A Nisswa business owner appealed to the Nisswa City Council to make a Highway 371 intersection north of the Sportland Corners stoplight safer.

The council agreed Wednesday, Nov. 18, to have the city’s public works committee review his concerns.

Jon Melberg, who owns On Systems in the Northland Center, said he’s compiled a running tab of accidents he’s seen at the southbound intersection of Highway 371 and Smiley Road. He asked to remove the option to turn left, in effect closing the highway median for turning vehicles.

Highlighted circle area is the intersection north of the Sportland Corners stoplight of State Aid Highway 371 that a Nisswa business owner appealed to the Nisswa City Council to make safer.
Highlighted circle area is the intersection north of the Sportland Corners stoplight of State Aid Highway 371 that a Nisswa business owner appealed to the Nisswa City Council to make safer.Screen grab from Crow Wing county GIS mapping.

“My only gain is not looking out my window and seeing another accident,” he said, noting it’s worse in the winter because of visibility.

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He’s come close to being in an accident himself twice at that intersection, and an employee had a totaled vehicle from that intersection, Melberg wrote in a memo to the council.

“This intersection has to go. It’s dangerous,” he wrote. “Not just to those that choose to use it instead of going to the stoplights, but drivers like myself that take a left on the service road to bypass it to make use of the stoplights. Oftentimes I see people race across to avoid oncoming traffic. Then others and myself included are at risk of the speeding car getting across.”

City Administrator Jenny Max said the Minnesota Department of Transportation is aware of initial conversations about this intersection. She said the public works committee could review the intersection’s history and bring any information or possible action back to the council

Troy Scheffler, Merrifield, also spoke during open forum regarding a police officer who is named in a lawsuit Scheffler filed against the city. He spoke about an offer he made the city to “bump him (the officer) lose” from that lawsuit.

COVID-19 actions

The council took the following precautions through the end of the year in the wake of surging COVID-19 cases and recent governor orders:

  • Closed city hall to walk-in traffic while allowing staff to schedule appointments with the public on an as-needed basis.

  • Allowed the city administrator to monitor city hall staffing levels and to allow working remotely as necessary.

  • Transitioned all public meetings to a virtual platform with members and staff attending in person, as well as others during public hearings if they’re comfortable doing so.

Max also said the council chambers audio visual upgrades were scheduled to be installed the week of Dec. 7 with funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Public safety

Fire Chief Shawn Bailey’s written report noted firefighters helped the community in October by packing meals for people in need with The Outreach Program.

Firefighters had 31 calls in October, including 27 emergency medical services calls and one each missing person, power line down, grass fire and building fire.

Police Chief Craig Taylor’s written report for October listed 175 calls for service, 106 traffic warnings, 18 traffic citations, 31 agency assists and seven EMS calls. Officers completed various trainings.

Planning and zoning

The council:

  • Agreed to adopt the Crow Wing County short-term rental ordinance, meaning the county will take over licensing, enforcement and investigations. This creates consistency through the county and takes the burden of enforcement off the city. Previously, the city allowed three short-term rentals per parcel per year.

  • Agreed to modify structure size requirements in response to the “shouse” trend entering the area. “Shouse” refers to pole barns or oversized garages being constructed with living quarters, and the aesthetic does not conform with Nisswa’s residential zoning.

  • Agreed to change regulations for grading and road construction in shoreland areas regarding size of rocks to be in line with Department of Natural Resources regulations.

In other business Nov. 18, the council:

  • Learned the city received official notice that Lake Shore and Nisswa were approved for a Gull Lake Trail $2.4 million grant.

  • Agreed to close city hall for Christmas Eve on Thursday, Dec. 24, with employees taking vacation or compensatory time.

  • After holding a public hearing in which Monica Anderson spoke, approved a request by Anderson and Donald Deline to vacate a controlled access lot in the plat of Gull Lake Shores.

  • After holding a public hearing in which no one from the public spoke, approved an ordinance amendment for chapters of the city code regarding commissions and committees effective at the start of 2021.

  • Approved a 5.5% quarterly sewer rate increase, from $154.67 to $163.18 per equivalent residential connection, and to keep the connection fee at $10,000, both for 2021.

  • Certified unpaid sewer charges and unpaid professional fees to the tax roll.

  • Accepted a proposal not to exceed $4,875 from Baker Tilly (formerly Springsted), the city’s financial adviser, to conduct a compensation study update for all city employee positions.

Mayor Fred Heidmann was not present for the Nov. 18 council meeting, though he attended a budget workshop held before the meeting.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.