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Menahga City Council disputing $32,000 bill

Faced with $32,069 in invoices from the financial firm that the City of Menahga hired to fulfill interim deputy clerk's duties, the city council contemplated its options Tuesday.

Interim City Administrator Char West said Sourcewell contributed $7,500 toward to the contracted service. "That has already been subtracted out of there," she said.

In January, the council approved a contract with Abdo, Eick and Meyers Financial Solutions (AEMFS) to handle payroll, balance statements, billing, etc. after deputy clerk Alvina Kytta and city administrator Gina Ellingson resigned. The original term of the contract was Jan. 18 through June 1. All services were based on an hourly rate between $125 and $195 per hour, depending upon the AEMFS staff member performing the work. AEMFS estimated their accounting services to cost the city between $4,500 and $5,500 monthly.

In January, the city paid AEMFS $4,218. The $32,069 bill is for bookkeeping services from Feb. 4 through April 1.

"I'm wondering if there's a way we could mediate or negotiate," said Mayor Joan Liimatta. "I know that their work was less than stellar and they got paid to correct mistakes they made."

Liimatta noted that Kytta, who was rehired April 1 as interim deputy clerk, spent significant time "fixing their fixes."

Contacting the city attorney could be costly, said former council member Kim Rasmussen, who was in the audience. She suggested that two council members review the invoices and highlight charges related to AEMFS fixing its own errors. The council agreed to do this within 10 days and notify AEMFS that they are disputing the bill.

Karol Andreasen was sworn in Tuesday as the newest member of the Menahga City Council. She replaces Larry Karjala, who resigned last month for medical and personal reasons. The council appointed Andreasen, on a 3-1 vote with council member Art Huebner opposed, to fill the council seat until 2020.

City administrator offer

The council decided to offer its choice candidate for city administrator $31.35 per hour and 240 hours of paid time off. If the candidate rejects the offer, then it will be given to the second candidate.

West noted that the city administrator is a grade above police chief, but the city council gave the newly hired police chief, Adam Gunderson, $40 per hour.

Huebner said the police chief is putting his life on the line.

West said salaries depend upon duties and the city administrator position is a "catch-all," and the first candidate doesn't have that expertise.

Police chief update

As of May 1, Wadena County Chief Deputy Joe Schoon is charging $39.48 per hour for his time spent as acting Menahga Police Chief. In a letter to the council, Wadena County Sheriff Michael Carr said his office did not bill the city for the additional coverage by sheriff's deputies or Schoon prior to May 1. "This was done to assist the city during your decision process and hiring process for your new chief of police," Carr wrote.

West reported that Gunderson has completed a psychological evaluation and the city is awaiting the background check report, "hopefully within next week." She anticipated that Gunderson would then give his two week's notice to his current employer.

Schoon said he's keeping track of his hours spent at the city office or on city cases, but that will end "the day your chief walks in the door."

Shoreland district

Council member Tim Ellingson expressed concern that locals don't appear to be aware that there is a shoreland district and variances are required. He took issue with new asphalt being laid in the alley by the coffee shop, Kahvila, thereby creating an impervious surface and directing water and gravel toward Spirit Lake.

"The public needs to know this and we can't be letting it happen," Ellingson said.

West said she's scheduling a planning commission hearing for three after-the-fact variance applications — one of which is by Kahvila owners Christina and Jim Day. Shell Sport and Bait and First English Lutheran Church are the other applicants.

Jim Day told the council he inquired at city hall prior to laying the asphalt. "You have 2 percent grade in your Happy Hour Road. The water will never cross that road. It will go right down into your storm sewer," he said.

West said it will go to a sedimentation tank, not the storm sewer.

Ellingson said, even with moderate rain, "we quite often have flooding in that area."

Liimatta suggested utilizing the local newspaper to educate the public.

In other business, the council did as follows:

• Approved a scaled-down plan for the city cemetery, which calls for new earthen burial sites for veterans, along with new gravel roads to improve vehicle access. West said only one plot currently remains for veterans.

• Directed Public Works Supervisor Ron Yliniemi to work with Menahga C & C members to simplify plans for 12-hole frisbee golf course at the city campground.

• Learned that a remodel of the south hall at Greenwood Connections is to be completed by June, and $3.9 million has been spent on the building update, thus far.

• Approved a $2,981 price increase for the Dodge Ram ordered for public works last fall.

• Approved a $650 payment to Sourcewell for planning/zoning services in March.

• Switched Kytta's hourly rate from $35 to $32.51 per hour upon her request, retroactive to April 1 to reflect a temporary rather than a contractual wage.

• Accepted a $1,500 donation from Menahga VFW Post 6206 and a $500 donation from the Gateway Lions Club for the Sounds of Spirit Lake summer concert series.

• Accepted a $1,500 donation from the VFW and $750 from the Lions for the Get Hooked on Fishing Program.