Matt Hayen was officially appointed as the new chief of police at the recent Big Lake city council meeting. During the second meeting of June, council voted to offer Hayen the position, with four council members voting for Hayen and council member Ken Halverson choosing to abstain on the belief that council should have also looked outside of the department for candidates.
During the meeting on July 14, Mayor Paul Knier swore in the new chief, and the chief’s wife, Molly Hayen, pinned on his new badge.
“I’m sure you’re going to be a strong asset to the city of Big Lake for years and years to come,” said Knier.
Hayen started his law enforcement career in 2006, and has been with the BLPD for the last five years. He stepped into the role as acting chief earlier this year as the former chief, Joel Scharf, stepped down to focus on his health.
“Thank you to everyone who attended the meeting to show your support and help celebrate!” Hayen said in a Facebook post the next day. “ Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or comments you may have.”
Market Bucks at Farmers’ Market
Hunger Solutions of MN has again decided to team up with the Big Lake Farmers’ Market to promote healthy eating for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) EBT card holders. Those who spend $10 at the farmers market using their qualifying EBT card will get an extra $10 in “Market Bucks” courtesy of the state. The program was put in place to allow low income individuals and families to purchase locally-grown, healthy food items, with a bonus of supporting local farmers at the same time.
The contentious Marketplace Crossing issue was finally resolved at the recent council meeting. Council disapproved of the original plan for the senior housing apartments on the east side of the city, and asked the developer to include covered parking and individual outdoor space for residents (patios and balconies). The developer countered by including some covered parking (though not enough for all the residents or even for every unit) and communal outdoor spaces.
Still unsatisfied, council tabled their decision, in the hopes that the developer would take another look at their plans and change them to better comply with the city code and the desires of council.
After a month’s wait, the item was again added to the meeting agenda. The developer made no further changes to the plan. However, most of council members appeared to be ready to put the issue to rest.
Council member Paul Seefeld noted that no apartment developer in town has ever developed completely to code, and some exceptions have been made for every site in the city. Council member Sam Hanson saw the development as a potential catalyst for growth in that area of the city. Council member Kim Noding added her agreement, stating that she wasn’t super thrilled about the situation, but that she saw this as a win, overall.
Halverson was the dissenting voice of the group, worried that allowing the developer to move forward would set a bad precedent for other developers, signaling that council would sign off on a plan it didn’t like, eventually.
After about 20 minutes of council members voicing their opinions and weighing the pros and cons, council voted four to one to accept the proposal, with Halverson voting against.
Council member Noding was hoping council would get behind sending a letter to the United States Postal Service in order to facilitate improvements to the Big Lake Post Office. Currently, the building is too small to properly service Big Lake’s growing population. There’s not a lot the city is able to do directly, since the building is privately owned and leased to the USPS, but hopefully some changes can be considered if a letter is sent from council.
Chief Seth Hansen of the fire dept. reported that the department responded to 35 calls for the month of June.
Hansen noted that the softball game between the fire and police departments during the Spud Fest celebration went very well, with only one firefighter and one officer down after the game (Hansen earned a long laugh from council at that comment.) He stated that although the BLFD lost the game this time around, they would definitely, “get them next year.” He thanked Grind Nutrition and Lupulin Brewing for their donations of beverages to the players.
Hansen congratulated the department’s Spud Fest ambassadors Sophia and Jessica for all their work.
Big Lake continues to be in a drought status, and wildland and grass fire conditions are high. Hansen noted his disappointment that Big Lake missed out on rainfall that would have alleviated the situation. The DNR offered to take charge of declaring a drought for the area, but the chief, and some others in Sherburne county, declined, not wanting to give the power to do so over to the Little Falls DNR district, choosing instead to remind residents themselves that conditions are incredibly dry and to please not light fires unless in a three-by-three recreational setting.
The BLPD had 1,021 calls for service in the month of June, having gone up significantly over the previous months. (This out of 5,632 calls for the year.) Average calls per day were up to 34 over the previous average of 27. A total of 19 arrests were made for the month.
Hayen also reported that there were far fewer incidents at Lakeside Park.
Several events are coming up in August, including Night to Unite on the third, Graniteman Triathlon on the seventh, and the Chamber of Commerce Block Party on the 21st.
The street project was slowed down on Euclid Ave. last week as the city had difficulty identifying which company an underground utility belonged to.
Projects are otherwise underway, including the city streets project and the Co. Rd. 43 project, being done by the county.
Student Liaison Report
Student Liaison Ella Dotzler reported that kindergarten enrollment for the upcoming school year was much higher than last year, since many parents decided to hold their children back during the pandemic.
The school board approved their budget for the next school year, and the budget is available on the school website.
In Other Business,Council:
• Engaged companies to provide invasive species inspections and lake restorations;
• Appointed Tony Beneke to the empty seat on the planning commission;
• Extended the time limit for open forum speakers from two minutes to three minutes.