Hiles jumps the gun on water main bids

Menahga's city engineer put a project out to bid this week without city council authorization, according to public works supervisor Ron Yliniemi.

Fire Chief Dave Kicker on Jan. 30, 2023 shows the Menahga City Council one of four first-aid kits, each worth about $900, that the fire department received through a grant written by the Fort Ripley fire chief. He said the department also has two automated external defibrillators (AED) on back order.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

Public works/streets supervisor Ron Yliniemi informed the Menahga City Council on Jan. 30 that the city engineer put a street and utility project out to bid without council approval.

Yliniemi reported that according to emails he exchanged with City Engineer Brian Hiles with Ulteig Engineers, it seemed Hiles had put the State Hwy. 87 water main project out to bid without authorization.

Council member Durwin Tomperi noted the council didn’t even have financing lined up for the project.

Interim administrator Laura Ahlf said she asked Hiles last week what information he had about where the money was coming from for the project. However, she said, she never received a response and was left out of the loop regarding the bid.

Mayor Liz Olson verified that although there are potential funding sources for the project, the city council never gave it a green light.


Asked what the project was expected to cost, Yliniemi said he wasn’t sure but that it would be less than previously discussed, due to temporary water services being removed from the project scope.

Asked what to do when the bids come in, Yliniemi said the council could reject all bids.

Council member Jody Bjornson said the process could give them an idea of what the project will cost. However, Tomperi said, “If I was a contractor, putting a lot of work into it and then finding out it wasn’t going to be approved by the council to move forward on it, I would be a little upset.”

In other city staff reports:

  • Yliniemi said he will seek pricing for a skeleton bucket to separate large fragments from the ashes of the city’s burn pile. 
  • Yliniemi discussed using heating tape to remove ice dams on the gutters at city hall and the fire department, as a cheaper alternative to bringing a contractor out to remove ice and snow.
  • Yliniemi discussed putting a seal coating project out to bid. Alhf said $65,000 would be available for the project.
  • Yliniemi reported the city’s new, 100,000-gallon water tower is structurally complete. Still to be done are insulating the standpipe, wiring for electricity, painting and sanitizing the tank. He estimated it will be ready for service by the end of August, after which the old, 50,000-gallon water tower will be removed and the city will have a total water storage capacity of 230,000 gallons and water pressure 5 psi higher than now.
  • Yliniemi discussed putting a seal coating project out to bid. Alhf said $65,000 would be available for the project.
  • Alhf reported that Deputy Joe Schoon, the city’s previous chief law enforcement officer, updated the police department’s policies and advised the city council to approve them after the new police chief starts work. 
  • Ahlf said the computer program used to transfer recordings from police officers’ dash cams needs to be installed on a different computer.
  • Northbound Spirits Manager Heather Shepersky discussed hiring Craig Mullen as a DJ for the on/off-sale’s customer appreciation day on Feb. 11 and St. Urho’s Day on March 11 at $400 per event.
  • Shepersky discussed advertising on the “passport” for this year’s Ronald McDonald House Ride, a charitable motorcycle event that saw 700 bikes pass through the area. 
  • Shepersky discussed disposing of surplus equipment, including an ATM, a couple of sinks and a beer cooler.
  • Ahlf reported her progress in asking the Wadena County Board and County Attorney Kyra Ladd about contracting for Ladd’s services as the city’s criminal prosecutor.
  • Ralph Cox and Dustyne Cox presented an update on the city campground, including plans for an “early bird” promotion, fundraising for horseshoe pits and a disc golf course, seasonal campsites, a website update, a need for guest boat parking and a process for last-minute reservations.
  • Cox also discussed applying for an outdoor recreation grant from the Minnesota DNR. Funds ranging upward of $20,000 are available with a 50% match, and could be used to improve fishing piers, boat accesses, trails, picnic shelters, playgrounds, athletic facilities, swimming beaches and the campground in general.
  • Fire Chief Dave Kicker asked for the department to have its own pressure washer, noting that until now, department members have had to bring their personal washers to clean equipment after a fire. Council member Dan Warmbold said he would ask the Lions Club for funding, although Assistant Fire Chief Terry Berttunen said the Lions turned down a similar request a year-and-a-half ago. Kicker and Berttunen argued the purchase could come out of the department’s equipment budget.
  • Kicker reported one recent fire call, which turned out to be a brush pile being burned.

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