Menahga police reminds city council of space shortage
Menahga Police Chief Adam Gunderson pointed out that the previous city council talked about utilizing a city-owned building that was formerly used for Head Start. Ideally, Gunderson said, city hall could move into that location.
Menahga Police Chief Adam Gunderson asked the city council to address his department’s need for more space at their May 3 work session.
“We have a very small closet, basically, that our evidence goes into,” he said. “We also still have an office in the fire hall that I’m sure the fire department would like to have back.”
He pointed out that the previous city council talked about utilizing a city-owned building that was formerly used for Head Start. Ideally, Gunderson said, city hall could move into that location.
“One of the thoughts is that council chambers could be over there, too,” added City Administrator Curt Kreklau. “We’ve had a number of designs done on it.”
Gunderson said, “We’ve got some COVID money and some other money set away that could possibly be used for that transition.”
In related police news, following a discussion with the League of Minnesota Cities, Kreklau said a big concern “lurking out there is this idea they may want to make police officers pay for their own liability insurance. Well, rural law enforcement is going to be decimated unless the cities can find a way. Through the league, we can pool all of our resources.”
A city can cover the cost, but peace officers will be disgruntled if they must pay it, he continued.
Mayor Liz Olson noted that it is proposed legislation in St. Paul, but hasn’t been passed.
“Hopefully, we’ve got good lobbyists at the league,” Kreklau said.
Olson noted that she received calls from about half of the business owners that Kreklau identified as “nonconforming” at an April meeting. A number of them are home-based, which is appropriate, she said.
Olson’s family-owned business was one of those listed, but she said her husband met with the planning commission in 1990.
“What’s happened is the city hasn’t kept the zoning map areas up to date. We’re still looking at a 1978 map,” she said.
Olson said she apologized to the owners, many of whom were “pretty upset.”
City staff will work on revising the map, she concluded.
Kreklau said the planning commission eliminated quite a few from the nonconforming list just through discussion. They plan to dig into planning commission minutes, talk to the Wadena County recorder and visit with business owners.
Cemetery plot shortage
Administrative assistant Amanda Pachel said there are only 40 single plots left in the city cemetery. There are no double or triple plots, she said, “so I’m hoping we can expand the cemetery.”
Pachel said there is room to expand to the west of the existing cemetery, where it is level to put in a road and plots. Stretching to the south would require cutting some trees.
An expansion of the veterans section cost around $21,000, she recalled.
Council member Durwin Tomperi suggested expanding both west and south at the same time. He asked if the purchase of a burial plot offsets expenses.
The city currently charges $250 per burial plot, with $50 of each sale going to maintenance. “That should probably be reevaluated because that’s pretty darn low for the area,” Pachel said, adding that the cemetery bylaws also need updating.
The estimated cost to repair the 1991 city street sweeper is $9,000 to $11,000, according to Public Works Director Ron Yliniemi.
Council member Art Huebner said, “I think it’d be a big mistake to throw $12,000 into a Band-Aid that isn’t going to work very long. The thing is 30 years old.”
Last month, the council approved a street sweeper services contract, at $3,500, for the spring with Pro Sweep Inc. of West Fargo.
In his council report, Yliniemi said Veit & Company, Inc. would clean out catch basins and spray/vacuum lift stations. He noted that “the bugs used in the primary pond have been helping with the sludge, and having the sewer chewer in the main lift station has shown a great improvement.”
The city campground opened the first week of May.
Ylimiemi provided quotes for installing security cameras at the city beach and campground to prevent vandalism. It costs $1,030 to lease the cameras, plus a $90 monthly fee, from West Central Telephone Association under a three-year commitment. The other option is to purchase the camera system at $4,073.
Kreklau said the high-end cameras will pick up license plate numbers. “Word would get out pretty quick if there were prosecutions,” he said.
The next regular meeting of the city council is 6 p.m. Monday, May 10 at city hall and virtually.