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Bjornson joins Menahga City Council by flip of coin

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, the city council also adopted a six-month moratorium on the sale of THC-infused foods and beverages.

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Interim Menahga City Administrator Laura Ahlf swears in newly appointed council member Jody Bjornson. The council opted to flip a coin at their Oct. 11 meeting to decide whether Bjornson or fellow candidate Mike Netlund should fill the vacancy left by Art Huebner's death.
Shannon Geisen/Park Rapids Enterprise
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A flip of the coin landed Jody Bjornson on the Menahga City Council.

On Tuesday, the council officially declared a vacant seat, due to the Sept. 11 death of Art Huebner.

By Minnesota Statute, since there are less than two years left in Huebner’s unexpired term and the vacancy occurred after the first day to file for candidacy, no special election is needed. The council may appoint someone to fill the remainder of the term, which is Jan. 2023.

Two city council seats are up for the Nov. 8 election, and Huebner had been seeking a second term. Bjornson and Mike Netland are also candidates.

Mayor Liz Olson said Tuesday, “Since we have two people on the ballot, the council said they’re both people that are competent and ready. Either one of them would be able to fill this position. We decided they would flip the coin.”

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The council determined that heads would be for Bjornson and tails Netland.

Council member Dan Warmbold flipped a quarter, with the candidates watching.

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Mayor Liz Olson notarizes Bjornson's signature.
Shannon Geisen/Park Rapids Enterprise

Moratorium on THC edibles

The city council unanimously passed a six-month moratorium on the sale of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) foods and beverages.

As of July 1, a new Minnesota law allows edibles and beverages, containing up to 5 milligrams of THC per serving, to be sold to people over the age of 21.

Ahlf said she met with a League of Minnesota Cities official on Tuesday. The LMC recommended passing the resolution “to get on top of it before it gets out of control,” she said. The city of Wadena adopted a similar policy, Ahlf added, but the Wadena County Board did not, choosing instead to wait to see what the Minnesota Legislature will do in the next session.

Menahga’s ordinance declares a moratorium on the sale of these products within city limits until April 1, 2023. Because the city’s zoning, licensing and other regulations presently do not address THC products, it calls for city staff to obtain input from the public, study the issues and provide recommendations.

In other business, the council did as follows:

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  • Accepted Northbound Spirits Manager Renata Parks’ voluntary resignation and her 16 years of service. The council wished her well as she spends more time with family.
  • Learned that the city-owned Greenwood Connections was profitable in the month of August, so $400,000 will be moved into an investment fund. Due to a proposed 50% increase in PEIP health insurance costs, Ahlf said the facility is looking for other options.
  • Paid Huebner’s estate for his 2022 attendance at council meetings. The payment was $1,311, after subtracting $239 in legal fees and data request charges that Huebner had incurred since 2021 and had not paid. The motion passed 4-1, with council member Robyn Keranen opposed.
  • Approved an expanded lease with the Menahga Gateway Lions so the club may hold meat raffles at Northbound Spirits. The current lease rate of $150 per month will be reevaluated in six months.
  • Tabled a quote for repairs to the “Happy Hour” lift station in order to acquire more quotes. Seals are failing, according to Public Works Director Ron Yliniemi, causing the pumps to work double or even triple as hard as they should be.
  • Approved 2022-23 snow removal agreements with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Bemidji, Baxter and Detroit Lakes districts.
  • Scheduled a budget meeting for 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11

The next council meeting is 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 31.

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Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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