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DNR proposes purchase of Spirit Lake undeveloped land

Kathy Ristinen Jonas owns this property with her sister Elaine Ristinen Hagstrom. They both support the DNR's project and said preserving the land would substantially benefit Spirit Lake. (Submitted photo)

MENAHGA -- Undeveloped land on the southwest side of Menahga's Spirit Lake has potential to become a source of quality water and recreational opportunities.

The Department of Natural Resources Fisheries office in Park Rapids is proposing the purchase of 51 acres on the lake with grant monies and donations.

Doug Kingsley of the DNR presented the project to the Menahga City Council Monday and asked for a resolution of support.

Preserving the land would improve the water quality, protect critical fisheries habitat and native plants, prevent shoreland erosion and provide future recreational opportunities, he said.

The property contains 1,270 feet of the only tributary to Spirit Lake, at least 11 acres of wetlands and about 2.6 percent of the watershed.

"There are some things about the property that are really unique," Kingsley said.

The value of the land is $386,000, he said, and the DNR would buy a portion of the property with a grant awarded by Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

The grant totals $286,000, but it will also be used for a number of other DNR projects, so not all of the money will be put toward the Spirit Lake project.

Kingsley said the DNR would like to raise at least $50,000 of public donations as well as local units of government.

Potential projects on the land include hiking trails, additional shore fishing opportunities and school environmental studies.

Private donations would be matched with grant money so the more public support the project gets, the higher its priority, Kingsley said.

So far Blueberry Township and the Menahga Conservation Club are in favor of the project, Kingsley told the council.

"It's kind of amazing how people step forward because they want to leave a legacy," he said.

Kathleen Ristinen Jonas and her sister Elaine Ristinen Hagstrom own 14 acres of that land and completely support the project.

Their property has been passed down from generation to generation in the Jonas' family since the 1930s.

"Both my sister and I would like to preserve the land but the taxes are becoming unreasonable," Kathleen Jonas said. "I would like this to go through with the DNR."

The city council passed a resolution accepting the proposal.

Dennis Komulainen voted against the resolution and said he needed more time to think about it.

Mayor Tom Larson told Komulainen nothing is happening yet; the DNR was just asking for support from the council.

In other action, the council:

-Approved a preliminary levy of $332,364, a 3.1 percent increase from the 2009 levy of 322,364.

Menahga is expected to lose $49,180 in Local Government Aid for 21010.

However, the city has already lost $21,314 this year.

So the difference between this year's LGA and next year's isn't as substantial as it may seem, City Administrator Teri Osterman said.

She added that there are 10½ months of reserves and the city is in good shape financially.

-Issued a $1,015,000 bond sale with a 3.2 percent interest rate to UBS Financial Services, Inc. in New York.

The general obligation improvement bond will finance the CSAH 21 water and sewer construction project.

-Agreed to transfer $22,819.70 from the general fund to the fire equipment fund, which is also known as the "sinking fund."

The purpose of the transfer is to make the fund whole.

An additional $6,525 in fire call fees for 2008 will also be transferred to the sinking fund.

-Heard a public input by Blueberry Township clerk Kari Tomperi, in which she read a letter from the township board asking for legal fees reimbursement in the amount of $3,295.66, that were incurred while resolving the sinking fund contract issues.

The letter addressed dissatisfaction with requests made to the city to address the fire contract negotiations and paper work requests.

"It is the township's position, had legal statute been followed, the township would not have incurred these expenses," the letter stated.

-Heard Greenwood Connections administrator Clair Erickson announce that an expert in developing bylaws for the facility would charge between $1,650 and $2,300.

The purpose of the bylaws is to separate the way nurses salaries are determined from other employees of the city, he said.

The only way the nursing home would be separated from the city is if the council gives up its budgetary authority, Osterman reported to the council last month and reiterated the same information this week.

She added that for pay equity studies, she reports the range of salaries and not individual.

Councilman Joel Mickelson said as long as bylaws have nothing to do with individual salaries, there is no reason to develop bylaws.

"I don't want to give up my budgetary authority," he said.

"I'm not willing to give up my budgetary authority either," councilwoman Kim Rasmussen agreed.

The council agreed to seek a quote from city attorney Jeff Pederson on developing bylaws after Rasmussen said there is no point in seeking the service from outside of the city.

The next regular council meeting will be held Tuesday, Oct. 13.