The Deer River City Council discussed Monday, the notice they had received from Essentia Health that would close off the north end of their west parking lot where Comstock Drive enters the parking lot.
Deer River City Administrator Mark Box said he has checked with the City Attorney and there is nothing the City can do to stop this. The street, Box explained, was vacated and the city only retained a utility easement.
Box also suggested this would create a problem for buses and emergency vehicles, as there is no room to turn around.
“I really would like to see some more discussion be had,” Councilor Chris Reed said. “I just want to ensure the residents in Deer River are as safe as they always were. I don’t want to fight tooth and nail, but let’s make sure we do this right.”
“To me, we create some risks,” Reed added. “Are we doing the safest thing we can? I just want to know every option.”
“I have watched people go faster than they should,” Councilor Barb Serfling said, adding visibility is hard in this area too. “I think go up there, walk it. As a council member, I do have a few suggestions. It’s not the route they have to take, just thinking about things. I have seen it, and it really is a safety issue. If we don’t work long and hard right now on it, I would say they are going to move forward on it.”
Serfling explained the sooner the council and Essentia could meet the better.
A motion was made for council members, the mayor and chief of police to meet with Essentia as soon as possible.
In other business, the council:
• Approved the minutes from the July 13, 2020 city council meeting with no corrections or additions, as well as the July 14, 2020 working session minutes.
• Approved bills in the amount of $136,009.87 and allowed inter-fund transfers to cover any negative fund balances.
• Heard from Deer River resident Jim Anthony who presented the council a copy of the Magdeburg Confession. He asked the council to read it and listen to an online presentation. Deer River Mayor Steve Geving invited Anthony back on Aug. 10, 2020 for the regular council meeting.
“What I would like to do, read through this, listen to this, and would love to come back and have a 15 minute discussion on this. It’s not asking you to do anything, it’s more so information,” Anthony said. “Just simply have more conversation on this.”
“Yes, that would be absolutely fine, Jim,” Mayor Steve Geving said.
“I would love to hear your thoughts on it,” Anthony added.
•Heard from Deer River Assistant Fire Chief Everett Baumgardner who stated there were eight calls for the month of July and that he recently was appointed in this position. The department has implemented a mask policy. Masks are on every truck and in each firefighter’s locker.
“The plumbing upgrade in the fire hall is near completion, with a few minor changes,” Baumgardner said. “Trying to get things planned for recruitment again. Down to 17 members.”
The recruitment committee is meeting and working on a new recruitment plan, explained Baumgardner. With the numbers down, there is a strain on the active members.
• Heard from Police Chief, Brian Castellano, who reported on 228 calls for the month of June, which is up 13 calls from the previous year, with 20 assist calls for the month.
The chief explained the squad is back in service after receiving a new warranty replacement engine. No update on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource (DNR) squad discussed at the previous meeting.
Castellano applied for reimbursement for bulletproof vests and training for the last year. The training reimbursement will be less due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
Itasca County, he stated, has changed the speed limit signs to 30 miles per hour on Second Avenue Northeast.
All full-time officers attended an online pipeline safety training recently.
“I’m assuming you haven’t been having too many issues with the construction guys?” Councilor Dan Graf asked.
“People seem to be getting used to it now,” Castellano said. “No real issues.”
• Heard from City Administrator Mark Box who gave his report.
Council approved Box to allow a fund to be opened for the COVID-19 proceeds.
Approved resolution 2020-19, authorizing Gayle to make transfers to Northview bank. The transfers are from the city checking account to the State of Minnesota’s sweep account.
Reed shared information that he received about the emergency orders, which indicates that the Governor plans to keep the order in place until November.
Council closed for contract discussion.
Councilor Reed and Graf were present via Zoom. Councilor Pat Richards was absent.