The Regional Report: Staples bans e-cig sampling, Crosby officers to bring squads home
• In front of a sizable crowd and facing opposition, the Aitkin School Board passed a resolution to implement local optional revenue and levy $424 per pupil from property owners in the district, the Aitkin Independent Age reported. The board passed the resolution 4-3.
The district's business manager Tiffany Gustin explained at the meeting the district faces a $1.7 million deficit in its general fund and currently has the lowest tax rate of 10 school districts in the county.
• A 3 percent increase over 2017 will greet Aitkin taxpayers in 2018, the Aitkin Independent Age reported. This is a marked decrease from the preliminary budget numbers, which represented a 48.3 percent increase.
• A couple jointly involved in a large variety of Aitkin area organizations were honored as the 2017 Persons of the Year award from the Aitkin Independent Age. Joy and Carroll Janzen have an impressive list of activities and accomplishments, including the Aitkin Lions Club, American Legion Post 86, American Legion Color Guard and the Persian Gulf Support Group. They've played Santa and Mrs. Claus, were Riverboat Queen and Captain at one time and have extensive involvement in each of their individual churches.
Full-time Crosby police officers will now each be assigned a squad car to drive while on duty as well as to and from work, the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported. Until the change approved by the city council, the department was the only full-time one in Crow Wing County not permitting its officers to take squads home. Currently, the department has just three reliable squad cars, but the approved plan would allow the lease of five new squads in 2018, along with improvements to the station and garage.
• The taxpayers of Fifty Lakes will see virtually no difference between the tax levy in 2018 compared to the year before, the Echo Journal reported. In fact, the levy was reduced by $370 for a total of $437,330.
• An anonymous complaint brought an enforcement official to the 50 Lakes Bar and Bottle Shop, the Echo Journal reported. The municipal liquor store was advised to discontinue its "mystery" shots among other recommendations.
• A familiar landmark has returned to the roadside in Jenkins—although it's a newer version, the Echo Journal reported. The giant "A" sign, advertising nearby A-Pine Restaurant, was destroyed in a September wind storm. A remake of the 1960s-era sign now stands again.
• After receiving the suggestion to collect no property taxes at all, the Manhattan Beach City Council approved a $70,000 levy for the third year running, the Echo Journal reported. Resident Doug Wannebo told the council they should eliminate the levy, although Mayor Paul Allen said the city must cover expenses related to roads, fire protection and document storage.
• Discussion continued in Manhattan Beach City Hall concerning citizen input and access to meeting recordings, the Echo Journal reported. Proposed changes to bylaws would hand the mayor ultimate authority to determine meeting agenda items, if a disagreement arises with the city clerk—a post that is also elected by residents.
Initial opposition to posting meeting recordings on the city's website appeared to dissipate, although the city does not intend to post recordings if they contain profanity. These recordings would only be available by request. In apparent response to previously expressed concerns of resident perception, the mayor will read a disclaimer prior to citizen input during open forum, to be included on the meeting recording.
MILLE LACS COUNTY
• Rounding out the bottom of the rankings of Minnesota counties for recycling rates is Mille Lacs County, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported. At 9.1 percent, the county is the worst in the state—a statistic prompting the county to hire a new solid waste coordinator.
• A Mille Lacs county deputy was honored with the highest recognition offered for bravery of public safety officers in the United States, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported. Deputy Dan Mott received the 2017 Medal of Valor award from the Minnesota Sheriff's Association. The award recognized Mott's actions during a 2017 armed robbery. Mott was selected for the recognition, according to the association's director, "for his exemplary reaction to a situation, saving several lives and he put his life on the line to do so."
• In a reversal of a September 2016 decision, the Nisswa City Council opted against assessing residents for routine paving projects, the Echo Journal reported. The original policy, adopted by a previous council, would have charged residents who live on roads receiving new pavement 30 percent of the costs, with all the city's taxpayers covering the difference. Property owners would continue to be assessed for special projects.
• The city of Nisswa will collect 5 percent more property taxes in 2018 than it did in 2017, the Echo Journal reported. This equates to $102,618 more, which will go toward the general tax levy along with bonds for Highway 371 realignment, capital planning and general street improvements.
• Millie Gjertson is at it again—the nonagenarian donated another $50,000 to build a pavilion at Nisswa Lake Park, the Echo Journal reported. The Brainerd woman previously donated $35,000 toward trail development in the park.
• A woman whose piano playing has entertained the lakes area for more than 40 years was recently named the Pequot Lakes-Breezy Point-Crosslake Citizen of the Year, the Echo Journal reported. Renee Anderson of Pequot Lakes has taught countless students how to play piano and her music has accompanied church services, community theater productions, school events and more.
• A sampling ban for e-cigarettes and other vaping devices was passed by the Staples City Council, the Staples World reported. Although the devices are still legal to sell in the community, they are now classified as tobacco products and are subject to tobacco laws.
-- Compiled by Chelsey Perkins, community editor. Perkins may be reached at 218-855-5874 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @DispatchChelsey or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dispatchchelsey.