Black mold that invaded Menahga City Hall has forced city staff to work remotely.

The Menahga City Council also had to hold their Monday, July 26 meeting in a conference room at Greenwood Connections.

Administrative secretary Amanda Pachel told the council that an air quality test was performed on July 23. The results were expected in 72 hours.

Mold remediation work will be completed by ServPro.

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A faulty air conditioning coil in the ladies’ restroom is the culprit. It was dripping condensation, presumably for a long, long time, Pachel said. Puddles were accumulating during the summer months, but were especially noticeable this year, she said.

She noted there currently is no air conditioning at city hall due to the leaking and moisture.

City Administrator Curt Kreklau and council member Art Huebner were absent from Monday’s meeting.

‘Extreme drought’ conditions

Eighteen percent of Minnesota – including all of Wadena County and most of Hubbard County – is experiencing “extreme drought,” according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The remaining 72 percent of the state is in a “severe drought.”

As a result, Public Works Director Ron Yliniemi said the city of Menahga must implement actions to reduce water consumption – from 240,000 to 133,500 gallons per day.

Menahga city residents are asked to water lawns only one or two days per week.

Council member Durwin Tomperi asked how this will be enforced.

Yliniemi said his department monitors usage throughout the city, keeping an eye on high water users.

A July 16 letter from the DNR to Yliniemi stated seven of the 12 major watersheds are in “severe drought,” including the Red River, Mississippi headwaters and Minnesota watersheds.

Private citizen paying for asphalt

Jeff Schindeldecker offered to pay for paving a cul de sac within city limits.

In a letter, city engineer Brian Hiles wrote, “This wouldn’t be much different than a private party constructing a road as part of a new development with the city.”

Hiles recommended a developer’s agreement with Schindeldecker, which would require standard specifications for the paved surface.

The council authorized Kreklau, Hiles and Yliniemi to create an agreement and solicit bids.

Greenwood Connections

Greenwood Connections Administrator Laura Ahlf reported it is a struggle to find new hires. Applicants aren’t showing up for interviews – or, if hired, showing up for their first day of work.

Due to a staff shortage, occupancy at the transitional care unit has been capped at 12, she added.

An audit of the city-owned nursing facility found $7,413,726 in operating revenues in 2020 compared to $7,312,598 in 2019. Operating expenses in 2020 were $7,912,615, for an operating loss of $498,889. In 2019, operating expenses were $7,469,380, resulting in a $156,782 loss.The audit was completed by CliftonLarsonAllen LLP.

In other business, the council did as follows:

  • Accepted donations for Sounds of Spirit Lake, including $1,500 from the Menahga VFW, $3,900 from Five Wings Arts Council and $500 from the Gateway Lions Club.

  • Summarized performance evaluations of Ahlf and Kreklau. These were conducted during a June 14 closed session. Ahlf was commended for her pandemic response and completing the remodeling project under budget. Based on “several continuing and in-progress performance issues,” another performance evaluation of Kreklau was scheduled in 60 days. The minutes note that Huebner left the council chamber before Kreklau’s evaluation was completed.

  • Reviewed the potential purchase of a 2019 Caterpillar grader with a $182,290 price tag. Tomperi consulted with Kreklau, reporting that 30 hours of usage would cost the city $426 per hour, if maintenance, storage, depreciation, labor and insurance are taken into account. On the other hand, a grader can be hired for $90 to $150 per hour, Tomperi said. Yliniemi said those figures had not been shared with him. No decision was made at the meeting.

  • Authorized Northwoods Spirits manager Renata Parks to post a job opening for assistant manager.

  • Approved the hiring of Joseph White as a part-time police officer. Menahga Police Chief Adam Gunderson said his department lost four officers after Menahga Midsummer.

The council will hold a work session on Monday, Aug. 2 and their regular meeting on Aug. 9.