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The Regional Report: Robot mowing high school field in Aitkin; Motley firefighters seek pay raise

AITKIN

A robot is in charge of mowing Aitkin High School's Veterans Field this summer, the Aitkin Independent Age reported. Dotzler Power Equipment is allowing the school district to use a Husqvarna smart mower, dubbed "Batman," to mow the field. The small robot returns itself to a charging station and begins to mow again on a 24/7 schedule, sounding an alarm if anyone touches it. It does not require bagging and is quiet, the Age reported.

CROSBY

The liquor license for the Nordic Inn in Crosby was approved for renewal after it was initially turned down, the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported. The Crosby City Council approved the license, contingent on the business owner providing additional documentation concerning a felony conviction. In 2015, Richard Schmidthuber was charged with 52 tax-related crimes. According to court records, Schmidthuber pleaded guilty to one for false or fraudulent tax returns, while all other charges were dismissed.

HACKENSACK

After nearly $48,000 was collected, a project to repair a fishing pier on Birch Lake in Hackensack will move forward this fall, the Walker Pilot-Independent reported. The project involves rebuilding a peninsula leading to the pier, which is owned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, along with a retaining wall and walkway. Wave action over time has deteriorated the retaining wall and undermined the soil, making it vulnerable to washing away.

IRONTON

A seat is open on the Ironton City Council following the resignation of council member Angela Kugel, the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported. Kugel moved out of city limits. The council will accept letters of interest to fill the seat for the remainder of the year, and then it will go on the November ballot to be filled for the remaining two years of the term.

MOTLEY

Members of the fire department in Motley are asking for a pay raise, the Staples World reported. The request would increase the pay to $10/hour while responding to calls. Fire Chief Kyle Frisk told the Motley City Council this was comparable to other nearby fire departments, including Scandia Valley and Staples. Currently, Motley firefighters earn $9/call.

PEQUOT LAKES

Changes to the off-sale liquor ordinance under consideration in Pequot Lakes did not move forward, the Echo Journal reported. An evaluation of the ordinance was prompted by a request to consider a taproom or microdistillery within city limits. Neither of these are currently covered by the ordinance.

Other changes under consideration would have altered proximity requirements outlining distances from schools, churches and other off-sale establishments—prompted by a request from Pequot Lakes Supervalu. Chris Quisberg, owner of the grocery store, wanted to add off-sale liquor to the store, but it's within 500 feet of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.

The church registered its objections to changing the ordinance, citing concerns about people bringing liquor to the church brat sales. The only off-sale liquor store in Pequot Lakes is also within one-third mile of Supervalu, and its owners stated they would not have renovated the property in 2010 without assurances another liquor store could not move in within that range.

A city council vote to amend the ordinance failed on all suggested changes.

Two sites along the Highway 371 corridor in Pequot Lakes are available for billboards following city council approval, the Echo Journal reported. Although originally the city council passed a moratorium on billboards, it responded to concerns of business owners in the community, who wished to inform motorists of where to turn from the highway to reach Pequot Lakes.

TODD COUNTY

A request to add a supervisory position in Todd County Health and Human Services did not move forward due to a lack of a motion, the Staples World reported. The child services supervisor position was requested due to increased workload within the department. Todd Weyer, child protection division supervisor, told the Todd County Board he averages more than 100 hours per pay period with the current structure.

WALKER

The public works director for the city of Walker received a letter from the city council of its intent to terminate his employment, the Walker Pilot-Independent reported. Neil Lange has been the public works director for almost nine years. City Administrator Terri Bjorklund told the Pilot-Independent Lange was not asked to resign, but was advised it may be in his best interest to do so for future employment.

-- Compiled by Chelsey Perkins, community editor. Perkins may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter @DispatchChelsey or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dispatchchelsey.

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