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Menahga council reviews sheriff's proposal

Wadena County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Joseph Schoon presented the Menahga City Council a proposed budget Tuesday for the county to assume control of city law enforcement, estimated at $338,060. The Menahga Police Department's 2019 budget is curren...

Wadena County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Joseph Schoon presented the Menahga City Council a proposed budget Tuesday for the county to assume control of city law enforcement, estimated at $338,060. The Menahga Police Department's 2019 budget is currently $321,932.

In the county plan, the city's two police officers would be absorbed into the sheriff's office and a school resource officer would be hired.

"It's three sets of boots we're setting on the ground," Schoon said.

Liimatta said she would like to gather more information.

"What more information do we need?" asked Ellingson, noting the police chief position has been posted, "so there's no reason to (gather) anything more" until those applicants are known.

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Winters said a public hearing would be necessary before the council made a decision.

The council tabled the issue until its next regular meeting.

Huebner questioned the county's current coverage, saying he hasn't seen a squad car drive past his house.

Schoon guaranteed that a deputy is deployed Mondays through Fridays during the day in Menahga. "That's documented," he said.

Readdressing cell tower

Liimatta called for a motion to rescind the CUP. She stated she'd like another special hearing to present her environmental and health concerns, such as microwaves. "I think if people are informed and want to still go through with it, I will just back off," she said.

If the CUP resolution is rescinded, Winters said the city could call for a 60-day extension and hold another hearing.

Huebner made the motion, but it died for lack of a second.

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City administration

Municipal liquor store manager Renata Parks asked the council when it would hire new city administrator.

"It's scary right now, in all honesty," she said. "I'm floating right now."

Administrative secretary Amanda Pachel said the job posting closed on Feb. 11.

Liimatta said she wants to determine the responsibilities of a clerk versus an administrator. She recommended making a decision at the council's March meeting.

Keranen disagreed, saying pushing the decision out for another four weeks is too long.

The council scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19 at city hall.

Public works labor

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The council changed the water and wastewater licensing from Thelin to Ron Yliniemi.

Yliniemi asked that this be a temporary change.

The council also agreed to pay Yliniemi an additional $12 per hour during the interim.

Due to a staff departure in November, Thelin commented that he and Yliniemi have worked every other weekend.

"It really drives you into the ground," he said, noting that Yliniemi will be on his own after Feb. 19. "Ron has no backup. That could be a big issue, safety-wise and otherwise."

Cox is supposed to be part-time, Thelin said, but is working full-time because of the council's delay in hiring a maintenance worker. He recommended that the city contract someone with the proper licensing or hire a new public works director as soon as possible.

In other business, the council:

• Agreed to sponsor the Todd-Wadena County Community Corrections for Youth program for 2019 in the amount of $1,526.

• Accepted an engagement letter from Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance) to use its interim administrative services at $50 per hour. Interim city administrator Scott Saehr reviewed the letter, which outlines his role: helping Pachel, reviewing the current city administrator position, leading the hiring process for a new administrator and evaluating existing job descriptions.

• Approved new committee assignments: admin/economic development, Keranen and Liimatta; fire, Huebner and Liimatta; liquor store, Karjala and Liimatta; Greenwood Connections, Karjala and Liimatta; police, Keranen and Liimatta; park/beach/streets/cemetery, Huebner and Ellingson; water/sewer, Huebner and Ellingson, and planning commission, Keranen.

• Learned from Dave Kicker that he was elected as fire chief. Assistant fire chiefs are Terry Bertunnen and Jim Day. Captains are Eli Jettman and Randy Bertunnen. Kicker said that, with two new volunteer firefighters, there are now 22 members.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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