Menahga puts water tower project out to bid

Replacement of Menahga's water tower will be underway next year.

The Menahga water tower stands in the background of this 2018 Menahga Midsummer water war.

The Menahga City Council on Dec. 13 approved plans to build a new water tower and ordered the project put out to bid.

Brian Hiles with Ulteig Engineers presented the proposal, with bid opening set for 11 a.m. on Jan. 19, 2022. He said this meeting will require at least one council representative and himself, who will then make a recommendation to the full council at their next meeting.

Hiles said the city has received state agencies’ health, environmental and archeological clearance to move forward with the project, as well as approval from the State Historical Preservation Office to demolish the existing tower.

Council member Durwin Tomperi asked which of the two proposed designs will be advertised for bid. Hiles said contractors will be allowed to bid for either style.

Tomperi made a motion to approve the proposal, which passed unanimously.


Facility plan

Hiles also presented a facility plan for projects on the city’s capital improvement plan (CIP). He said the city will need to call for a public hearing on the plan in January, so that it can be edited in light of residents’ comments and brought back to the council for adoption in February.

“I would submit that, then, to the MPCA to get on the Clean Water Revolving Fund lists,” he said, explaining that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency manages project priority lists and intended use plans for both the Clean Water Revolving Fund (CWRF – sanitary sewer and stormwater) and the Drinking Water Revolving Fund (DWRF).

These lists, he said, are used to signal cities’ intention to request project funding in the future or, in the case of intended use plans, in the next year. He said the MPCA’s deadline to get on the lists is March 5.

Hiles said additional funding for water and sewer projects provided by the federal infrastructure bill, signed into law in October, will be channeled through these funds, providing money for more projects and requiring less state matching funds. Also, a bigger share of grant funding will be allowed for these projects.

“It’s gonna be a bigger pool of money and a bigger pool of grant money available over the next, at least five years, maybe longer,” said Hiles. “It’s a good time to be applying for funding.”

The project on deck includes water and sewer improvements in two areas of the city, Hiles explained. The first part, on 1st Street SW along Spirit Lake and the adjacent block of Balsam Avenue, is estimated to cost $1,734,000; the second, on portions of 2nd St. NW, 2nd St. NE and adjacent streets, has a budget of $1,665,000, for a total project estimate of about $3.4 million.

Hiles’ project summary showed that of these project costs, about $1,274,000 is eligible for DWRF funds and $1,380,000 is CWRF eligible. That leaves about $745,000 for city outlay, mainly for street and parking lot improvements.

Art Huebner made a motion to set a facility plan hearing for the council’s Jan. 10, 2022 meeting. The motion passed unanimously.


Greenwood Connections

Upon returning to open session, the council heard Greenwood Connections Administrator Laura Ahlf report that the nursing home had a current census of 82% and a lot of open staff positions.

She said an experiment in offering 12-hour shifts did not seem very successful, with few staff members opting in.

Ahlf said the nursing home board was aware that their room rates lag behind other facilities, and decided to raise rates on existing residents by 5% and new residents by 21%. Also, recognizing that costs are going up, they increased meal prices by $1 per meal.

She said the fact that the facility’s Paycheck Protection Program loan will not be taken away is good news. “We were looking at seeing a large decrease per day, but now our Medicaid rates will increase 8% instead of a decrease,” she said.

Ahlf also reported that Rita Thoma, a retired nurse whose mother lives in the facility, expressed interest in serving on the board, and the board recommended her for an open position.

She added that the state checked out a report of an unobserved fall at the nursing home and found it to be unsubstantiated.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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