At the March 16 city council meeting, Aitkin Mayor Gary Tibbitts asked everyone to be aware and take heed of the governor’s direction on social distancing in response to the spreading COVID-19 virus.
Loren Solberg was planning to attend the city coucil meeting on behalf of Enbridge. However, Enbridge has pulled all of its people and cancelled all of its public events in an effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Acting administrator Jerry Bohnsack said that the city would be getting people to drop off bids for the First Street project, to minimize public contact per the governor’s directive.
Bohnsack is also concerned about liquor store staff, who are handling money and may put themselves at risk by interacting with the public.
“It’s a moving target and we are going to have to make some decisions without having a council meeting or notifying the public, as we try to keep the best interests of our city in mind,” Bohnsack said.
The city is putting a draft newsletter in this month’s utility bills with information about the closure of the city offices for the duration.
“We are trying to be proactive,” said Bohnsack.
Tim Terrill, executive director of the Mississippi Headwaters Board addressed the council.
“We protect the Mississippi River,” said Terrill.
MRHB typically works with the counties on keeping the river clean. Terrill wanted to talk to the council about enhancing recreational use of the Mississippi River in Aitkin County.
County Land Commissioner Rich Courtemanche is looking for ways to help people appreciate the county’s river resources more than they do now, which involves increasing access and identifying barriers to access.
From the Palisade access at Berglund Park to the Waldek access on Hwy. 169 is one section where kiosks have been installed at both ends. Informational maps include information about how long it takes to paddle the pertinent segment of the river trail.The maps also show things to see along the river trail and places to eat.
MRHB also wants to promote safe use of the Ripple River from the Aitkin City Park to the Mississippi River Campground.
“Once a person is connected to the river, they want to protect it,” said Terrill.
MRHB will bear the cost of developing the signage and providing the sign, with the city building the sign, installing it and maintaining it for five years. The city council agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding to work with MRHB in that way.
• The city has been notified received that the county is applying for a grant to construct a pavilion at the county campground.
• Aitkin Police Chief Tim Catlin is back doing light duties after having been out with an injury for some time.
• Members of the Aitkin Police Department are approaching their maximum of accumulated vacation time. Bohnsack offered to talk to the union about banking additional hours or paying them out for their excess hours, since they are a result of the department being understaffed.
• Council approved a job profile for the city administrator search and a proposed timeline for advertising the position and choosing five finalists for an interview, to take place mid-year.
• Aitkin Fire Chief Brian Pisarek reported that Aitkin FD responded with a ladder truck to a fire in Grand Rapids last week. The department is restricting some meetings and gatherings in response to the COVID-19 virus. They are also working with Riverwood Healthcare Center to set up an outside testing center in the parking lot of the hospital.
• City council approved a quote for a new awning and some graphics to go on it, for the front of the new city administration offices.
• Dave Cluff requested approval to purchase lift station alarm systems for the city sewer system’s 11 pump stations, in addition to the two that have been in use on a trial basis for the past year. The cost of $12,787.50 is slightly more than the $10,000 that was budgeted, but the city approved the purchase.