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Menahga City Council debates ROW issue

After a lengthy discussion, the Menahga City Council voted Oct. 8 to drop any pursuit of a possible right-of-way (ROW) infringement.

At several meetings, Mayor Joan Liimatta has argued that Spirit Lake Lumber has a fence within the city’s ROW. There was a discrepancy, however, as to whether it is a 60-foot or 80-foot ROW. Jensine Kurtti provided a survey indicating 80 feet, while GIS mapping and the Wadena County Highway Department say 60 feet.

City Attorney Tom Winters said that GIS is for reference only and holds no legal argument. He noted the Kurtti’s survey was not officially stamped. If the city wished to take action, a professional survey would need to be done, he said.

City council member Art Huebner questioned what harm the fence was causing. Council member Karol Andreasen commented that the fence is not an obstruction.

Liimatta replied that residents should not be allowed to take over city property and everyone should comply with the law.

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Vergil Miller, vice president of Spirit Lake Lumber, said the fence has been there for 20-plus years. He stated he believes the lumberyard is a benefit to the area.

Huebner made a motion to “drop the whole thing and get on with city business.”

Liimatta’s motion to table Huebner’s motion failed 2-3. His motion then passed 3-2, with Liimatta and council member Tim Ellingson opposed.

The council also voted to sign an agreement with Spirit Lake Lumber for snow removal. Lumberyard staff has been plowing the city parking lot, alley and landing area. Liimatta was concerned about city liability if they didn’t have a written contract with Spirit Lake Lumber.

Greenwood Connections

Greenwood Connections Administrator Laura Ahlf explained that the Minnesota Department of Human Services will implement Equitable Cost-Sharing for Publicly-Owned Nursing (ECPN) rate, beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

“We have had ECPN in the past. It’s a form of reimbursement,” she said. “The city can charge

the nursing home rent for the state portion that they would be paying on behalf of the nursing home, and then we’d be able to increase our rates.”

Ahlf noted that 24 nursing homes closed last year in Minnesota, “many of them were rural. Five of them were within 100 miles of here.”

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The census is down at Greenwood Connections and the building expansion is incomplete, Ahlf said.

ECPN helps publicly-owned facilities receive more revenue, Ahlf said. The city would charge $6,592 in monthly rent. Federal and state funds will each pay half of that rent for Medicaid residents. Greenwood Connections would then increase its rates by $11.24 per day, the maximum allowed, to reimburse the state.

Ahlf reported that health insurance premiums will increase 5.2 percent through the Minnesota Public Employees Insurance Program Pool, effective Jan. 1, 2020. This is a $29 increase per employee per month.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry approved Ahlf’s $10,000 safety grant application. The funds will go toward the purchase of ceiling lifts.

Finally, a medical expert will review the facility’s appeal files and provide an opinion whether the case can be successful.

In other business, the council did as follows:

  • Agreed to install a security camera, already purchased by previous city staff, to cover the front office of city hall and test its effectiveness. In a letter, Wadena City Administrator Janette Bower explained that their city has an extensive camera system which monitors the police/fire hall, liquor store, council chamber and city hall. The Menahga Council asked Gunderson to explore the cost of installing safety glass at the front counter.

  • Agreed to implement water and sewer rate adjustments according to the 2016 utility rate study rather than pay $18,000 for a new study. City Administrator Curt Kreklau said that the water fund has a shortfall, but the sewer fund is fine. He advised the council to revise the rates during budget discussions.

  • Learned that the Menahga Police Department will receive $25,045 in 2019 state aid, an increase of $395 from last year.

  • Learned that the Menahga Fire Department will receive $14,570 in 2019 state aid, an increase of $637 from 2018.

  • Approved a 2019 audit engagement letter from CarlsonSV CPAs and Advisors. Their gross fee, including expenses, is not to exceed $13,750.

  • Assigned Liimatta and Krekla to review a 3.2 percent malt liquor ordinance, as written by the League of Minnesota Cities.

  • Approved Police Chief Adam Gunderson’s request for $3,000 to purchase three new office desktop computers.

  • After reviewing an architectural design to divert water from Happy Hour Road, agreed to seek bids for the project.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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