Fruit trees, shrubbery and a shaded pavilion, may be in the future for the Deer River Community Garden, which was announced Monday at the Jan. 25 regular meeting of the Deer River City Council. Sarah Nelson, Assistant City Administrator, updated the council and said City Administrator Mark Box has met with Leah Oslin, Executive Director of the Forward Foundation, and Anna Johnson, with Get Fit Itasca.

“They talked about planting fruit trees and shrubbery around the outside of the garden fence,” Nelson said. “In the future there might be a pavilion or shade shelter added.

There were concerns addressed by the council about the deer eating the trees. Deer River Police Chief Brian Castellano was going to talk to Oslin about that situation.

“I think it’s nice for people to pick apples, but you almost have to have a fence around the trees,” Councilor Barb Serfling said.

In other business:

The council opened their meeting with the pledge of allegiance and prayer.  

Councilor Pat Richards had some corrections and questions in regard to the regular meeting minutes from January 11, 2021, as well as with the working session meeting minutes. After discussion, both were approved.

Bills in the amount of $53,685.63 were approved after clarification on some of the items.  

Deer River Fire Chief Jordan Osse gave his report and mentioned that the fire department calls have been quiet and there were only four calls this month. He explained the 2020 call volume was up from previous years with the year 2020 having 92 calls and the previous two years having 68 and 69 calls.

Osse said the new side by side has been picked up along with the new trailer, which will be put into service when the rescue/fire insert arrives.

Recruiting will be the number one focus in the first quarter of 2021 the chief explained.

“There are currently 17 active members while four of them are new with training still needed,” Osse said, adding recruiting has been a nationwide difficulty.

“How’s the health of the department?” Councilor Chris Reed asked.  

“We’ve been good, and I don’t know of any close contacts for COVID, that I’m aware of,” Osse said.

The Chief added all quotas were met in 2020.         

“We still have quotas. We kept everything as is. And nobody missed as of COVID,” Osse said. “Everyone on the fire department has done a really great job. It’s been a very challenging year, but I’m happy.”  

“Do you have anybody left that is on a leave of absence?” City of Deer River Mayor Steve Geving asked.

“I would say no, but I would have to check,” Osse said, adding there could be a few.  

The council approved resolution 2021-05 which was a donation of $5,000 from Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation to the Deer River Fire Department to be used for the purchase for an ATV, trailer and equipment.

Council approved the language addition of ordinance 6.209 Subdivision, which would add ‘in the absence of a permit issued by the City allowing such consumption’.

Nelson presented the tabulation of bids for the Wastewater Stabilization pond Expansion project that Short Elliot and Hendrickson (SEH) provided.  The low bid was submitted by Ulland Brothers, Inc, of Cloquet, Minn. in the amount of $2,404,400.00 and SEH sees no reason why the project shouldn’t be awarded to the low bidder.  

Discussion was had in regard to a previous project Ulland Brothers did for the city. Box stated that this project is completely different from what Ulland did for the city before; dirt work is what they primarily do.  Box wouldn’t be hesitant in awarding the bid to Ulland.  After discussion, a motion was made to award the bid to Ulland Brothers, Inc, with the expectation of having a pre-meeting with them.  

“When are the people going to be able to come in to the license bureau. I’ve had a few people ask me,” Serfling said. “Basically, they do come in if they need to. If they are able to stay in the comfort of their car, and come to the window as they need to. They said, this is just getting a little ridiculous. I said I would bring it to the meeting.”  

The council discussed the public might not fully understand how much cleaning is required between customers, in addition the wait time would be longer if they were to open the doors to the public due to Covid safety measures. Council stated the customers can also wait in their cars and the license bureau employees will call them when their transaction is complete.  

Deer River Police Chief Brian Castellano stated there were 175 calls for service in December 2020 compared to 152 in 2019. Fourteen of the calls in 2020 were assists.  

“Which was a good thing I guess,” Castellano said.

The year-end total calls for service in 2020 was 2,343, which is an increase by 576 calls compared to 2017. The year-end calls for service numbers have increased about 200 calls per year since 2017.

“It’s not getting quieter,” Castellano added. “Not necessarily traffic tickets, but they [officers] are stopping a lot of traffic.”

Castellano said the PA-1 form was submitted, which is for the police department state aid. The yearly MN POST Board forms were also submitted.

The new police department Tahoe will be ready soon.

Castellano also wanted to remind the residents that the 2021 city dog and cat licenses are due. Citations will be issued after Feb. 1, 2021. There have also been some issues with people not moving their vehicles when parking on the streets. Castellano said vehicles should be moved every eight hours when parked on the streets so the public works department can plow snow.  

Three officers attended the EVOC driving school in St. Cloud, which is mandated by the state to complete every five years. Eight officers attended the Firearms Tactics and Training in Grand Rapids.

Again, Castellano reminded the council and residents to lock up their property because there have been some thefts in the area.

“If you value your property, lock it up!” Castellano said.

“Are we still going to do the vet clinic in the Spring?” Reed asked, with Castellano saying he will put that on his to do list.

All council members were present whether in person or via Zoom.

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