefighter Don Umthun reported the fire department to be self-sufficient, with assets of $214,030 at the end of 2009, accrued liability of $164,410 leaving a surplus of $49,620.
Park Rapids School's stable enrollment is calling for a fifth kindergarten class again this fall, the board approving advertising for an additional teacher. Century assistant principal Jeff Johnson reported since kindergarten round-up, numbers are at 124 students, with an additional six or seven students a possibility. At four sections, there would be 31 per class, with five sections, 25 students. Superintendent Glenn Chiodo concurred. "I think Jeff's right," he told the board.
Following a rash of incidents in the past few months - a bank robbery and house arson among them - the Akeley Council agreed to convene a special meeting Tuesday to discuss hiring a part-time police officer. Council member Brian Hitchcock made the suggestion, following citizen complaints. "We have already charged the community," he said of this year's budget, which included a part-time officer's salary. Police chief Eric Klein resigned in January after being placed on administrative leave. Sheriff's deputies have subsequently patrolled the city. Mayor Jen Mitchell agreed.
The Park Rapids City Council, at the behest of Chamber exec Katie Magozzi, expressed unanimous support for the community's bid to host the 2012 Governor's Fishing Opener. "We're asking for a partner, Magozzi told the council. "The city has done magnificent things for business by partnering with downtown." This partnership, she said, would make additional resources available, adding another level of support. The timing of the opener is a means to capitalize on the city's revitalization, she said, the event to be held at the completion of construction.
Eric Wolff and T.J. Simon, working together as the Eric Wolff Team, have now formed a partnership, Wolff & Simon Real Estate recently opening on Highway 34 East. The agent owners bring a combined 20 years' experience to their roles, Wolff entering the world of real estate in 1996, Simon in 2004. And they see the present as a prime time for buyers. "The amount of inventory on lakes under $200,000 is the most we've seen in years," Simon said of cabins and planned unit developments. The real estate market is similar to last year, Wolff said.
Legislators, working 11 hours into a special session, arrived at a budget agreement, but Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, anticipates a difficult session ahead next year. The first year of the biennium, when the budget is determined, will require cuts, she predicts. "There are not enough shifts left" to address the anticipated $6 billion deficit. "No direct cuts were made to education, but we made shifts," she said of the 70-30 funding delays to school districts.