After a successful election day in the city of Big Lake and the township, as the board canvassed the results for local offices.
Big Lake City
Paul Knier won the election for Mayor of Big Lake, beating his incumbent opponent Mike Wallen. Paul Seefeld and Sam Hanson both claimed regular council seats, and Ken Halverson won the two-year special election seat. The turnout of registered voters was just under 90%.
The mayor and council showered their praise on Gina Wolbeck, city clerk, for pulling off a successful election day.
At one point in the day, the ballot machine stopped working. The election judges invited anyone who voted at that time to stick around and wait for the machine to be replaced, or to put their ballots into a box. The box was then sealed and signed by all the election judges to prevent tampering. A new ballot machine was quickly obtained and the ballots were immediately fed into it.
The streets and parks division of the city will be purchasing a 2021 4500 Ram truck (to replace an old Ford F-550), a 2021 Case SV280 skid steer (to replace an old John Deere skid steer), and a Bobcat Tool Cat.
The Bobcat will be used year round, including using it as a Zamboni to clear off the ice rink.
The equipment will be purchased using LGA (Local Government Aid) funds from 2019.
Hazardous Conditions at Big Lake Residence
The board moved to rule that one Big Lake residence at 4303 Ridge Circle contains hazardous conditions. The city has received complaints about the residence since 2014 regarding vehicles and junk stored on the lot. The owners have been notified and fined several times over the years, but the situation continues to worsen.
Seth Hansen, Big Lake Fire Chief, drove by the property and determined it was in fact a fire hazard.
City staff recommended that the board declare there are hazardous conditions at the lot. This would give the owners 30 days to clean up the violations. If they do not, the city will seek permission from the district court to remedy the situation themselves.
The city is looking to lease a DS 40i Folder-Inserter from Quadient Leasing. The folder-inserter will make the process of putting city bills in envelopes 10 times faster. The machine can also be used to send out public notices. The lease period will be 39 months and will save the city $317 versus purchasing.
Public Hearing for Delinquent Bills
The board held a public meeting for delinquent bills. The bills in question were water bills and weed/grass/snow removal violation bills.
This year, there were more delinquent bills than usual, since the city was not allowed to shut off water to any households. The council was willing to hear comments from any property owners about the delinquent bills, given the difficult year, but no one came to speak at the public hearing.
All the delinquent bills will be collected along with the 2021 property taxes.
Big Lake’s Summer Farmer’s Market was a big success this year. According to Corrie Scott, recreation and communication coordinator, this is due to people looking for a way to shop and support the community in a pandemic-friendly way. The farmer’s markets took place outdoors at Lakeside Park, and handwashing stations were made available. About 22 vendors attended each event, on average.
The Winter Farmer’s Market starts Dec. 19 at Big Lake City Hall. It runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month. In order to stay pandemic-friendly, only 40 shoppers will be allowed inside at any time; masks will be required; a handwashing station will be available, and no live music will be provided. There will still be crafts available for kids, but they will be take-and-make crafts.
The Becker/Big Lake Hockey association donated a bench to the hockey rink. The bench is made out of hockey sticks, and will be dedicated to the late Dylan Pishney, who loved hockey.
Big Lake has been awarded a grant to install signage on the McDowall trail system. They plan to have the signs installed by spring of 2021.
This project has been in the works since last spring, but, since the trail has been under construction, the 13 signs have yet to be installed.
The city council hopes the signs will make the trails easier to navigate. As per request of CentraCare, the donor of the grant, the signs will also list distances between points so hikers know how far they are travelling.
The Big Lake Police Department is advising residents to be careful, as several break-ins have occurred where criminals used garage door openers from unlocked cars to enter homes. The same gang is also responsible for the theft of several automobiles.
The police are referring to this crime spree as the “Minneapolis Effect.” Some criminals, encouraged by the lack of resistance in the cities, are making their way further and further out. Chief Joel Scharf made it clear to the council that Big Lake wouldn’t have time for that nonsense, and they have already pursued and arrested one of the gang’s leaders.
The department has also been offering training to its officers, including realistic de-escalation and duty to intervene courses.
Finally, Chief Scharf noted that only a certain number of people will be allowed to gather at Thanksgiving events. However, the police will certainly not be going around to enforce this rule, as they trust residents to take care of themselves.
Big Lake Twp.
Dean Brenteson won reelection for township supervisor seat one with 2,163 votes, or 59% of the vote, beating his opponent Eric Rosa, who had 1,496 votes. Bruce Aubol, running unopposed, was reelected to the township supervisor seat three position with 3,289 votes. Mark Hedstrom took the special election seat four position after receiving 2,111 votes, or 54%, over his opponent, Judy Wilts, who had 1,761 votes.
Of all the registered voters in the township, 88% turned out to vote on election day or voted absentee.
Voting went very smoothly, according to town clerk Brenda Kimberly-Maas. There was one incident of a voter coming to the polling station with campaign material, which is illegal, but the individual was asked to remove the campaign material, and election day was a success in all the township precincts.
The deadline for spending CARES money within the township was last Sunday. Some of the remaining funds were given to local schools, including Big Lake, Monticello, and Elk River. Treasurer Kenneth Warneke said during the board meeting last week that at that time the township was projected to spend a little more than their allotted amount of CARES funding, but that it wasn’t over by a lot and a few minor tweaks would bring everything back into the black.
Clerk Brenda Kimberly-Maas and Deputy Clerk Jayme Swenson congratulated Warneke on all his hard work to find a home for every dollar allotted to the township.
There will only be one more regular meeting for the rest of 2020 — Dec. 9 for BL Twp.. The other meetings have been cancelled due to holidays.