The City of Deer River will act as a conduit bond holder for the construction of a new 32 bed juvenile treatment center in Grand Rapids after council approval at the Monday, Aug. 26 regular city council meeting.
Jim Christmas, CEO of North Homes Children’s Family Services, spoke during the public hearing and stated there is a “significant need” for expanding care for serious emotional disturbed kids.
“The state and this area have significant needs,” Christmas said, of the secured center. “Getting them the intensive care they need.”
He continued, “In terms of safety of the community, we have talked with law enforcement.”
The staff ratio is 1:3 and will employ approximately 47 people.
“We are going at it hard, and we feel confident we can pull it off,” Christmas said. “We felt really good about coming here.”
From a service standpoint, Christmas said they work with a large population of juveniles from Western Itasca County.
Brian Castellano, with Deer River Police Department, asked, “Will it be Itasca County kids only, or regional kids also?”
“We pay attention to the region, with special attention to Itasca. That being said, no money no mission, we feel that the regional need is such, and prioritize Itasca,” Christmas answered.
Christopher Virta, of Fryberger. Buchanan, Smith and Fredericks, was also present and acts as the bond counsel.
In other business, the council:
• Approved council minutes from Aug./ 12, 2019 with minor changes, along with work session minutes from August 13.
• Approved bills in the amount of $81,492.87.
• Heard from Deer River Police Chief Tammy Perry who stated there were 217 calls for July [compared to 212 for July 2018].
“Always a busy month for us for rice festival and other summer activities,” Perry stated.
She made a request to purchase an additional taser, which was approved by the council.
“We currently have four in use,” Perry said, adding, they share one between two officers which is pretty hard. “Would like to get another new one in the rotation.”
She explained the department is purchasing a squad from the county.
• Heard from Sandra Wheelecor with Arrowhead Transit, spoke in length, about Server Line Bus Service ending their contract in Deer River. Wheelecor stated she is working on applications with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) right now to see if they can provide service in Deer River.
She is trying to set up a dial a ride service, from perhaps 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They are currently providing for senior dining and meals on wheels, three times a week, at an annual operating cost of approximately $54,000.
She mentioned the State of Minnesota comes up with 80 percent of the cost. Arrowhead Transit was looking for a letter of support, and also looking for money, approximately $10,000 a year from the city. Transit users would also pay approximately $1 a ride.
“Do you pick them up at their place?” Councilor Barb Serfling asked.
“Curb to curb service. It’s basically a taxi service,” Wheelecor said, adding that they do help with groceries, but she stated she doesn’t want drivers in houses for liability services.
“It’s good that there will be some service provider,” Serfling said.
Wheelecor explained that Aitkin is a good comparison.
“Our service is on-demand,” Wheelecor said, with service not being able to start until Jan. 1, 2020.
“Can we start tonight giving you the letter of support?” Reed asked, referencing to wait with committing to funding after it would be discussed at a budget session.
“Here’s an entity with a need there, and now its becoming a city issue,” Wheelecor said.
A motion was made to write a letter of support and hold the funding discussion to a budget session.
• Heard a report from Deer River Fire Chief Steve Jurvellin who said, “We have had very few calls in the past month. It’s been very quiet, a few lift assists.”
He explained the three new recruits will be finishing up next week, then first part of September will they have a written test and physical test.
“Do these guys look promising?” Councilor Pat Richards asked, with Jurvellin stating they are very dedicated.
• Heard from Jason Lundquist, with public works, who said, the city was approached by MnDOT if they wanted to switch out the red, amber and green lights in the City of Deer River to LED options. MnDOT would provide the fixtures, if the city would pay for the labor, estimated at a cost between $1,500 to $2,000.
“The advantage of going to LED?” Richards asked.
“Right now it costs us about $250 for an upper light,” Lundquist said, adding last year they changed six or seven bulbs. This was approved.
• Heard from Deer River City Administrator Mark Box who said the American Legion is sponsoring a raffle fundraiser for a gentleman who has cancer.
• Approved the resolution for the conduit bond with signature.
• Mayor Steve Geving asked to get photos taken of the council.
• Councilor Chris Reed mentioned that he was trying to pull up an ordinance from his phone, and it wasn’t mobile friendly. Discussion was made that work would be getting done on the website soon.
• The city had some used playground equipment that was advertised for bids, but was offered $150 for it last Monday.
All council members were present.