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Osakis Council hears plight of first responders

Policy changes and stipends for the Osakis First Responders came up for discussion at the Monday, Feb. 6 regular council meeting.

Jason Schultz told the council the first responders answered 19 calls in January, one of the highest months on record.

"We will be breaking records this year," Schultz said.

Five responders resigned in January, leaving the department with 14 on squad, 12 available to take calls, and only seven people who can respond to calls in town, Schultz said.

Councilman Jim Snyder met with the department, and told the council that this is a serious issue, and of concern for the present and future of the department.

"Something different needs to be done," Snyder said. "What to do to keep (personnel) interested? They are spending more money than they are getting."

Snyder recommended putting the topic on the upcoming council workshop day.

In response to Snyder's question about the department's equipment, Schultz said the ambulance unit has 160,000 miles on it, and a new alternator is being installed about every three weeks. He said there are some used ambulances available for about $40,000.

Schultz reported the department received a $2,000 donation from the Osakis VFW.

During the open meeting portion of the council meeting, Lil Ortendahl spoke in favor of supporting the first responders. She had served on the crew for more than 25 years. At that time it was agreed that the city would save $300 per person per year for personnel retirement, but that was never accomplished.

"It is a service that we absolutely have to have in this town," Ortendahl said. "Put money into a fund for an incentive for them. They should get remuneration for their work."

COMMUNITY CENTER

Kurt Haakinson, Public Works director, reported that a list was made of the work needed at the Ed Pollard Community Center, in-cluding cleaning and repairs for the floor, kitchen and bathrooms. He said the city crew would do as much of the work as they could, but some deep cleaning has to be hired out.

A "Top to Bottom Clean" estimate from Servicemaster of Alexandria included a breakdown of the areas to be cleaned, and the work to be done, along with an itemized cost for each job.

Northland Power Washing submitted a bid on cleaning the kitchen hood.

Haakinson recommended that the city starts with the stripping and refinishing of the floors, then the kitchen and bathroom cleaning, and see what the cost is at the end of the year. He also said replacement of ceiling tiles was not included in the bids, and the city crew could do that for about $2,000.

Work would be done on Thursdays when the senior citizens do not meet in the building.

PUBLIC WORKS

Haakinson reported on the water, wastewater and street departments for January. A new furnace has been installed in the fire hall.

Snowplowing has been done five times, with removal of snow from highways twice, and scraping of ice off roads.

Ron Eldred spoke on the subject of Hendricks Addition. The six property owners all share the cost of snow-plowing, which is contracted to a firm from Alexandria. Total taxes last year for the city was $6,000. The residents would like the city to take over the plowing, and the road. This is a narrow street, but there is a cul-de-sac at the end that would allow for equipment to turn around. The street was originally set up as a private road. It is narrower than other city streets, and has no storm water infrastructure. The street will be resurfaced in May, and Eldred commented that garbage trucks get in and out without problems.

Haakinson said he would have to look at the process of bringing the street up to code in order for the city to do plowing, and maintenance.

It was also noted that the area is platted for 26 units, and there could be future expansion.

POLICE DEPARTMENT

Chief Chad Gulbranson presented his January report, and discussed the handling of worthless checks through the police department. During 2016, seven parties who wrote worthless checks were referred to the Osakis PD.

"We are acting like a debt collection service," he said. "Other towns send them to the credit bureau."

The city attorney brought this issue to the police chief's attention and recommended changing the policy by handing checks over to the credit bureau, except in cases of forged checks, which is a crime. Cost to the city for attorney fees in 2016 was $550.50 for prosecution of worthless checks. The council voted to send worthless checks to the credit bureau in the future.

Gulbranson reported Officer Grinstead has completed two weeks of DARE training, and will probably start teaching DARE classes.

The January police report shows 204 calls for service for the month; 15 citations issued; seven arrests made and 72 warnings issued. This compares with 167 calls in January 2016. There were 11 assists to other agencies in January, 15 medical calls, 14 parking complaints, 12 public assists, and 75 traffic stops.

Arrests included three involving drugs; two DWIs, and one for assault.

FIRE DEPARTMENT

Travis Middendorf, assistant chief, reported there were two calls during January, one highway rollover and one vehicle fire. The annual meeting with township officials for contract renewals will be held Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m.

LIQUOR STORE

Julie Didier, manager, asked the city council to set up a workshop meeting to analyze the liquor store finances. She told the council that in 2016 the store transferred $50,500 from the liquor store to the city's general fund in August, so the previously reported operation costs are not true figures. Sales for the year 2016 were a loss of $13,591.57.

Didier requested a policy change on the cash balance from $10 to $5 per day.

Didier also discussed replacement of cabinet doors, which had one bid of $845 plus $150 to replace drawer glides. The council suggested getting other bids on the job.

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