Frank Scherf of the program Toward Zero Deaths made a presentation about TZD to the Aitkin City Council at its Oct. 19 regular meeting.

Scherf wanted to  recognize the Aitkin County law enforcement for coming into the program with their own grant funding.

“TZD evolved from the Safe and Sober program,” Scherf said. Traffic fatalities  recorded in 2003 reached  655 for the year and it was deemed a crisis that needed a more focused approach.  Focus on impaired driving, seat belt use and speed  have resulted in almost halving the number of fatalities in the state of Minnesota.  Scherf challenged any program to achieve that kind of a reduction.  

“Zero is the goal, because no number of deaths is acceptable,” Scherf said.

Over 300 agencies across the state are now participating in TZD. Agencies apply for grant funding from the National Highway Safety Administration that helps them do more.

Scherf provided some context to his recognition by saying he had appealed to the previous sheriff and was told that the county was not able to make a commitment to the TZD program at that time.  The Aitkin Police Department was added to the Brainerd grant along with Deerwood.

When Sheriff Dan Guida was elected, he expressed a desire to participate in the program.  Now Aitkin Police Department and the Aitkin County Sheriff have teamed up to participate with their own grant and Scherf said he is very pleased to have this part of the state brought more fully into partnership with the program.

Scherf acknowledged previous efforts of TZD for educational programs such as mock crash programs and flashing traffic signs. Those training and infrastructure improvements continue to contribute to the success of the TZD program.

Now that there is an emergency medical services (EMS) system in place, no-one is more than an hour away from a Level 4 trauma center, Scherf said.

“Every single officer that works a TZD shift has EMS training and A-RIDE training  before they can work the shift, as well as seat belt and child safety seat training,” he said.

The city of Aitkin had approved applying for the TZD  grant at a previous meeting.


The Aitkin Volunteer Fire Department agreed to a five-year contract that they hope will be signed by Jan. 1, 2021, said Chief Brian Pisarek. Wealthwood Township was the sole opposing vote.

Pisarek shared information from the annual meeting between the fire department and the township governments it serves.


Engineer Phil Martin spoke about the Bunker Hill Dr. proposal on the 2017-2023 capital improvement plan. The project will be put off to next year (2021).  The plan was for a mill and overlay, but since the time it was planned, a need has been identified to improve the sewer system and address what is an inadequate foundation for the road.

Martin handed out a proposal to the council. Weather may prevent the site work from being done this fall, or at least by the end of October.

Mayor Gary Tibbitts asked Martin what Street Supervisor Bob Nicko wanted to see included in the project; Martin was not sure what Nicko’s concerns were. Martin cautioned about undertaking a mill and overlay of the road surface without fixing the foundation, the inadequacy of which is evidenced by the cracking of the road surface.

City Administrator Rose Beverly mentioned that there are plans for construction and Martin suggested that it could still be possible to do field work in November, if the weather turns mild. The city would like to get the engineering done so that the project can proceed in 2021 without delay. Tibbitts asked that Jeanie Collins from Aitkin County Growth attend the planning meeting with public works to confirm that the multi-family construction that was planned by ACG will no longer be happening.

The city council approved initiation of field work to be done in November on a wetland delineation and survey;  $7,500 is the amount budgeted for that part of the project.


Martin then spoke about the city park improvement project.

The original desire of the project committee was to have the city do most of the work on the project. Due to the need to get parts of the project ready for winter, Bolton and Menk took on some extra work in an effort to keep the project on track, and is now billing the city more than was originally planned.

Martin explained how Bolton and Menk stepped in and did additional work prior to approval because of time constraints with the approach of winter.

In the future, both the city and Bolton and Menk want full disclosure prior to putting in additional hours, Martin said.

“When things aren’t done right, they don’t last,” said Kathy Galliger, “and we want this project to last and be useful for many years.”

Council approved payment of the bill to Bolton and Menk.


• Council approved Police Chief Tim Catlin’s request to approve hiring of new officer Joe Fuhrman.

• Council plans to sell the recently acquired Newton property. Beverly will get the property appraised and listed for sale.  

• Council member Amanda Lowe talked about promoting dowtown retailers with new signage.

• “The ‘Reimagined Fish House Parade’ will go ahead in November,” Leeann Moriarty said. The Fish House Parade happens annually on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

• Free COVID-19 testing earlier in October resulted in 557 people tested. Minnesota National Guard was there to help.

• Tibbitts attended Dale Johnson’s 50 years in aviation, the Habitat house build groundbreaking and the Aitkin Women of Today annual  Pumpkin Patch event.

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