Perham City Council starts search for new city attorney

Dennis Happel
Dennis Happel

The Perham City Council authorized the city staff to start the process to request proposals for providing legal services now that current City Attorney Dennis Happel is retiring.

Happel has been Perham’s city attorney since Feb. 1, 1977, and is the third city attorney to serve Perham.

“It has been a pure adventure to follow the growth of Perham over the last four decades,” said in an interview after the meeting. He said he is retiring from practicing law and it is time to hand off his 44-year role as city attorney to someone else as he goes on to pursue other endeavors.

The authorization that the council approved at the Nov. 9, City Council Meeting will be to find an attorney to provide services required by the city. As the city does not use the city attorney for all legal matters the new city attorney will not be kept on retainer but will only be paid for services provided.

City Manager Jonathan Smith said there is room to negotiate paying the new attorney on retainer for only the services that they would provide for the city.


Smith said in the past six years the city's legal fees have fluctuated between $10,000 and $40,000. "On average, we are around $20k a year on civil legal fees," he said in an interview after the meeting.

Other business discussed by the council:

  • The council approved the city to take proposals for an insurance agent to serve a three-year period to assist and advise the city in insurance matters.

  • The council approved bids to be advertised and considered for the Hub remodel project. In the demolition bid, Hammers Construction agreed to complete the demolition and rebuilding of the exterior walls of the old Perham High school, which is being remodeled into the Hub. Bids for the remodel of the building’s interior and roof will be taken by the city until 2 p.m. Dec. 3. Smith said all the paperwork regarding the Hub has been completed and submitted to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. If there are no more delays in the process the demolition of the old high school, which has been delayed since July, can start and the remodel could start in early 2021.

  • The council approved for the city of Perham to act as the legal sponsor for the city for the Small Cities Development Program that will allow the mayor and city manager to apply for DEED funding on behalf of Perham. As part of the program, the declaration of a slum and blighted area was also declared, for the purposes of acknowledging that the city does have areas that can be considered blighted.

  • The council approved the purchase agreement for the sale of Clearwater Estates Outlot B to be sold to Fred Bauck for the full asking price.

  • City Councilmen Fred Lehmkuhl said to remember to thank a veteran or current service member for their service on Nov. 11, for Veterans Day.

  • City offices will be closed Nov. 11 in observance of Veteran's Day.

  • A special city council meeting is set for 5:15 p.m. Nov. 12, to canvas and approve the results for the general election.

  • The Committee of the Whole meeting is set for 5:15 p.m. Nov. 23.

  • City offices will be closed Nov. 26-27 for Thanksgiving.

  • The Parade of Lights is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 27.

  • The next regular City Council meeting is set for 5:15 p.m. on Dec. 14.

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