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Menahga mayoral candidate suffers stroke

The upcoming election became a top of discussion at the close of the Menahga City Council meeting Tuesday.

The Menahga mayor and three council members seats are up for election this November.

Nathan Carlson and Joan Liimatta will be on the ballot for mayor.

According to a GoFundMe page, it's questionable whether Carlson can serve, if elected. On Aug. 24, he suffered "a major brain bleed," which caused a stroke. He is currently in the ICU at St. Cloud Hospital.

Nathan's wife, Jane, posted an update on Oct. 10, saying that "Nathan has been responding, using eye blinking and by squeezing our hand in response to questions. It's the type of response the doctors have been waiting for. This past week, he had a feeding tube placed and had a tracheostomy. The next step is to have him placed in a long-term acute care facility, probably in St. Paul. They are hoping he will be able to move there this week."

Carlson has not officially withdrawn from the election.

City Administrator Gina Ellingson told the Enterprise his name will remain on the ballot because the deadline to remove it has passed. The Minnesota Secretary of State Office advised Ellingson that "the city is not responsible for informing the public about the candidate — it is a campaign issue."

Liimatta said she is a Menahga native who moved out of the area, but recently returned and purchased a house. "I'm happy to be back home," she wrote. She has two grown children and grandchildren.

"I am running for the mayor's position because I have concerns about the fiscal condition of my hometown. Stopping the bleeding of money — without considering the debt load we are leaving our future residents — is my main concern. I am proud of our city and want to be part of its future growth," Liimatta said.

Robyn Keranen and Arthur Huebner have filed for the two council seats left vacant by Maxine McNeece, who resigned in July, and incumbent Craig Lawrey, who is not running for re-election. These are four-year terms.

Born and raised in Winona and Plainview, Minn., Huebner is a retired glazier. He said he spent over 20 years in the lead position on residential, auto, commercial and leaded glass.

"I came to this wonderful, little, sleepy town because the children I met here while visiting were so courteous and polite, which is a direct representation to their parents," Huebner said. "I consider myself to be somewhat conservative with the insight of the future in mind. As a council member, I would like to get the public involved in making the decisions that affect their finances and future."

As of press time Friday, Keranen had not provided biographical information.

Larry Karjala is the sole candidate for the two-year council seat that became available when Dennis Komulainen resigned this past summer. Karjala was appointed by the council to finish the remaining six months of Komulainen's term.

"I think of it as a civic responsibility. If you can get involved, get involved," he said.

Karjala is a retired mechanical engineer. He was born in Menahga, but his family moved to Fairbanks, Alaska and lived there from 1955 to 1962.

Municipal liquor store remodel

Ellingson reported that Menahga liquor store manager Renatta Parks was disappointed with the three remodeling plans and one new construction option developed by Tony Stoll of BHH Partners.

"She felt like the remodeling options were like putting Band-aids on the problems," Ellingson said. She noted that no floor plans or dollar amounts were provided. "It's hard to make a decision if we have no idea the cost."

There is currently an issue with delivery trucks loading and unloading in the neighboring grocery store's parking lot. "We need to address that, too," he said.

The building is aging, said Mayor Patrick Foss. Old coolers need replacement as well.

Foss said an expert determined that a new liquor store would increase sales, but funding is the primary problem.

"Over the last several years, we've spent some money on some very needed projects, and we're kind of at the end of bonding areas in terms of borrowing money," he said. "At the same time, we need to look at projects that improve the city, and one of them is the liquor store because it is a funding source for the public."

The store presently generates a $62,500 return per year, Foss said.

"Until we get something that looks possible, it's still at a thinking stage. Like I say, we've been talking about this for about three years now," he said.

He anticipated that the new city council will need to make the final decision.

Greenwood Connections update

Greenwood Connections Administrator Laura Ahlf reported the expansion project should be complete by December. Karjala inquired if anyone would be paying fines if there are further delays. Council member Roger Henstorf said late fees weren't written into the contract.

Construction began in November 2017 and was expected to take one year, Ahlf reminded the council, so the project is technically still on schedule. The council also authorized Ulteig Engineering to determine the best placement for two fire hydrants.

In other business, the council did as follows:

• Decided to scale down the proposed cemetery expansion project and postpone the seasonal campsite project. The council determined to spend no more than $35,000 on the cemetery, using reserve funds.

• Learned that American Tower Corp. is appealing the conditional use permit (CUP) awarded to a competitor. Last month, the city council approved a CUP for Uniti Towers to place a 300-foot, guyed wireless telecommunications tower at 1043 Aspen Ave. S. The city attorney recommended holding the appeal hearing when all parties involved can attend the council meeting.

• Approved a labor agreement with the new police officer union.

• Approved the addition of a stop sign at First St. SE and Birch St., as recommended by Police Chief Scott Koennicke. Keranen commented that, due to re-routing of school buses to accommodate the new high school construction, there is additional traffic at the intersection.

• Learned a 7-year-old well pump at the water treatment plant had worn bearings, so it was replaced at a cost of roughly $2,000, according to Foss.

• Approved a Menahga Fire Department Relief Association request to increase the retirement lump sum benefit from $1,300 to $1,600 per year of service.

The council permanently moved its monthly meetings to the second Tuesday at 6 p.m. at city hall. A special budget meeting was scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18. The next regular monthly meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13.