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Police handguns and dangerous intersection top Menahga council’s agenda

The Menahga City Council held a closed meeting on Monday, Jan. 9 to discuss pending litigation from Law Enforcement Labor Services (LELS). They also discussed the dangers of the Hwy. 87 and 71 intersection.

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Mike Netland, Mayor Liz Olson and Jody Bjornson take their oaths of office at the Monday, Jan. 9 meeting. Interim City Administrator Laura Ahlf oversees the swearing in.
Shannon Geisen / Enterprise
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The Menahga City Council held a closed meeting on Monday, Jan. 9 to discuss pending litigation from Law Enforcement Labor Services (LELS), the Minnesota union representing police officers.

Upon reopening, the council issued a statement that the city “has not historically, nor has it to date, either agreed to or authorized the city administration to purchase handguns for its police officers or authorize reimbursement of such handguns.”

Also upon consensus, they named Interim City Administrator Laura Ahlf as the city’s authorized representative for “executing grievance resolutions arising out of labor agreements.”

Ahlf will submit written correspondence to LELS on behalf of the city council regarding the handgun matter.

Dangers of Hwy. 87 and 71 intersection

Wadena County Chief Deputy Joe Schoon, who is serving as Menahga’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO), has heard a number of complaints about the dangers of crossing the State Hwy. 87 and U.S. Hwy. 71 intersection. Parking on both shoulders of Hwy. 71 makes it difficult to see oncoming traffic, he said.

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As a citizen of Menahga, Schoon said, “I see it firsthand as well.”

In August 2022, the council unanimously agreed to cut a parking space from each corner of the intersection and install signs that say “no parking from here to corner.”

In September 2022, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) allowed the city to paint the curb to restrict parking within 35 feet of stop signs.

On Monday, Public Works Director Ron Yliniemi said he extended that another 15 feet. He reported that MnDOT can do nothing else because construction is slated for those two highways in 2026.

Council member Durwin Tomperi asked if the city could place “no parking” signs.

Yliniemi said the signs must come from MnDOT.

Mayor Liz Olson suggested that ticketing violators may help while snow and ice is covering up the yellow curb.

Schoon said he spoke to a MnDOT official, who was willing to have a crew analyze the need for signs. The city may also want to write an ordinance so “no parking” is enforceable or follow Minnesota Statute, Schoon added. He offered to coordinate a solution with Yliniemi and MnDOT.

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“I’m just worried that sometime we’re going to have a bad accident on that intersection because people can’t see,” Schoon said.

Council member Mike Netland agreed, saying “It seems to me the ‘no parking’ sign would be a good route. That’s visible year-round, snow or not, and that would be enforceable by a ticket.”

On Monday, the council approved an agreement between the city and the Wadena Sheriff’s Office for Schoon’s CLEO services. The rate is $65 per hour. Schoon clarified that the money goes to the sheriff’s office.

By state law, the city must have a police chief or CLEO, he noted.

Schoon reported that he updated the part-time police officer roster, clearing those who no longer had the training or desire to serve. There are now three part-time officers on the list, he said.

In other business, the council did as follows:

  • Approved the 2023 pay scale for non-union city workers, effective Jan. 1, 2023.
  • Approved Flaherty and Hood as civil legal counsel for the city for 2023. 
  • Approved Wadena County Attorney Kyra Ladd as criminal counsel for $700 per month. Ahlf noted the city was currently paying $800 per month to Ramstad, Skoyles and Winters, which will be retained until Ladd has approval from the Wadena County Board.
  • Approved the mayor’s appointment of Tomperi as acting mayor for 2023.
  • Appointed Netland as city representative to the planning and zoning commission.
  • Appointed Brian Madsen to the planning commission. His term will end Dec. 31, 2024.
  • Revised the final 2023 general fund budget from $1,255,593 to $1,256,311 in order to include general obligation debts. Ahlf said this correction does not affect the final levy.
  • Named the 2023 official depositories as Community First Bank of Menahga and Sebeka, TruStar Federal Credit Union, the 4M Fund, Ameritrade Financial and Ehlers.
  • Designated the Review Messenger as the city’s official newspaper.
  • Heard Ahlf discuss ideas to encourage job applications and retain employees at Greenwood Connections. Options include offering more 12-hour shifts, improving advertising and offering on-site daycare. She noted the facility has space that would be suitable. Ahlf further reported that a lack of transportation in the area is causing the facility to use its own vehicles and staff time to transport its residents.
  • Approved a contract with AllPaid, Inc. so the city can accept credit card payments for utilities. There is no cost to the city.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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