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Oleson hired as interim city planner in Park Rapids

The city council appointed Ben Oleson, AICP, with Hometown Planning on April 13, 2021 for a six-month contract.

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Ben Oleson (Courtesy of Ben Oleson, submitted April 14, 2021)

The Park Rapids City Council appointed an interim city planner on Tuesday.

The council authorized city officials to enter into a six-month contract for services with Ben Oleson, AICP, of Hometown Planning, LLC, of Alexandria.

The proposal for zoning administration services enclosed in the council’s agenda packet stated that Oleson would have at least six office hours at least one day per week at city hall; work via phone, email or web conferencing during normal business hours; attend the planning commission’s monthly meeting on the fourth Monday of each month; attend the city council’s first monthly meeting on the second Tuesday of each month, and the second meeting as needed and available; coordinate and assist as needed with zoning administration and assist in preparing and adopting zoning ordinance updates.

Oleson’s proposed monthly fee is $3,500 per month, or $21,000 for the six-month contract.

“I don’t love the idea of nobody being in that office,” said council member Erika Randall. “My concern … is that you have summer people that come up. They’re coming up on Fridays to get the place ready for the weekend. They want to pop in and ask a question about a project, and we’re not going to have anybody here.”

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She said it might or might not help to fluctuate which day of the week Oleson spends in the office, noting that being consistent about when people can find him there might help some people.

City Administrator Angel Weasner described zoning assistant Carmen Lockhart as very knowledgeable about the city code and said she can answer most day-to-day questions and do preliminary work on planning and zoning requests.

Weasner said that most likely, Oleson’s office hours would be on the same day of the week, possibly Thursday or Friday.

Mayor Ryan Leckner noted that while not ideal, the arrangement will give the city six months to search for a permanent replacement for former City Planner Andrew Mack. Mack resigned effective March 19 to accept a job offer from the city of Paris, Texas.

Council member Tom Conway moved to approve the resolution as presented. The motion passed unanimously.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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