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Perham City Council hears public concerns over projects

Anyone looking for love on Valentine's Day might not have found any at Monday's Perham City Council meeting.

The council held public hearings on the annexation of various properties and several road improvement projects.

In all, nearly a dozen citizens attended the meeting to voice concerns to the council over the projects.


Before the hearing opened regarding proposed annexations, City Manager Kelcey Klemm gave a brief background to the project.

The city would be annexing properties by ordinance, he said, which meant that if a property was completely surrounded by the municipality, or if it was 60 percent surrounded by the municipality and was 40 acres or less, then the city could annex the property without a petition.

As Klemm later explained to a property owner during the hearing, the city benefits from annexation because it extends its tax base, in addition to planning and zoning reasons. Property owners also benefit from annexation, Klemm said, because they get things like police protection, in addition to other city services.

"Your taxes do go up once you're annexed, though," Klemm admitted.

One of the properties proposed to be annexed was the property of Blossoms, Birds and Beyond, owned by Nick and Jody Theroux. Theroux spoke at the hearing to request that the council postpone the annexation of his property because it would put his property into "non-conforming use."

"We wouldn't know how we'd fit" in regards to city zoning, Theroux said.

"I just ask the council to move at a rate that lets us address the issues," he said, "and so we can figure out how this property would fit in to the city."

Curtis Heikkenen, who would have also been annexed, told the council, "I just don't see any advantage to me being annexed. The only thing I'll see out of it would be higher taxes."

Heikkenen also mentioned to the council that he had received a letter at some point explaining that his property could not be annexed by the city, and that this was a point of confusion for him.

Road improvements

The second hearing dealt with road improvements on Fourth Street NW from Lake Avenue to Sixth Avenue NW, Fifth Avenue NW from Third Street NW to Fifth Street NW and Lake Avenue from Third Street NW to Fifth Street NW.

City Engineer Jade Berube gave a brief PowerPoint presentation on the project and estimated costs, including assessable costs to all abutting/benefitting properties.

The cost to property owners was a major point of discussion during the hearing, along with the fact that Barrel O' Fun trucks and traffic would stand to benefit the most from the improved streets.

Brad Helmeke of Perham, who owns property that would be impacted by the project, told the council, "There's no benefit to me, you guys. No benefit at all. Barrel O' Fun is getting all the benefits to this."

John Karvonen of Perham, who also owns a storage shed on property that would be affected, said that construction would be a burden from a retail standpoint.

Another citizen said, "I think the city should pay more. I can't see why we're being assessed that much. It doesn't do me any good at all. I think we're assessed too much."

Diana Lenius, when told by Berube that the cost of the project to her property would be close to $16,000, said, "My quality of life has not improved as Barrel O' Fun has crept towards me, so what good is it going to do me to pay this?"

The council also scheduled a hearing for an additional improvement project to Fifth Avenue SE, but no citizens came forward to comment.

Following the hearings, council member Fred Lehmkuhl made a motion, which the council passed, that the council proceed with annexation of all properties except for Theroux's, Heikkenen's and Donald Meyer's, located with Heikkenen's along the east edge of the Perham industrial park.

Lehmkuhl suggested that the council look into the non-conforming issues with Theroux's property, and research the letter that Heikkenen said he had received.

"We should just make sure we have our bases covered before moving forward," Lehmkuhl said.

Regarding the northwest street improvements, Lehmkuhl said that he understood the concerns of the homeowners who would be affected by the project.

"I'd like to see some more work done and get some more information, see if there are other ways to fund it," he said.

Mayor Tim Meehl agreed, saying that the project is one that needs to be done, but also questioned how to properly pay for it.

Lehmkuhl then proposed a motion that the council table the project, and refer it back to Klemm and Berube to look at additional funding options and to meet with landowners. The motion passed.

The council then passed a motion without much discussion to order preparation plans for the Fifth Avenue SE project.

City offices will be closed on Monday, Feb. 21 for President's Day. The next regular city council meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 14 at 5:15 p.m.