Grand Rapids City Councilors thank community, staff for response to recent events

June 18, 2020

By Sally Sedgwick


    Council members expressed their thanks to community and staff at the June 8 meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council. Mayor Dale Adams commented on the openings of restaurants and the use of the city picnic tables to facilitate outdoor dining. Councilor Dale Christy thanked the fire department for its birthday wishes during stay-at-home to area citizens and children. Councilor Michelle Toven expressed her gratitude to city staff who continue to adapt to situations, including the library and its drive through service. She also participated in the two days of local protests against racism and said that “public participation is so important in civic life… There are people of color in Grand Rapids, and I want you to know that we see you, and if you have concerns please reach out to us.” 

    The council voted to enter into a joint powers agreement with the state of Minnesota to perform required triennial inspections for hotels with 35 or more guest rooms at the same fee as the state. Chief Travis Cole has been the deputy state fire marshal responsible for similar inspections. The fee of $435 base plus a room charge was added to the city fee schedule.

    In other business the city council: 

    • Approved claims from May 19 to June 1 for $814,166.64.

    • Approved a premises permit to conduct gambling for VFW Post 1720.

    • Added Amendment #1 to the state airport maintenance and operation grant contract to include $69,000 in federal CARES Act funding. 

    • Approved soliciting quotes for a budgeted new sidewalk/trail machine which will also be used for flower and ball field maintenance.

    • Approved the emergency purchase, freight and installation of a vertical air compressor in the fire hall for $3,465.55 using fire hall maintenance funds.

    • Approved Human Rights Commission appointments: Angella Erickson, Glen Hodgson and Leann Stoll, and appointed Councilor Tasha Connelly to fill an unexpired term. 

    The next regular meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council is scheduled for Monday, June 22 at 5 p.m.

Grand Rapids provides picnic tables to local restaurants for outdoor dining

June 04, 2020

By Sally Sedgwick


    Councilors led off the May 26 council meeting with proclamations honoring the graduating classes at Grand Rapids and Greenway high schools and noting ways the city was stepping in to help businesses recover from the pandemic.

    Mayor Dale Adams said that the city had filled 60-70 requests for picnic tables to allow outdoor dining at restaurants which started this week under the governor’s orders. Restaurants may call the city at 218-326-7600 to make this request. 

    Councilor Dale Christie pointed out that the Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority still had some monies available for its working capital loans of up to $15,000 with no interest, deferred start of payback and five-year term. Contact Rob Mattei at City Hall, 218-326-7622, for more information. Councilor Rick Blake thanked those wearing masks while in public in Grand Rapids.

    The council authorized a Request for Proposal for engineering services for a proposed sanitary sewer and watermain extension project serving a 216-acre industrial park site (including 60 acres in Cohasset) formerly operated by Ainsworth Lumber Company. The services will support an application for a federal Economic Development Administration grant to help fund the approximately $3.1 million project. Proposals must be received by 2 p.m., Thursday, June 18, 2020 at City Hall.

    The council heard an update from Engineering/Public Works Director Matt Wegwerth. Right of way, stormwater and building permits are online for the public at cityof Airport runway reconstruction is currently in bidding for 2021 construction. This year there were 15 plowable events during the winter with 62.2 inches of total snowfall, 9 inches above average. Snow removal costs were up about 20 percent over the previous winter.

    In other business the city council: 

    • Approved claims from May 5 to 18 for $1,014,679.47.

    • Accepted a $50 donation from Mae Anderson toward supplies and training needs of the Grand Rapids Fire Department.

    • Accepted a proposal from SEH to survey an expansion of the Veterans section of the Itasca Calvary Cemetery of 14 new blocks with 32 lots in each for $10,100.

    • Accepted a proposal from Lease Landscaping for work at cemetery for up to $13,550 depending on lawn seeding method.

    • Accepted a proposal for logging at cemetery for $25 per cord for pine bolts and $8 per cord for pine pulp with Pittack Logging, Inc.

    • Approved plans and authorized bidding for Highway 2 West Trail Project 2015-3. Bids are due by 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 24 at the city engineer’s office.

    • Ordered a feasibility and cost study to be completed by the Public Works Dept. on the Diane Lane sanitary sewer extension.

    • Accepted a $69,000 grant through the CARES Act toward maintenance and operation of the Grand Rapids/Itasca County Airport.

    • Entered into an annual lease agreement with ISD 318 for $13,125 starting Aug. 1, 2020 for the Soccer Field at the Grand Rapids Sports Complex; $26,250 starting March 1, 2021 for the Legion Baseball Field and Grand Rapids Sports Complex softball fields; and a contribution of up to $25,000 over 5 years for improvements on the soccer field.

    • Adopted a resolution celebrating the life of Anne Marie Meany Huntley.

    • Granted COVID-19 relief to Toivo’s (prorated liquor license) and the Pokegama Grill (rental).

    The next meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council will be June 8 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

New Grand Rapids TIF District is sixth largest summer project

May 21, 2020

By Sally Sedgwick


    The city of Grand Rapids authorized a residential Tax Increment Financing district for a 48 unit apartment building at its May 11 council meeting, which represents its sixth large project in the city for 2020. The projects total about $60 million in development value, according to Community Development Director Rob Mattei.

    During the hearing, developer Samuel Herzog of Unique Opportunities LLC spoke positively of Grand Rapids as a new location for his company, saying “Grand Rapids is going to continue to grow.” 

    The three story apartment building, located at 2601 Airport Rd., will offer both affordable and market rate one-and two-bedroom apartments with rents ranging from $660 to $925. It is expected to open next year. The 2.92 acre city-owned lot will sell for $175,000 and net proceeds will be used for Great River Acres lots infrastructure costs. 

    Councilor Tasha Connelly reported that the Grand Rapids Area Development Authority has distributed emergency working capital loans of up to $15,000 to 28 area businesses. There is still over $100,000 available to businesses, repayment is deferred for six months and amortized over 5 years. Call Mattei at 218-326-7622 for information.

    Mayor Dale Adams summarized the public health situation, saying the city had both an emergency operations plan and a Pandemic Continuity of Operations Plan. The 24 city parks are open, although some park amenities are closed temporarily. There are also 104 miles of trails and sidewalks open for use. Councilor Rick Blake reported calls that some store employees and shoppers were not wearing masks. 

    In other business the city:

    • Approved claims from April 21 to May 4 for $330,493.55.

    • Recognized the Air National Guard 148th Fighter Wing and 133rd Airlift Wing for flyovers on May 13 in support of front line workers.

    • Recognized Anne Marie Meany Huntley, who passed away on April 28, for contributions to the city.

    • Accepted an $86,175 Commercial Redevelopment Grant from the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation for the demolition of the VFW and Rose buildings.

    • Approved a transitional work program agreement with Occupational Development Center, Inc. for lawn work at the Grand Rapids Public Works.

    • Approved hiring seven part-time Public Works maintenance workers and one seasonal golf employee. 

    • Agreed to lease intermittent use of the Legion Baseball Field and the Grand Rapids Sports Complex from April 1 through Oct. 30, 2020 to Itasca Community College for $7,000.

    The next regular city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 26 at 5 p.m. from the Grand Rapids City Council Chambers. Note the change of day due to the Memorial Day holiday.

Grand Rapids City Council reminds businesses of EDA working capital loans

April 30, 2020

By Sally Sedgwick


    For the April 13 and 27 Grand Rapids City Council meetings, the council met remotely with live coverage by ICTV at Watch 

    Councilor Dale Christy reported on the efforts of the Economic Development Authority to provide working capital loans for businesses affected by COVID-19. In three weeks it has provided 24 loans of up to $15,000 at 0 percent interest. Payments are deferred for four months, and the program is still open for application on its website at

    In the public forum on April 27, resident Larry Smith reported a strong ongoing odor on the south side of Grand Rapids that has not been resolved. Mayor Dale Adams said the council will follow up. The public may call in to council meetings at 218-327-8833 to speak at public forums or during the comment period for public hearings.

    A public hearing was conducted on changing the zoning of a 1.2 acre parcel owned by and adjacent to North Homes on River Road from R-1 Residential Single Family to I-1 Industrial Park to provide formal parking for a new facility. There were no comments and the rezoning was approved.

    In other business, the council:

    • Approved claims for March 17 to April 6 totaling $432,934.28, and April 7 to 20 totaling $505,325.18

    • Approved advertising for bids for the airport 16/34 runway construction with bids due at 2 p.m., Monday, May 5. 

    • Selected two artists, Duane Goodwin of Bemidji and Greg Mueller of Lutsen Mountain to present concepts for the next cycle of public sculpture.

    • Authorized application to the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources for a grant toward demolishing the VFW and Rose buildings in Grand Rapids.

    • Approved a purchase agreement to buy a parcel on SE 11th St. for $220,000. 

    • Approved seasonal golf staff and wage structure.

    • Agreed to sell the used airport snow plow truck and accessories to ISD 318 for $4,000.

    The next city council meeting will be on Monday, May 11 at 5 p.m. from the Grand Rapids City Council Chambers.

Grand Rapids City Council approves preliminary plat for The Pillars senior living

January 23, 2020

By Sally Sedgwick


    As the first meeting of 2020 for the Grand Rapids City Council, organizational business was transacted, including designation of Councilor Dale Christy as Mayor Pro Tem, the Herald Review as legal newspaper and council appointments to boards, commissions and agencies.

    In the public forum resident Beth George asked that routes other than NE Third Ave. be used for traffic to events at the fairgrounds due to the number of young children present and road condition.

    Councilor Christy reported on the RAMS meeting attended by Councilors Rick Blake, Christy and Tasha Connelly with speakers Gov. Walz and area legislators.

    Director of Community Development Rob Mattei presented a preliminary plat of property next to and owned by Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital called “The Pillars” that was approved by the council. The 14.45 acre parcel will be developed by Oppidan Holdings LLC with a 120 unit senior living facility. The Planning Commission held a public hearing on Jan. 8 before recommending approval. 

    Public Works Director Matt Wegwerth presented a variance for properties along Golf Course Road from Lakeview Ave to SW 22nd St. There is a city ordinance requiring properties within 150 feet of a public sewer to connect to mains, however the six properties currently have compliant wells and septic systems. Under the variance, they would be required to connect for a set fee if they become non-compliant, are transferred to new ownership or are vacant and become developed. The variance was adopted.

    The Grand Rapids Area Library is the 2020 rotating recipient of a $12,000 grant from the Arrowhead Library System for public art, and the city will add $7,800 from the Arts and Culture Commission funds. The city selected artist Adam Swanson who will create and install a 16 x 32 ft. mural on removable metal panels on the north wall of the library by June 30. 

    In other business, the council:

    • Approved claims for Dec. 10, 2019 to Jan. 6, 2020 totaling $2,151,631.14, which included $1,000,000 in investments.

    • Accepted donations for the Grand Rapids Police Department from Morris and Sherry Beighley ($100), and for the GRPD 2020 Shop with a Hero event; Coleraine Hook & Ladder Club ($100), Philip Windorski Jr Memorial Foundation ($100), city of Keewatin ($100) and Legion No. 452 ($500).

    • Awarded the Second Ave. NE Street Improvement project to Casper Construction for $2,188,000 and approved a change order of $15,452.85 for the project.

    • Donated retired GPS equipment to the Grand Rapids High School Natural Resources Department.

    • Accepted a $250,000 Regional Trails Grant from the Iron Range Resources Department toward the Highway 2 West Trail.

    • Approved a required Independent Fee Evaluation for the Grand Rapids Airport Reconstruction Project with HDR Engineering. The city’s share of the cost will be 2.5 percent, or $75.

    • Approved 2020 general liability insurance coverage through the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust with a premium of $233,728. The city shares in a refund awarded at the end of the year: in 2019 this was $12,245.

    • Adopted an amended City-Wide Fee Schedule.

    • Adopted a Mailbox Policy based on state statute describing location, size and height of boxes, and procedures in case of damage caused by the city.

    • Approved the purchase of a 7-foot loader bucket to match Public Works plow trucks for $12,491.35.

Grand Rapids City Council sets levy, establishes TIF District, suggests city sales tax to fund IRA Civic Center improvements

December 26, 2019

By Sally Sedgwick


    The Grand Rapids City Council met on Monday, Dec. 16 with all councilors present.  

    Councilor Tasha Connelly thanked volunteers, donors and the Grand Rapids Police Department for a successful Shop with a Hero event to help over 180 children buy gifts for their families.  Councilor Rick Blake congratulated the snow removal staff for excellent work.

    In the Consent Agenda, the council approved the 2020 tax levy, and  General Fund, Special Revenue and Enterprise budgets as presented at a public forum on Monday, Dec. 2.  Due to additional local government state aid, the increase in levy is limited to about 1.96 percent.

    Sonja Merrild, chair of the Arts and Culture Commission, presented a 10 year road map developed for placement of public art in the city including theme development, site selection and processes to select artists.  Working with a consultant, the commission selected the first public art, installed this year, but in a response to Commissioner Dale Christy’s question, members from a neighborhood, cultural or special interest group could be part of the selection committee in the future. Commissioner Michelle Toven remarked that the plan was well-researched and she appreciated the time and thought it represented.

    Rob Mattei, director of community development, presented a proposal for Tax Increment Financing District 1-12 supporting a $27 million, 119 unit senior housing facility with underground parking:  Pillars of Grand Rapids, operated by Oppidan of Excelsior.  The facility, located west of Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital, would have independent living and assisted living apartments, memory care and one guest room. Although $4 million was requested, the need was reduced to just over $1.75 million after analysis. Commissioner Dale Christy pointed out that in eight years the city would start receiving tax payments of about $390,000 benefitting the school and city where currently it receives nothing since the property is owned by the hospital and is tax-exempt.  A public hearing was opened and received no public comments.  The TIF district was approved.

    The city approved a resolution which would request state preauthorization for a Local Sales and Use Tax to fund improvements at the IRA Civic Center.  The tax, suggested as a unanimous recommendation of the steering committee for funding the improvements, would be for up to one percent until it reached $10,980,000 or for six years, whichever comes first.  The amount may change depending on requested state bonding.  If preauthorized, the suggested tax will be on the ballot in the fall 2020 general election.  

    In other business, the council:

    • Approved claims for Nov. 26 to Dec. 9 totaling $647,655.22.

    • Approved exempt and non-exempt non-represented employee increases of 2.75 percent plus extended medical benefit changes consistent with five bargaining unit settlements for 2020.

    • Approved an agreement with Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital to provide sports medicine services at the IRA Civic Center for student athletes.

    • Authorized adding delinquent 2019 Storm Water Utility charges as assessments to those property owners’ tax statements

    • Authorized creating an eligibility list for Firefighter advertised through February.  Successful candidates will pass orientation, and written and physical agility tests.

    • Authorized razing of the house at 2408 SW 18th St. pursuant to court order.

    • Approved a change order to increase existing boiler pipe size in the City Hall Security Project for $25,906.

    • Approved application for a federal grant to purchase bulletproof vests for the Police Department.  With a state grant the cost should be covered.

    • Approved a lobbying services contract with Loren Solberg Consulting, LLC for 2020. 

    • Approved a letter of support for ISD 318 in a planning assistance grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for a Safe Routes to School plan.

    • Hired or rehired various part time positions for 2020.

    • Approved temperature control system upgrades for the city hall, the fire hall and the library for $28,472.

    • Approved accessory equipment like lights, siren, etc. for a new pick-up for the Fire Department and a new smart board for the fire hall meeting room.

    • Approved adding Building/Fire Inspector and HazMat Officer to Fire Chief responsibilities and making the position full time.

    • Extended a preliminary development agreement with Unique Opportunities LLC, which is considering building a 48 unit housing on a city-owned parcel at 21st St. SE, to April 30, 2020.

    The next city council meeting will be on Monday, Jan. 13 at 5 p.m. in the Grand Rapids City Council Chambers. 

Grand Rapids School Board updated on elementary construction

December 19, 2019

    At its Dec. 2 meeting, the ISD 318 School Board heard from Sean Lewis from ICS Consulting, who presented the board with an update on the elementary schools construction project. 

    Lewis began his presentation by announcing the project was on schedule and within budget. 

    Structural steel and concrete block work at the east elementary site are about 99 percent complete. Lewis added that roofs are in place as well and metal exterior framing is underway. The metal exterior framing will allow temporary heating in the building. Interior metal framing was proceeding along with duct work, mechanical, electrical and plumbing work.

    The construction of the west elementary school is about two weeks behind the east school because the projects had been staggered to allow contractors to bid on more than one of the buildings. Lewis said that exterior brick work was proceeding on the west building as well as interior work in the areas of plumbing and electrical work.

    In Cohasset, Lewis said that structural steel work was mostly done on the school portion of the building and work was about 50 percent complete on the senior center and daycare center. The roof also has been installed on the gymnasium, and the concrete slab is in place, allowing mechanical and electrical contractors to do their work. Block work is nearly complete and brick work has been started. Interior work, which would begin with slab work, is anticipated to begin in about two to three weeks in the school, senior center and daycare facility. Lewis said planning for the demolition of the existing gymnasium has begun.

    He concluded his remarks by talking about furniture. Lewis said that focus groups were looking at the needs of each building. Decisions would be made and orders placed in January and February allowing for delivery and installation over the summer.

    In other business, the board:

    • Voted to hire two replacement coaches and one support staff member.

    • Voted to terminate the business manager and to hire Ben Hawkins as interim business manager.

    • Voted to post for the position of Director of Teaching and Learning.

    • Voted to accept a three year contract with the secretary group.

    • Accepted the second reading and approved policy 419: Tobacco-free environment; Possession and use of tobacco, tobacco-related devices, and electronic delivery devices.

    • Accepted the second reading and approved policy 532: Use of peace officers and crisis management teams to remove students with IEPs from school grounds.

Grand Rapids City Council reviews recent events, orders removal of hazardous structures

September 19, 2019

By Sally Sedgwick


    The Grand Rapids City Council met on Monday, Sept. 9 in the City Hall Council Chambers with all council members present. There were no public comments.

    Under council reports, Councilor Tasha Connelly and City Administrator Tom Patel answered a question heard frequently while on the Civic Center Steering Committee: why isn’t there a reserve fund for repairing the center roof? The answer is that for large infrastructure, the city has the ability to bond. Since 2008, the city has invested over $1 million to maintain the facility through fees, but ice time fees would have to more than double to set aside enough for these repairs. Connelly also noted that Springboard for the Arts will be bringing the Rural Arts and Culture Summit to the Reif Center Oct. 3-5. 

    Mayor Dale Adams highlighted five groups that have gone above and beyond for the city: the Minnesota Street Rod Association’s Fall Campout event; Log-a-Load benefitting Gillette Children’s Hospital; the drive behind creating pickleball courts in the arena and YMCA and the recent tournament attracting 141 players; the McBride family who sponsors an annual memorial golf tourney benefitting scholarships to Itasca Community College; and Dan and Nancy Root who mentor students in chess at Southwest Elementary School.

    Fire Chief Travis Cole presented a proposal to install Sikafloor DecoFlake flooring in the east and west truck bay floors and meeting room at the fire hall for $30,085. The flooring is slip resistant and has a 20 year warranty. Installation was approved.

     In other business, the city council:

    • Approved claims of $769,583.20 for the period Aug. 20 to Sept. 2, 2019.

    • Accepted donations: $27,640 from Get Fit Itasca/AARP for public sculpture, benches and kiosk at the Mississippi River Pedestrian Bridge; $2,436 from the Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education plus an additional $3,964.45 reimbursement grant.

    • Authorized listing a 2006 Format Plain Paper Copier model CS-2550 on Do Bid.

    • Authorized application for a $250,000 grant from the IRRR Regional Trails Grant Program toward the Highway 2 West Trail running from Co. Rd. 63 to 17th Ave.

    • Approved Supplemental Letter Agreement (SLA) setting out fees estimated at $117,902.89 with Short Elliot Hendrickson (SEH) related to the Highway 2 West Trail.

    • Approved hiring three part-time employees in Civic Center/Parks and Recreation.

    • Approved amendment to the agreement with the IUOE Local No. 49 – Clerical Union. 

    • Issued an order to remove or raze structures at 2803 DeSchepper Dr., 2408 SW 18th St. and 302 Golf Course Rd. Initial notice of violations was issued in May.

    • Authorized purchase of topper from Rides for $2,697.53. 

    • Approved SLA with SEH modifying the design for rebid of reconstruction of 2nd Ave. NE, 7th St. NE and 9th St. to reduce costs. Estimated fee will be $22,861.68.

    • Authorized purchase of two half ton pickups from Lakewoods Chrysler for airport maintenance and for additional building maintenance staff. Trucks were scheduled to be purchased in 2020, but for budget reasons will be purchased this year.

    The next meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council is on Monday, Sept. 23 at 5 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers.

Grand Rapids City Council updated on solar garden project

August 01, 2019

By Sally Sedgwick


    At the Monday, July 22 Grand Rapids City Council meeting, City Engineer Matt Wegworth, PE described the solar garden project to the council. 

    A joint project among Minnesota Power, the city and the Grand Rapids Public Utilities, it will be adjacent to the airport on the west side of SE 7th Ave. The city authorized a sitework engineering agreement with Short Elliott Hendrickson for $54,110, with additional fees for miscellaneous services and coordination of FAA review. There is a separate request for proposal for solar panel design and construction. 

    Wegworth pointed out that it was an appropriate use for the site as it was in the landing zone of a crosswind airport runway, so there are limited uses and heights. In response to a question from Councilor Tasha Connelly, he explained that the permitting process includes a glare analysis. He also pointed out that native grasses and pollinators will be used.

    In other business, the city council:

    • Approved claims of $2,356,131.44 for the period July 2 to July 15, 2019. Debt service payments are $292,620.05 of the total.

    • Engaged the Lost City band for Tall Timber Days music on Aug. 2, 8 p.m. to midnight.

    • Added a stainless steel engraved map to the Milligan Studio agreement for the Memory of Water project.

    • Authorized a lease agreement between the city and ISD 318 for the Legion Baseball Field and the Grand Rapids Sports Complex.

    • Authorized a change order on the Fire Hall roof replacement project of $3,948.

    • Accepted a donation of two benches from the Chamber of Commerce and Lions Club (valued at $1,385.63 each) and half the cost of water service installation for a fountain on the Depot Commons from the Lions Club (valued at $1,750).

    • Adopted the amended 2019-2023 Capital Improvement Plan.

    • Authorized applying for a grant and accepting monies from the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRR) Development Infrastructure Grant Program for North Homes Expansion Project and the Community Infrastructure Grant Program for the Great River Acres utility project. 

    • Authorized the Grand Rapids Fire Department to hold a “Fill the Boot” campaign benefitting the Muscular Dystrophy Association on Aug. 7 through 9 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the intersection of Pokegama Ave. and 10th Street.

    • Appointed Jessie Siiter to fill an unexpired term on the Arts & Culture Commission through Dec. 31, 2020; appointed Nicole Moen to part-time Animal Control Facility attendant; transferred Matthew Moen from part-time to full time hospital security officer; and appointed Brady Geving, Jeremy Johnson and Robert Sanders to part-time hospital security officer positions.

    • Adopted the job description for Hospital Security Officer Lead and authorized process to fill the position.

    • Adopted a resolution requiring owners to raze or remove structures at 201 SW 8th Ave. Timeline and responsibilities are contained within the resolution.

    • Adopted an amended City Driving Policy to align with the new state law regarding hands-free phone use for city employees. Hands-free equipment will be provided with city-issued phones to employees. 

Grand Rapids City Council appoints steering committee for Civic Center plan

July 05, 2019

By Sally Sedgwick


    The Grand Rapids City Council met on Monday, June 24 in the Itasca County Board Room with all council members present. There were no public comments.

    The council heard a departmental report from Dale Anderson, director of Parks and Recreation.  An ice sheet will be laid at the Civic Center on July 8 for summer skating activities; the building has hosted a number of events this spring. On the United Way of 1000 Lakes Day of Action on June 21, volunteers helped out at Oakland and Veterans parks. The Bob Streetar Field was also  dedicated on June 21. Online city park maps have been updated thanks to Seth Jetland’s work.  The library will be the site for the playground moved from the new elementary location.  

    July 4 Pokegama Lake fireworks are scheduled for 10 p.m.  The public may park at the Essentia Clinic with busing by Arrowhead Transit starting at 8 p.m.  Fireworks were paid for with donations from Harris Township ($4,125), city of Cohasset ($4,125) and Blandin Foundation ($1,000).

    An 18 member Steering Committee to recommend improvements at the Civic Center was appointed.   Their goal will be to recommend roof replacement type, viewing areas, locker room improvements and funding sources by the first city council meeting in November.

    In other business, the city council:

    • Approved claims of $1,415,194.97 for the period June 4 to June 17.

    • Accepted a donation for a pet microchip scanner for the Animal Control Facility worth $300.

    • Accepted the resignation of Aaron Locken from firefighter trainee position and authorized internal reposting for engineering technician with a revised job description.

    • Authorized payment of $4,860 to Eck Designs LLC for a new sign installed at Bob Streetar Field and accepted donations from a group of baseball alumni to pay for it and additional landscaping.

• Agreed to borrow three outdoor murals from the MacRostie Art Center for placement on the Nyberg Building.

    • Authorized Building Maintenance to solicit quotes for cleaning and paper products in city buildings.

    • Authorized application for and acceptance of funds from the IRRR Commercial Redevelopment Grant Program in the amount of $15,900.

    • Appointed Seth Sondrol to the position of part-time Public Works Summer Maintenance I position.  His status would change to full-time on August 26 on conditions.

    Authorized the following purchases:

    • Installation of panic button equipment at City Hall by ESC Systems for $2,066.

    • Purchase of secured door video communication system from Graybar for $3,503.77

    • Purchase of new golf course irrigation system including removal of current system.  Total loan from city is $90,522.45, to be repaid through 2025.

    • Purchase of a pickup truck for the for the Grand Rapids Fire Department from Lake Woods Chrysler for $35,101.12.

Grand Rapids City Council awards contracts, hears IT presentation

June 20, 2019

By Sally Sedgwick


    The Grand Rapids City Council met on Monday, June 10 in the Itasca County Board Room with all council members present except Mayor Dale Adams. Council Member Rick Black chaired the meeting in his absence. 

    In public comments, Bob Broking of the Grand Rapids Speedway summarized the start of the racing season, saying that the first two events had drawn good crowds and were completed before 10 p.m. Racing events are every Thursday with some additional dates during the summer and county fair. The event on Friday, Aug. 30 may be expected to go until about 10:30 p.m.

    The city scheduled a public hearing for July 8, 2019 at 5 p.m. on issuing general obligation Abatement Bonds to finance acquisition and construction of the Grand Rapids/Cohasset connection trail along Co. Rd. 63.

    The council heard a department head report from Erick Scott, director of Information Technology, describing work the department has completed and is planning. An example of the former is migrating cellular to FirstNet, a system for first responders and government agencies to ensure they stay connected during emergencies, and an example of the latter is upgrading the city security camera system to connect it to county dispatch. Last year the county received almost a half million emails, of which only 59 percent were legitimate and delivered. 291 viruses were caught and 1,400 intrusion attempts blocked.

    In other business, the city council:

    • Approved claims of $1,122,550.34 for the period May 21 to June 3.

    • Approved a loan of $91,000 to the Enterprise Fund–Pokegama Golf Course for the irrigation control project.

    • Authorized a grant application for microchip identification scanners at the Domestic Animal Control Facility.

    • Accepted the donation of a private dock on public property on Forest Lake.

    • Added one employee to the summer maintenance crew for the Public Works Department and five seasonal employees to Outdoor Services golf staff.

    • Authorized publication of a summary of recently approved amendments to the Use of Public Rights-of-Way, Chap. 58, Art. II of the Grand Rapids Municipal Code.

    • Accepted a resignation for Hospital Security Officer and authorized staff to start a replacement hiring process.

    • Corrected the Minnesota State Retirement System Health Care Savings Plan document for non-represented employees amended by the city council on Dec. 20, 2017 for two misprints, replacing “exempt” with “non-represented.” 

    • Authorized an agreement with GoodSpace Murals on recommendation of the Arts & Culture Commission to create a public mural by Sept. 21, 2019 on the south wall of the MacRostie Art Center for $20,500. The agreement includes some public input and participation.

    The next meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council is on Monday, June 24 at 5 p.m. 

Grand Rapids awards construction project bid

April 19, 2018

At last week’s Grand Rapids City Council meeting, officials gave the green light to a bid for the Northeast Improvements project.


The project includes: reconstruction of existing public infrastructure within the right of way and utility or alley easements of 7th St. NE from 7th Ave. NE to 13th Ave. NE, 11th Ave. NE from 7th St. NE to the Sports Complex Entrance, 10th Ave. NE from 5th St. NE to 7th St. NE, the alley between 6th Ave. NE and 7th Ave. NE from 6th Street NE to 7th Street NE, by reconstructing streets, storm sewer, sanitary sewer, street lights, sidewalks, and associated appurtenances.

In January, the council conducted a public hearing on the projects and voted to move forward after gathering public input.

The council awarded the construction bid to low bidder Casper Construction at a price tag of $2,149,000. City Engineer Matt Wegwerth noted that the low bid was approximately $100,000 over the engineer’s estimate but “overall was a good bid.” The bid, however, will increase estimated residential assessments by approximately 50 cents per linear foot.

A total of four bids were received by the city, with cost estimates ranging from the low bid of $2,149,000 to $2.7 million. Work on the project will begin this construction season.

In other business, the council:

• Listened to a department head report from Jeff Davies, who apprised the council of recent activities in the city’s public works department.

• Approved the fire department to enter into an interlocal contract for cooperative purchasing with HGAC Buy, which will aid the department’s purchase of a new rescue pumper.

• Approved the fire department eligibility list as recommended.

• Awarded the 2018 Mayor’s Arts Award to Timberlake Lodge.

• Approved 2018-2019 police officer’s union collective bargaining agreements.

Grand Rapids adopts ADA transition plan

March 22, 2018

By Beth Bily


The city of Grand Rapids has implemented a transition plan to bring its practices and facilities in line with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Prior to a public hearing at last week’s council meeting, City Engineer Matt Wegwerth noted that a city ADA team of eight had reviewed and assessed city practices, building facilities, park facilities and parking lots and compiled a list of needed improvements.

Areas identified as in need of change included:

• Creating a grievance form on the city’s website

• Creating a list of available interpreters

• Online employment applications

• Sidewalks and curb ramps in the Central Business District

• Curb ramps around schools and other public facilities with high levels of pedestrian traffic

• Building parking lots (including stalls, surface markings and signage)

• Review and relocate interior room signage and dispensing features

• Install door hardware that meets requirements

• Install accessible equipment where appropriate

• Improving access to park equipment

While Wegwerth noted support for making the changes to transition the city to ADA compliance, he added that there would be a cost between $1.5 and $2 million to make the necessary changes. Rather than attempt to implement all the changes at once, Wegwerth said the city would try to incorporate some of the changes into other improvement projects.

The price tag of the improvements also were of concern to Myrna Peterson, co-chair of Mobility Mania, which has a goal of making Itasca County the most accessible county in the state. “One and a half to two million is a lot of money. I want to hold the legislature accountable to come up with some of the money,” she said.

Peterson urged councilors to accompany her to the state capitol later in the session to lobby for accessibility funding.

The council unanimously passed a resolution adopting the ADA transition plan.

In other business, the council:

• Approved payment of claims in the amount of $535,366.51.

• Approved the minutes of the Feb. 26 council meeting.

• Made appointments to various city boards and commissions.

Grand Rapids signs off on aggregate mining plan

March 08, 2018

By Beth Bily


The Grand Rapids City Council signed off on a conditional use permit that will establish a long-term mining/mineral extraction operation by Hawkinson Construction Company.

At last week’s meeting of the council, officials approved the CUP, recommended for approval by the city’s planning commission, that would allow the company to extract non-metallic aggregate, such as granite and quartzite. The mining area includes 230 acres owned by the company near the intersection of Highway 38 and County Road 61. The mining land currently includes undeveloped parcels and a small gravel pit, Community Development Director Rob Mattei told councilors.

The establishment of the project required an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW). The city subcontracted the EAW completion to Braun Intertec. In December of 2016, the council adopted a negative declaration for the EAW, meaning that a more stringent Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would not be required. 

Hawkinson, Mattei told councilors, applied for the CUP in January of this year. The Grand Rapids Planning Commission conducted a public hearing on the matter Feb. 1 and then passed a favorable recommendation for the project. 

The aggregate mine is expected to be operational for 50 to 100 years. Its impact on local jobs, however, has yet to be established. 

“We don’t expect to immediately create jobs,” Paul Hawkinson told councilors. “The first blasting would be subbed (subcontracted) out. Down the road, we don’t know.”

The council approved the CUP request as submitted. 

In other business, the council:

• Approved the minutes of the Feb. 12 work session and regular meeting.

• Approved payment of claims in the amount of $890,674.66

• Passed a resolution in support of School District 318’s Elementary School Building and Sports Facilities referendum.

• Listened to a Housing and Redevelopment report from HRA Director Jerry Culliton.

• Adopted a job description for an assistant superintendent equipment supervisor position at the Pokegama Golf Course.

• Conducted the annual public input session on the city’s Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.

Grand Rapids moves forward with northeast improvements

January 25, 2018

By Beth Bily


The city of Grand Rapids is one step closer to a 2018 road construction project that will improve streets, add sidewalk and provide other infrastructure improvements to a large area in the city’s northeast neighborhood.

At Monday’s city council meeting, officials voted to move forward with a plan, dubbed the Northeast Improvements Project, with numerous, interconnected elements. 

According to city documents, the project would include: “reconstruction of existing public infrastructure within the right of way and utility or alley easements of 7th St. NE from 7th Ave. NE to 13th Ave. NE, 11th Ave. NE from 7th St. NE to the Sports Complex Entrance, 10th Ave. NE from 5th St. NE to 7th St. NE, the alley between 6th Ave. NE and 7th Ave. NE from 6th Street NE to 7th Street NE, by reconstructing streets, storm sewer, sanitary sewer, street lights, sidewalks, and associated appurtenances.”

The project carries an estimated total price tag of $2.6 million, according to City Engineer Matt Wegwerth. Neighborhood input meetings on the project took place in December. Current timelines call for the project plans to be solidified in March, with bid awards taking place in April. Construction would begin in May of this year and substantial completion would take place by fall. 

While the council did ultimately approve the plan as presented, some objection did surface during the course of a public hearing on the project. Following a favorable nod from neighborhood resident and former city councilor Skip Drake, resident Dick Sackett voiced some concern about the installation of sidewalk in the area between 8th and 9th Aves. that he assessed has little foot traffic.


“I understand the need for a walkable city, but I just don’t see the need for it,” Sackett said. “To put a sidewalk where nobody uses it doesn’t make sense to me.”

Wegwerth countered Sackett’s comments by noting that sometimes an area isn’t used by pedestrians due to the fact that no sidewalk exists. With its close proximity to existing schools and the possibility of the neighborhood being the location for a new elementary building, pending passage of a referendum, officials determined that sidewalk “made sense to install.”

Wegwerth also noted prior to the public hearing, that the city maintains 93 miles of roads and has a goal of reconstruction of three miles per year for effective maintenance. In addition to approving a resolution ordering plans and specifications be completed, the council also approved an agreement with SEH Inc. for design and construction services. Assessments for the benefitting property owners will be determined later this year.

In other business, the council:

• Approved the minutes of Jan. 8 council meeting.

• Approved payment of verified claims in the amount of $6,130,521.42, of which $5.4 million are debt service payments.

• Approved the final plat for Pokegama Pines.

• Accepted the retirement letter of Bonnie Henrikson, library volunteer coordinator, and authorized city staff to move forward with a replacement hire.

Grand Rapids approves redevelopment agreements, sets levy

September 28, 2017

By Beth Bily


    Actions taken by the Grand Rapids City Council on Monday paved the way for the Sammy’s Pizza expansion project.

    In four separate council actions, officials: accepted a demolition grant from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to assist with costs of removing structures from adjacent properties acquired by Sammy’s Pizza; approved an agreement between the city and Sammy’s owners, Tony and Kelly Jerulle, regarding the demolition grant; approved a grant contract for hazardous materials abatement related to the demolition; and, approved an agreement with SEH to complete demolition work on the project.

    Sammy’s Pizza plans a $1.7 million expansion project, which would double the size of both their floor space and parking lot. Existing space also would be renovated. Community Development Director Rob Mattei said the project is expected to begin construction in the coming year.

    The council also set the city’s preliminary 2018 levy at Monday’s meeting at a total of $7.4 million. That amounts to a 2.06 percent increase from this year’s levy. The council also scheduled a public input session on the city’s levy and budget for 6:01 p.m. on Dec. 4. The final levy will be adopted by the council on Dec. 11. Currently, the city’s proposed 2018 expenditure budget stands at nearly $9 million.

    City Finance Director Barb Baird noted that the preliminary levy number could fall before finalization. “The council will continue to work on the budgets until final adoption in December,” she said.

    In other business, the council:

    • Issued a proclamation noting Sept. 17-23 as constitution week.

    • Approved payment of claims in the amount of $1,259,412.31

    • Approved minutes of the Sept. 11 council meeting and work session and the Sept. 18 special session.

    • Conducted a public hearing then approved the vacation of three easements. The three previously publicly owned easements are located in Huhn’s Addition and served no purpose to the public as they ran through an existing structure.

Grand Rapids shifts insurance provisions for some employees

September 21, 2017

By Beth Bily


    The city of Grand Rapids has implemented a shift in health insurance provisions for some of its employees. 

    At last week’s meeting of the city council, officials approved terminating its current agreement with the Northeast Service Cooperative effective Dec. 31, 2017. The 45 city employees who were insured under this umbrella will shift to insurance provided by the 49ers union, which already serves the city’s two other collective bargaining groups.

    City Administrator Tom Pagel told councilors that the need for the shift arose from the high premium increases experienced over the past several years under the coop agreement.

    Pagel noted that non-49er employees have seen premiums increase an average of 13.29 percent annually since 2013, while 49er premiums have increased about 3.11 percent annually during the same time period. The city administrator attributed the increase difference to the size of each group’s risk pool. While the city only has 45 employees in its pool under the current agreement, the 49ers pool is estimated at 38,000 participants.

    In addition, it’s estimated that the shift would save the city about one-half million dollars over the next five years. As stipulated in union contracts, the city cannot decrease benefits offered without union approval. A study conducted by actuarial firm Health Risk Strategies determined the 49ers plan had more value to employees than the current one.

    The council approved the shift, with the stipulation that employees would not be charged any portion of the premium because the move was involuntary.

    In other business, the council:

    • Approved payment of verified claims in the amount of $745,639.59

    • Approved council minutes from the Aug. 28 work session and council meetings.

    • Listened to a department head report from Chief Scott Johnson.

    • Approved the job description for a GIS technician and authorized city staff to move forward with the hiring process. The cost of the position will be shared by the city and the Public Utilities Commission.

    • Conducted a final public hearing on the 2017 capital improvement projects and passed a resolution adopting assessments.

Grand Rapids approves street reconstruction bond sale

August 24, 2017

   At the Aug. 14 meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council, officials awarded the sale of $2.1 million in general obligation street construction bonds to UNB Bank.

    In a bit of good news, city officials learned their credit rating had been upgraded, meaning the bonds would be issued at a lower interest rate. The city had its credit rating reviewed at the urging of its financial consulting firm, which indicated that the city would receive a more favorable rating through agency Standard & Poors, which issued a AA- rating to the city.

    In acknowledgement of the upgrade, city finance director Barb Baird was presented with a plaque from Ehlers and Associates, the city’s financial planning firm.

    The bonds will be used for improvements to Fourth Avenue NW, 13th Street N, Ninth Street NE, Eighth Avenue NE, and 14th Street NW. The interest rate on the bonds will be 2.34 percent.

    In other business, the council:

    • Noted that Aug. 4 was Mike Johnson Day in the city.

    • Approved the minutes of the three council meetings in late July.

    • Listened to a department head report from Fire Chief Mike Liebel.

    • Appointed Dion Holcomb-Card to the part-time position of library public services clerk in the Children’s Department.

    • Approved a joint powers agreement with the Greenway Recreation Association and appointed Tasha Connelly as the city’s representative to the rec board.

Grand Rapids appoints rental task force members

July 27, 2017

    At a short meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council on Monday, officials appointed applicants to its newly formed residential rental licensing and inspection task force.

    At its May 8 meeting, the council directed city staff to advertise for the applicants for the task force, which will make recommendations regarding rentals and their inspection within the city. Officials sought task force members representing a variety of backgrounds/representations.

    City councilors approved task force members on the recommendations of city staff as follows:

    1) Lori Duchesneau, representing large private apartment rental owners

    2) Duane Schraw, representing medium private apartment rental owners

    3) Steven Loney, representing small private apartment rental owners

    4) Rozanne Casey, representing Kootasca

    5) Diane Larson, representing Itasca County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).

    6) Barb Sanderson, representing public member with governing experience in low to moderate income rental housing

    7) Pat Schwartz, representing Grand Rapids HRA

    8) Rick Blake, representing the city council

    In other business, the council:

    • Approved the minutes of the July 10 work session, July 10 regular meeting and July 17 special meeting.

    • Approved payment of claims in the amount of $1,224,940.17, which includes $305,307.12 in debt service payments.

    • Listened to a report on the activities of the city’s engineering department.

    • Conducted a public hearing, then approved the issuance of bonds by the St. Paul HRA on behalf of Fairview Health Services related to the refinancing of debt held by Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital and other Fairview affiliates.

ASV plans Grand Rapids distribution center

June 29, 2017

by Beth Bily


    Grand Rapids-based ASV, a designer and manufacturer of compact construction equipment, hopes to move its out-of-state distribution operations closer to home.

    At Monday’s meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council, Community Development Director Rob Mattei apprised councilors of the proposed project, which would potentially employ 13 FTE positions at an average wage of $19/hour plus benefits.

    Mattei said he has been working for the past month with ASV COO Jim DiBiagio, as well as other economic development organizations, to bring the project to fruition. ASV currently subcontracts its distribution to a third party located in Southaven, Miss. That relationship was forged when ASV was a subsidiary of Terex Corp. Now an independent, publicly traded company, ASV is weighing the option of bringing the distribution center back in house and back to Grand Rapids.

    Company executives say the Grand Rapids center option would include leasing about 53,000 square feet of warehouse space located on SE Eighth St. from Arrowhead Promotion and Fulfillment.  The total cost of bringing the distribution center back to the area is estimated at $680,000, which would include restocking inventory, start-up costs, the purchase of floor equipment and some lighting upgrades.

    In order for the project to proceed, the company is looking for local financial assistance including, a $300,000 IRRRB loan with low interest and forgiveness incentives, $20,000 IRRRB grant money from its business energy retrofit program and a $125,000 Department of Employment and Economic Development / Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority MIF (Minnesota investment Fund) loan.

    “This is a very exciting project for Grand Rapids,” Mattei told councilors. “When it moves forward, with this assistance, the project will add to the community and will diversify ASV’s employment base in Grand Rapids.”

    The IRRRB loan funding is expected to be reviewed this week by the technical advisory committee. Monday, the Grand Rapids City Council signed off on the MIF loan application, which would include a $50,000 forgivable portion (40 percent), if approved by the city’s EDA. A GREDA public hearing on the matter was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. That hearing had not taken place as of press time.

    In other business, the council:

    • Approved claims for the period of June 6 to June 19 in the amount of $848,106.53.

    • Approved proposal from DSGW for planning services related to the IRA Civic Center for a lump sum fee of $16,000. 

    • Conducted a public hearing regarding a vacation request for a portion Seventh Street East right-of-way, adjacent to Block 1, Grand Rapids Third Division. Following the public hearing, a resolution authorizing the vacation was passed by the council. The vacation was recommended by the city’s planning commission. 

    • Approved a master agreement with the state of Minnesota.

    • Approved a quote from Bargen Inc. for seal coating city streets: $53,685 on 7th Ave. SE from the Horn Bridge to 17th Street. MSA maintenance dollars will fund the project.

    • Entered into a lease agreement with Marco of Bemidji for five Konica photo copiers for the city. Terms of the lease include a cost of $616.05 per month for 60 months plus maintenance fees.

    • Approved a low quote from Rapids Plumbing and Heating for the replacement of a water drinking fountain at city hall in the amount of $1,799.

    • Rescinded a previous motion withdrawing from the Greenway Joint Rec Association. At a later date, a joint powers agreement will be presented to the council for approval.

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