Onamia city parks and water quality testing in town wells were among the topics of conversation at the July meeting of the Onamia City Council.

In particular, the council, with input from city maintenance men Gene Falconer and Josh True, discussed three city park issues: the proposed renovation of the present warming house near the skating rink on Main Street, the possibility of adding a “splash pad” for summer recreation and completion of the finishing touches to the new little league baseball field.

The council was elated at the early reviews on the new ballpark. Mayor Marge Agnew commented that she was impressed at the turnout of kids and parents attending the games and the cheering sounds that could be heard from the park throughout the city.

Falconer referenced the relatively sparse use of the skating rink during the past two winter seasons. He asked the city to consider diverting some of the funds going toward improving the warming house to the possible future funding of a splash pad of some sort that could be used by all ages during the summer months. “Mora, Milaca and Deerwood are among the local cities that have installed these pads,” Falconer said, adding that he’s heard nothing but good reports about how popular they were. Funding and possible location for a proposed water park were discussed.

Also discussed was bringing in additional mulch (either wood or rubber chips) to the slide and swing areas of the two main parks in town.

The park issues along with their costs will be discussed when the forthcoming parks budget for next year is put forward.

An update on the pilot study for Onamia’s water wells that has been going on since last November was given by Kevin Young, representing water quality specialists Short Elliott Hendrickson, (SEH) Inc. Data from the study has been sent to labs for analysis, and SEH will soon report back to the city on the results of the study. “Our main goal was to take samples of the ammonia, manganese and iron in the few wells around the city,” Young said. “We’ve done that and at the same time kept the system running.”

Onamia Police Chief Bob Matzke said that crime reports in his department were up by more than 70 incidents over this time last year but admitted those numbers might be skewed due to increased traffic stops and an increase in other minor calls to his department.

Matzke reiterated his concern about kids hanging around the bridge west of town, bothering motorists entering and leaving the city on Hwy. 27. The council is considering asking the local DOT for help with this situation: first by moving the 60-mile-per-hour speed limit sign further west of the city limit than its current location and, secondly, asking the DOT to install signage stating no loitering, swimming, fishing, or diving from the bridge over the start of the Rum River.

In other business

• Vicki Marlow was appointed a new member of the Onamia Planning Commission.

• A motion was made and carried to get rid of a broken down city lawn mower either by offering it to the Onamia School District welding class or using it for trade-in value if or when the city decides to buy a new mower.

• Signage painted on city street crosswalks and various other spots has begun.

• Several areas of streets dug up last winter due to ruptures in the water lines in the city were in the process of being repaved.

• Clogged sewer issues were brought up by Falconer, who was again perplexed by the amount of non-degradable “flushable wipes” he has had to deal with during the past months. “We may have to try to find out who is responsible for this mess,” Falconer said.

• The Onamia water tower was recently inspected for rust or cracks, outside and inside of the structure, and found to be in good shape. The council, with recommendations from Falconer, is looking into hiring these inspections of the tower on a “by need” basis, rather than signing a couple year contract with the company now servicing the city.

• Only two of the 10 or 11 openings in the Soo Line trestle located blocks down from the dam leading out of Lake Onamia are now free of bogs, allowing minimal water to leave the three lakes draining Mille Lacs. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe as well as the local DNR have funded the excavation equipment needed to deal with the unclogging at the trestle site. “We had more openings unclogged a week ago, but as of today (July 9), more bogs worked their way downstream, and we are back to about where we were before the excavation,” Falconer claimed.

• The “Friends of Mille Lacs Soo Line Trail,” who help maintain the part of the trail from Isle to Onamia, are looking for volunteers to help with the weekly and monthly cleaning of the trail. The Onamia City Council is looking into allowing their paid personnel to clean the trail one time per month while on duty.

• The staff of the Onamia Fire Department stands at 19 members following the resignation of Tammy Eads.

In other fire department news, chief Bruce Peterson reported that the department has recently maxed out the training funds for the previous year. He also reported that the new (used) personal carrier has been acquired and will be shown to the council in the months to come.

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