At the first meeting of the new year Jan. 4, the Walker Council accepted the highest bid for the sale of the Walker Library. 

Three bids were submitted by the Dec. 31 deadline. The first was for $25,000 from Joel Mensch, who lives next door to the library; the second was for $31,111 from 306 Cleveland LLC; and the third for $32,500 from Kimberly (Bednarczyk) Carlander of Eden Prairie.

Councilor Jim Senenfelder made a motion to accept the highest bid, which was unanimously approved 4-0 by the council. Councilor Gary Wilkening was absent while Councilor Char Moore voted via ZOOM.

It is unclear what the new owners are going to do with the property, which is zoned multi-family residential, as this was not a requirement by the city.

The council said at the meeting they are moving forward to build a new library, but would like to do so with some other partners so the city doesn’t have to bare the entire cost, which looks to be around $1.6 million right now.

“While this may be a 100 percent city-funded library, I hope not,” said Senenfelder.

Senenfelder also noted that about four or five months ago at a council meeting, the new building’s architect expressed concerns about the size of the proposed building sitting on such a small footprint.

“He said that about four times, and I guess when someone says something like that, we probably should listen,” Senenfelder said. “The soil was a large consideration. To build the library on the current location would have cost us, just in footings alone, in excess of $300,000. If we move the building to a different location, that’s a savings, as long as we make sure we’re on solid soil.”

A location has not yet been decided, but Senenfelder said the council has looked at a couple of sites and have talked with landowners.

Two questions were sent  by The Pilot to City Administrator Hope Fairchild two days after the meeting and were answered later that day.

The first question was why was the Walker Library Board not informed that the council had decided four or five months ago, as Senenfelder stated at the council meeting, to sell the building and property? 

“The Library Board was aware that the city may have been looking for a different location for the new library. Members of the Library Board actually toured a location to see if it would be a good fit for the new library,” Fairchild said. “The council made the decision to put the old library property and building for sale at the Nov. 13 council meeting and the library board was made aware of the sale at the November Library Board Meeting, which happened later that month.”

The second question concerns the $660,000 that has been raised or donated so far for the new library. The money was raised with the understanding the city was going to rebuild the library on the present location. What if people or groups ask for their donations back because the city council was not forthcoming with their decision to sell the property and build on a new site?

“The money was donated for a new library building. That is what the money will be going toward,” Fairchild said.

 

New mayor sworn in

It was a historic night at the Walker City Council meeting Jan. 4 as Annie McMurrin became the first woman to be elected mayor of Walker in its 124-year history.

McMurrin, a Walker native who previously sat on the council, was sworn in at the beginning of the meeting by City Administrator Fairchild.

 

Police chief recognized

Walker Police Chief Wayne Tennis was recognized by the council for his 30 years of service to the city of Walker. 

Tennis, who became the police chief in 2006, was thanked by the council and the community, which appreciate his dedication.

“We hope you’re going to be around for a while yet and continue the good work you’re doing. We do appreciate it,” Councilor Jim Senenfelder said on behalf of himself and the council.

 

In other city business, the council:

Discussed parking concerns along Michigan Avenue along the 400 block area. Paul Nye, who lives at 409 Michigan, said that people will park in front of his driveway, especially during winter months because the yellow curb is covered in snow. There have been several times over the years where he and his neighbors are unable to leave their home because they are blocked in.

Most of the illegally parked cars belong to employees who work for Cass County Health and Human Services, even though the county has a big parking lot just down the street.

Chief Tennis said no parking is allowed on the south side of Second Street to Fourth, but that doesn’t stop people from parking there.

City Attorney John Valen said adding signage is the easiest and best thing to do right now.

Approved the Dec. 17 council meeting minutes.

Reviewed the December Zoning Administrator report.

Reviewed the Dec. 16 Walker Library Board minutes.

Reviewed the Walker Police Department monthly report that included an investigation into a sex crime that had taken place, a burglary at a city apartment, and a couple calls on assaults and disorderly conducts.

Approved the Dec. 21 Public Works Committee meeting minutes.

Approved the Dec. 10 Walker Area Joint Fire Department minutes.

Approved request to charge tax increment financing 2-15 fund 419 $4,321 for the 2020 administrative fees as of Dec. 22.

Approved payment of $96,126.84 to RL Larson Excavating Inc. for work done during 2020 on the Northside Street Improvement project through Nov. 30.

Reviewed letter from Matthew Davis of the Chippewa National Forest concerning the purchase of 3.15-acre parcel of land currently owned by Northern Waters Land Trust.

Heard the city received a payment of $21,027 Dec. 24 in Minnesota Local Government Aid.

Approved an on-sale and Sunday liquor license for the Chase on the Lake.

Approved payment of $2,528.06 to Microtech Computer Center for installation, new emails and updated Microsoft Office software.

Approved resolution stating annual designations for 2021.

Approved resolution authorizing the mayor and city administrator to sign all state and federal airport grants.

Approved resolution authorizing the mayor and city administrator to sign all state and federal grants.

Approved resolution accepting donation of $100 from First National Bank in Walker  for the Walker Library.

Approved resolution calling for a public hearing for Feb. 8 at 6:05 p.m. to update the fee schedule.

Approved resolution adding “Dedication to Public Standards” to city code.

Approved resolution adding “Zoning Classification Designation” to city code.

Approved resolution amending part 2: land development and land use ordinances chapter 109; zoning and subdivisions, generally, section 109.195 extractive use/mining.

Approved resolution amending part 2: land development and land use ordinances chapter 109; zoning and subdivisions, article 2, and administration and enforcement, section 109.45 planning commission.

Approved transfer of $643.98 from the general fund to the Legion Abatement Fund for the second half of the 2020 payment to Spencer Ross Post 134.

Approved payment of $14,749.70 to Taft Stettinius and Hollster LLP, the city’s new auditor, for professional services and costs advanced through Dec. 28.

Approved summarization of terms of service letter dated Dec. 18 from Miller McDonald Inc.

Approved Jennie Meyer’s successful completion of six-month probationary period and a 3 percent pay raise effective Jan. 20.

Approved Stacey McMurrin’s successful completion of six-month probationary period and a 3 percent pay raise effective Jan. 20.

Tabled the 2021 Council Committee appointments as presented by Mayor McMurrin. The one sticking point raised by Senenfelder was why he was taken off as the head of the Safety Committee and was replaced by McMurrin.

Senenfelder, a former Minnesota State trooper, noted that he is the best and most qualified person to sit on the committee considering he has 35 years of experience in law enforcement that includes contract negotiations and personnel issues.

McMurrin said the reason she changed the assignment is that wants to learn more about the Safety Committee.

Councilor Mary Beth Hansen said it makes sense to keep Senenfelder on the Safety Committee.

Discussed a letter from Otto Ringle asking the council to look at lighting the Circle of Time area. The council will discuss this at a future meeting after doing some research on the request.

Approved motion to continue to not charge late fees or turn water off on delinquent water and sewer accounts until the peacetime emergency order is lifted. Fairchild said at 10 percent each month, this is a great deal of money the city has lost out on.

The council is expected to re-evaluate this at the next council meeting.

Discussed coming up with hours of operation and a cleaning plan for the new Trailhead Rest room once they are finished and an inspection is completed. The council said the rest rooms would not open until sometime this spring.

Decided to advertise for one week to fill the open Cemetery Board seats.

Advised that city offices and the DMV will be closed Jan. 18 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The meeting ended with the council going into an attorney-client closed session to discuss the Chase on the Lake tax increment financing event of default.

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