Menahga City Council to consider special vehicle ordinance
The Menahga City Council had a lengthy debate June 9 about when to tackle a special vehicle ordinance.
Council member Tim Ellingson said ATVs and golf carts driven within city limits were posing a safety hazard that needs to be addressed.
Council member Art Huebner cautioned the council that city staff was “coming up on a very busy time.” City Administrator Curt Kreklau is installing new financial software and will soon be dealing with an audit, he noted. “I want to be careful how much we demand of his time.”
Ellingson disagreed that the ordinances would put too much pressure on city staff. “We would be doing the work,” he said.
Mayor Joan Liimatta expressed frustration with ordinance revisions being delayed, urging the council to be more proactive. She noted that the council could review similar ordinances from other cities and make minor modifications.
Huebner made a motion to table ordinance discussion for two months. It failed 2-3, with Ellingson, Liimatta and Karol Andreasen opposed.
Liimatta’s motion to gather special vehicle ordinances from other municipalities, like Wadena, within two weeks and bring it to the July meeting passed 3-2, with Huebner and Robyn Keranen opposed.
“That was 10 times harder than it should’ve been,” commented Ellingson.
Farm animal ordinance
At the request of three families, Liimatta asked the council to consider changing the city ordinance in order to allow domestic chickens within city limits. She recommended no more than 12 chickens, no roosters and no guinea hens.
“They provide food for families. When they are contained in a fence and a coop, they really don’t bother anybody,” she said.
She made a motion to discuss a domestic animal ordinance in two months. It passed 3-2, with Huebner and Keranen opposed.
Liimatta attended the meeting via teleconference, explaining she was under quarantine prior to surgery and a COVID-19 test came back negative. She noted she was absent from last month’s council meeting in order to spend time with her mother during her last few days of life.
The council approved 2020-21 fire contracts with Blueberry, Huntersville and Shell River townships.
The revised agreement reflects a 3 percent increase in the city’s responsibility. “That number comes from the issues raised with raising estimated market value rather than tax capacity,” explained Kreklau.
The city’s share of the 2020 Menahga Fire Department budget is now 54 percent, or $60,532, while the remaining 46 percent, or $51,565, is split between the three townships based on tax capacity.
Provided the townships agree, the amount due from each on July 1 is as follows: Blueberry, $31,558; Huntersville, $7,941 and Shell River, $12,066.
Jensine Kurtti requested that all the township boards meet with the full council.
COVID-19’s impact on nursing home
Greenwood Connections Administrator Laura Ahlf noted that the May census was at 75 percent, which is low due to the pandemic.
“We’re seeing some elective surgeries, so we’re seeing more requests for admissions. We’re able to take those under isolation, we just haven’t had a lot of referrals come our way,” she said.
Ahlf reported the last phase of the remodel is finished, except for one room that needs cabinets. Residents should be moved in by June 30 and the increase in reimbursements will become effective July 1. She said the family room and punch list need to be completed.
“It’s been a long process, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Ahlf said.
The nursing facility will see a loss, she continued, with the decreased census, COVID-19 closure and lost revenue during the remodel.
“Hopefully, that changes but we don’t know what the future looks like,” Ahlf said.
They did receive a CARES Act payment in April and another stimulus in May, which helped financially.
Ahlf noted that prices have spiked for nursing supplies, like masks, gowns and gloves. “We’re paying $2 a mask that previously we might have paid 30 cents for,” she said, resulting in Greenwood Connections paying thousands more for supplies.
Both the council and Greenwood Connections Board learned that a complaint about a March birthday party held at the nursing home had been investigated. Kreklau and the city attorney found no wrongdoing.
Economic Alliance sponsorship
A motion to pay the 2020 annual sponsorship of $10,000 to the West Central Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) failed 2-3, with council members Liimatta, Ellingson and Andreasen opposed.
At issue was how much Menahga businesses were benefiting from WCEDA.
Executive Director Katie Heppner explained that the city’s sponsorship is supporting WCEDA’s work throughout Wadena County, not just Menahga. “That may be a different line of thinking. You are not contracting with me to be an economic developer for the city of Menahga. That’s not what this is,” she said. “When you hear about my countywide initiatives … those have a benefit for Menahga.”
Liimatta said Menahga businesses are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic and she wants to directly help those enterprises.
Andreasen agreed, saying the $10,000 “could be spent more wisely toward Menahga.”
Heppner said she understood the sentiment to keep the dollars local and there were no hard feelings.
The council invited Heppner to return in 2021.
In other business, the council did as follows:
Learned that Northbound Spirits was opening at 50 percent capacity on June 10, using all plastic utensils and cups. Staff would wear face masks.
Accepted bids for three of the city’s four vehicles that were for sale.
Declined Bernice Ollanketo’s request for a water/sewer adjustment to her bill. The motion passed with Huebner opposed