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Menahga council asked to resume live streaming

Karen Candelaria based her appeal on elderly residents' need to feel connected and involved with the community.

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The Menahga City Council received public input on Dec. 13 asking for a return to live streamed meetings.

Karen Candelaria asked the council to resume live streaming via GoToMeeting. She said this would allow elderly residents to keep tabs on city business.

“Right now, in the middle of winter, it’s getting colder out and these elderly people don’t want to leave their homes,” said Candelaria, also noting that COVID-19 is still going around. “This is a good way for them to still be involved, and still feel a connection to the community.”

Council members said they would put her request on their next meeting’s agenda.

In other public comments, Tim Ellingsen complained about the animated liquor store sign that the city purchased to advertise sales and promote city events.

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“As of today, to my knowledge, no sales have ever scrolled across the screen,” he said. “The substantial taxpayer money spent for this sign must be appropriately used to justify the purchase.”

Ellingsen also questioned the “snow islands” and “deltas” left behind when city personnel plow the streets. “Thorough snow removal makes for safer travel and a more welcoming atmosphere in Menahga,” he said.

Finally, Ellingsen reported traffic safety issues at the intersection of 2nd St. NW and Cottonwood Ave., where the introduction of a stop sign “merely brought a smile to drivers as they drove through it as usual.”

He requested extra patrol of the area to enforce the sign, suggesting as an alternative to “remove the sign and watch the mayhem begin.”

Retroactive pay

A motion to pay Amanda Pachel and Tanya Edwards $1,044 each for performing some duties of the city administrator from June 21 to Sept. 30 failed by a 2-2 vote with Art Huebner and Robyn Keranen in favor, Mayor Liz Olson and Dan Warmbold opposed, and Durwin Tomperi abstaining.

Thomsen said these former staff members filled in during the absence of the previous city administrator, preparing zoning reports, agendas, minutes and building permits, attending meetings, balancing ledgers and responding to phone calls. She recommended paying them for this time at $7.25 per hour, half Kurtti’s hourly rate.

However, council discussion noted that the former employees’ union contracts expressly forbade them from doing work outside their job description, and Olson said she wanted to see documentation of the work they performed. Warmbold suggested tabling the matter until January.

Controversy over consent

Consent items on the council’s agenda included approval of minutes from 10 previous meetings, including special and budget meetings, dating back to July 26. However, four meetings were pulled from the consent agenda because the minutes from two of them were still being transcribed from GoToMeeting recordings and two of them required extensive corrections.

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The corrected minutes as well as the remaining consent items were approved in three motions, all by a 4-1 vote, with Huebner opposed.

Despite opportunities to pull items from consent and discuss each motion before voting, Huebner gave no explanation for his dissent.

Following these votes, the council went into a closed session for more than an hour to discuss legal options for pending litigation with the city attorney.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved a civil city attorney contract with Flaherty & Hood, P.A., by a 3-2 vote with Huebner and council member Robyn Keranen opposed. Their hourly rates include $165 for attorneys and $85 for other staff on general municipal matters; $180 for attorneys, $125 for analysts and $90 for other staff on labor and employment issues; $175 for attorneys and $90 for other staff on real estate matters; $185 for attorneys and $100 for other staff on litigation.

  • Discussed the city’s fee schedule for snow removal at the request of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), which questioned the fact that the city posts the same rates whether using a truck or a payloader.

  • Approved the council’s compensation for 2021 meeting attendance, with a total of $2,820 paid for special meetings, $1,250 for budget meetings, $245 for planning commission meetings and $9,300 for regular meetings.

  • Approved compensation for planning commission members based on their 2021 meeting attendance, totaling $980.

  • Acknowledged Theo Komulainen’s resignation from the public works department, effective Nov. 28.

  • Certified $18,374 in unpaid utility bills to be assessed by Wadena County to the property owners.

  • Deferred assessments for residents Mary Montoya and Delores Charmoli, based on a state law that allows cities to defer assessments for seniors, disabled or military persons. City Administrator Betty Thomsen said the total amount deferred is $13,831.

  • Posted an open position as a public works employee.

  • Requested that Community First Bank raise the city’s ACH credit limit from $22,000 to $25,000, due to payroll increases in 2022.

  • Approved a $60,000 transfer from liquor store profits to the city’s general fund. Warmbold’s motion passed 4-1, with Huebner opposed.

  • Extended temporary technician Jensine Kurtti’s letter of offer to an unspecified date in 2022, noting that she will be unavailable for several weeks after the New Year. Tomperi’s motion passed 3-2, with Huebner opposed and Keranen abstaining.

  • Unanimously approved a “jake brake” resolution, authorizing police to enforce the city’s nuisance ordinance regarding excessive engine noise. A separate motion to apply to MnDOT to place three “vehicle noise laws enforced” signs at a cost of $2,898 passed by 4-1, with Huebner opposed.

  • Heard Kurtti report she received a proposal from a firm called Linxup about placing GPS tracking in city vehicles, which she agreed to share with council members.

  • Received a profit and loss summary showing that the city’s general fund had a net gain of about $93,000 for November, but a net loss of $244,000 on the year to date. For all funds, year-to-date, the city showed a net gain of about $364,000.

  • Approved payable invoices totaling $63,129 and prepaids totaling $51,176.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
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