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The Lake Shore Police Department received a nearly $2,800 radar system from the state Office of Traffic Safety for its participation in the Toward Zero Deaths program. The radar system will replace a nearly 20-year-old system in a squad. Frank Scherf, northeast Minnesota liaison for the Office of Traffic Safety, explained the Toward Zero Deaths program to the Lake Shore City Council on Monday, Nov. 28. The program's goal is to reduce traffic fatalities, hopefully down to zero, through the four "E's", he said: enforcement, engineering, education and Emergency Medical Service.
The Nisswa City Council began the process of updating its comprehensive plan Wednesday, Nov. 16, by appointing a 12-person steering committee to begin the task. The first of six steering committee meetings will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6. Council member Fred Heidmann voted against the committee formation, saying city residents were underrepresented on the committee, and businesses were well represented. He suggested more Nisswa residents be on the committee, and more steering committee meetings be held in the process.
The executive director of Heartland Animal Rescue Team in Baxter made a plea to the Nisswa City Council on Wednesday, Nov. 16, regarding an exploding stray cat population. Donna Wambeke told the council in a memo that HART can no longer afford to take in all the stray cats from Nisswa because it has become financially overwhelming. Since Jan. 1 this year, HART has taken in 46 cats from Nisswa with no money. Only two were claimed.
A free community dinner and meeting will be held from 6-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, in the Pequot Lakes School cafeteria to hear ideas pertaining to Pequot Lakes' future with a rerouted four-lane Highway 371. Those who plan to attend must register so organizers can plan for the free dinner. For information or to register, contact Pequot Lakes City Hall at 218-568-5222 or email@example.com .
The Pequot Lakes City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 1, heard from a downtown business owner who wants to advertise businesses on the new Highway 371 alignment. Tara Bunde, owner of Leslie's, told the council that downtown businesses had their first taste of the bypass when County Road 11 was detoured all summer, and her store and others she talked to saw a decline in business.
Incumbent Scott Pederson and newcomer Mimi Swanson were elected to the Pequot Lakes City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Pederson received the most votes, 610, to win re-election. A former planning commission chair, he was first elected in 2012 to a four-year council term after being appointed in August 2012 to fulfill the term of a council member who resigned. Swanson received 422 votes to win the second open council spot. She could not be reached for comment late Tuesday night.
Two current Nisswa City Council members vied for the mayor's position, and Fred Heidmann came out on top by 33 votes Tuesday, Nov. 8, to lead the city for the next two years. Heidmann received 594 votes to council member Don Jacobson's 561 votes. There were 10 write-in votes. Heidmann was first elected to the council in 2014, when he won a two-year seat that was on the ballot after a previous council member resigned mid-term. Had he not won the mayor's race Tuesday, he would not have continued on the council in 2017 because his council term expires this year.
The Nisswa City Council on Wednesday, Oct. 19, hired Jeremy Rooney as a police officer to start in mid-November, pending successful completion of two final steps in the hiring process. Rooney is currently an officer in Pelican Rapids. Council member Fred Heidmann was opposed, saying he wasn't in favor of hiring another officer. Rooney's hiring is the result of officer Bren Smith leaving the department to join the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office. In other business, the council:
More than 40 people turned out Tuesday, Oct. 18, to hear what two Nisswa mayoral candidates and four city council candidates had to say at a candidate forum at the Nisswa Community Center. Incumbent council candidate Gary Johnson was unable to attend because of a work commitment. Other council candidates are Bill Cruz, Mike Hoff, John Ryan and Gregg Sellner. Candidates for mayor are current council members Fred Heidmann and Don Jacobson. The Nisswa Chamber of Commerce sponsored the candidate forum. Following is a summary of what each candidate shared during opening and closing remarks: Heidmann: A primary reason he is seeking the mayor's position is because Nisswa is a unique and complex community, and the city needs to improve its communication with residents. He doesn't make decisions based on emotion, but instead bases decisions on logic and facts. He advocates a town hall format to get citizens involved. Jacobson: He is seeking the mayoral post because he likes the community, forests, lakes and trails, and he wants to see the area's unique qualities maintained. He loves serving on the council and called himself a qualified candidate who has numerous years of past experience serving local government. Cruz: He has been involved in community organizations that improve and enhance people's lives, and he particularly wants to help the area's younger people. He wants to improve children's futures by offering opportunities here for them. He is vested in the community as a business owner and homeowner raising his family here. Hoff: He wants to give back to his community and see what he can do to advance Nisswa in a way that keeps the city's integrity and unique aspects while allowing it to grow, whether it be parks and recreation or businesses. He wants Nisswa to remain awesome and a place where people want to come. Ryan: He wants to help improve communication between the city and residents with modern technology, saying he'll fight to keep residents informed so they can help make decisions. People need to come together as a community, and there's nothing that can't be accomplished if everyone works together, he said. Sellner: He said it's important to bring the community and business owners together and involve them in council decisions. He has no hidden agenda, and said it's important to maintain Nisswa as a quaint, little town. Johnson: In a written statement that was read, Johnson said he has served eight years on the council and his experience is important as the city moves forward and transitions to new members and a new mayor. He wants to preserve the area's nature and history that lends to the city's unique charm while improving roads. Questions • If elected, how would you promote a business friendly culture and how would you be active in the business community? Hoff: The businesses make Nisswa unique and a destination. Have an open mind when issues come up and an open door for businesses to approach to look at and address issues. Ryan: Nisswa businesses are why the community is here. You'll see me work with the chamber to talk and work with businesses. Those that are successful and have been here a long time have invaluable information and experience. Sellner: A lot of business concerns is city restrictions. I believe we need to put less restrictions on them so they can grow and to attract more. Involve businesses and listen to them. Cruz: I'd keep an open dialogue. Talk to people about what they think - we need to get back to that. The council should come to businesses and ask what is affecting them, what the city can and should do. Jacobson: To make businesses grow and flourish, you need everybody's help. We won't treat businesses differently if the owners don't live in Nisswa. When the city looked at signs allowed, a committee included businesses to come up with something that was OK with most. Heidmann: I have a good relationship with the chamber and business community and has taken strong positions over the last two years as a council member to help businesses. I worked hard to get planning and zoning and business people together to resolve issues with the sign ordinance, and they did. • What is your plan for the Nisswa Lake Park property the city bought nearly six years ago? (Beyond buying the property, the council at the time voted that no city money be used to develop the park.) Heidmann: The city is working with the Friends of Nisswa Lake Park group, which is raising funds to develop the park, to move forward. Jacobson: Because of the investment made we'll have to do something. Not the grandiose plan presented, but a minimal type development so it can be used to a lesser degree than originally planned. Ryan: There are numerous organizations that can help develop the park, including Boy and Girl Scout troops and nonprofit organizations. We need to find out what residents want. Sellner: As a council we need to continue to raise money and not use taxpayer money and get it developed as soon as possible so residents and visitors can use it. Cruz: The city bought the property so it is a city investment. Open it up and let citizens go hike it, see it, get their input. Hoff: Get a paved trail from the tunnel to Hazelwood Drive so people walking the woods have a trail. Find a way to use the park and make Nisswa a destination for people to dock boats and come into town. Get more people to use town. • What is the best way to inform and get input from city stakeholders for decisions? Sellner: Put out a letter about what's going on before making decisions so citizens can voice their opinion. Cruz: Elected officials should go out into the community, starting with businesses who interact with the community. An improved website would help. Hoff: There's nothing not available to people who want it. Communicate with people in a fiscally responsible manner. Ryan: An interactive website is the simplest way to get information to people. Technology offers ways to get information out. Go online and read what's coming up so you have the opportunity to voice your opinion. Jacobson: We have an open forum at the start of any meeting for people to ask questions. People can always call council members. Information is on the website, and we can make better use of the web page with agendas, minutes, and work sessions. Breakfast or coffee with the mayor once a month might be good idea. Citizens can do better at getting information too. Heidmann: Hold town hall meetings. A city newsletter via email is a great idea. Take the city website to the next level. Put audio recordings of meetings on the website. Do a video recording of meetings. • Why should residents be subjected to a road assessment cost? Heidmann: I'm vehemently opposed to assessments. We can look at a sales tax, bonding, the levy; look at a combination of these ideas. Jacobson: Unless we start preparing for the future now with a policy, we will have problems years down the road. Sellner: We need to look at sales tax, bonding or other ideas and get input from the community and businesses. Cruz: We do need a plan. Unfortunately, assessments is the only option proposed. No other options were investigated and brought forward. Hoff: Communication is important. Examine more options and come to a reasonable and fair compromise. Ryan: Assessments may be the best option but other options weren't discussed openly. The council didn't ask what the community wanted. We need to look at all options, be respectful to all opinions and make the best decision for the whole community. • What would you do to improve the relationship between the city council and city staff? Sellner: The council has to be united and a team with no division. Cruz: Accountability and answering simple questions is not out of bounds. The staff works for the city. Hoff: It's good to have people with differing opinions so all aspects of an issue can be seen. Being respectful and reaching agreement on issues is appropriate. Ryan: We have long-term employees who are respectful. When there is an issue, sit down and discuss it. Jacobson: Respect - that's the key and it goes both ways. The council respects the employees, and the employees respect the council. Heidmann: The city has been lax in communication with employees, doing annual and monthly reviews, and setting goals. The council itself needs open communication and debate.
For the third month in a row, the city of Nisswa's recently adopted road assessment policy dominated discussion at the council's regular meeting Wednesday, Oct. 19. The council voted 3-2 last month to adopt a policy to assess residents up to 30 percent of the cost to improve their road, with all city taxpayers paying the remaining 70 percent. Council members Fred Heidmann and Gary Johnson voted against the policy.